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Meet Tomi, Our Mixologist Vying for "Bar Boss" Crown

Tomi Parker, Bartender at 1875: The Steakhouse at French Lick Springs Hotel

We always knew she was a bar boss. Now, you can help her make it official.

Tomi Parker is our mixologist extraordinaire at 1875: The Steakhouse, and if you’ve ever sipped on a Bloody Mary or Award-Winning French Lick Manhattan at the restaurant, you’re familiar with her work. She’s progressed through the opening rounds of the Bar Boss competition presented by Dos Hombres and is in the quarterfinal round of this nationwide contest, where one bartender will be picked to win $10,000 and be featured on the cover of Bartender Magazine as the 2023 Bar Boss.

Support Tomi by voting here — be sure to get your vote in by Thursday, January 25 at the end of the day. After you’ve voted, get to know our superstar bartender a little better with a Q&A.

Bartender at 1875: The Steakhouse

So, how do you go from mixing drinks here at 1875 to being in the final stages of this big Bar Boss contest?

I was just sitting at home and looking through Facebook, and Bar Boss came across. I thought, “This would be a cool thing to try to do – why not give it a chance?” You never win if you don’t try, right? I made a profile and started asking people to vote, and next thing I know, I’m in first place (in one of the preliminary rounds). The whole community, my co-wonderful workers, they’re voting, they’re setting alarms to vote, because you can vote once every 24 hours. I told my husband the best thing about it is I gained so many friends and caught up with friends I haven’t talked to for a long time through this contest. Now, this is where the rubber meets the road and all the top contestants from all across the country are all competing in these quarterfinals.

On your Bar Boss profile, you said your bar essentials would be vodka, bourbon and lemons if you could have only 3 ingredients at your bar. Why those three?

You can do anything with lemons — bourbon and lemon go together, vodka and lemon, gin, tequila, anything goes with lemon. Bourbon is my passion. I love bourbon, so I could drink it straight and that’s pretty easy (laughs). And vodka, again, it goes with anything. You could get a blade of grass and make a drink with vodka.

Bartender at 1875: The Steakhouse

A sampling of Tomi's cocktails, which are as beautiful and creative as they are delicious.

Let’s say you’re on the other side of this bar. What are you ordering to eat here at 1875, and what cocktail are you getting with it?

Oh my gosh, that’s so hard because everything we make here is so good. But I’d probably do a surf and turf with a filet and I’d add a couple scallops, because I love our scallops here. I’d use the lobster mac and cheese as a side because it’s just so yummy. My favorite cocktail would be the French Lick Manhattan, because it’s an award-winning drink and it’s really tasty and delicious.

And what about wine? No shortage of choice here at 1875….

I’m a merlot person, I love the sweetness, the chocolate-y of merlots. Opus One is going to be everybody’s favorite, but I like the Apothic Red, it’s a red blend, it’s semi-sweet, it’s dry. And Meiomi Pinot Noir, it just marries well with everything. You can eat a steak with it or even a scallop and it’s not going to overpower anything.

Bartender at 1875: The SteakhouseDuring the holidays or when you have get-togethers at home, are you mixing up drinks for everyone there, too?

Christmas time, we generally have coffee drinks — I’ll do Baileys and coffee or the Café England with bourbon, Frangelico, coffee and whipped cream. My husband loves margaritas, so I make the Margarita del Morte – which is the Margarita of Death. He has a skull glass, and we always put Blue Curacao in there, and I always top it with a little orange juice – it just blends together beautifully and looks really cool. But to tell you the truth, I’m not the girl that’s, “Oh, let’s make drinks!” I’m like, “Let’s open a glass of wine and sit down and talk.”

What’s the strangest request you’ve ever gotten from a customer?

It was Mardi Gras, and a group of 10 people came in and wanted shots of Bloody Mary with oysters in them. And I know that’s popular in Southern states, but they wanted a raw oyster in their little shot of Bloody Mary. I don’t like to deal with oysters anyway, so that was kind of gross. But I did it — what the guest wants, the guest gets!

You’re one of our “OG”s here at the hotel. When did it all start, and how did you get into bartending?

Bartender at 1875: The SteakhouseI started here when I was 14 as a busser and a hostess in the main dining rooms, which are now the pool. My aunt was a bartender and she worked with some of the most amazing bartenders of the day — they knew flaming drinks, they knew the classics. There was a little window and you could stand there and watch them make the drinks, and that just seemed like it was so cool — such a lively, fun atmosphere and I really wanted to get into it. The day I turned 21 I got my beverage license, and they let me get behind the bar — never opening a beer in my life — and I learned on the spot and I loved every minute of it.

When I got a little older and started understanding what a craft and a science it really is, the passion ignited, and now I just love it. I read everything there is to read. My husband gets mad because I won’t go and have a romantic dinner — we’ve got to sit at the bar. And then he says, “quit critiquing the bartender, that’s annoying” (laughs). But I just love it, and our manager at 1875, Tom, gives me all kinds of creative freedoms and ideas. And how lucky am I to work somewhere that has the amount of ingredients. If I say I need a pomegranate, the chef says, “OK, I’ll get you one.” It’s stuff like that, that feeds my passion.

Any memorable guest encounters from over the years?

Well, I got to be REO Speedwagon’s personal bartender for four days. This was before the hotel reconstruction, and they came here to golf. They wanted to be in the rec center, and I just so happened to be scheduled in the rec center — which nobody ever wanted to be scheduled in the rec center until REO Speedwagon came to town. They asked me to be their bartender for four days, so that was really cool. The last day they were here, I was off that day so they sent a limo to my house and picked up me, my husband at the time, my mom, and took us all to Louisville, and we went out for dinner and danced and partied with REO Speedwagon. It was like the greatest thing ever. And my mom swore she was going to leave my dad and marry Kevin Cronin, but that didn’t happen (laughs).

The best, maybe, was Florence Henderson. She walked around the restaurant, and every employee got a hug. She held our hands, and she smelled like cookies. She even went back to the dish line and shook the dish guy’s hand and hugged him, and just wanted to know all about us. She really was like the best celebrity that I’ve ever met.

Bartender at 1875: The Steakhouse

Probably never a dull moment with everyone you meet on a daily basis, too.

I could go on for days and days about our amazing guests. We have people that come from all over the place. And when the resort’s international associates come, that is my favorite time of year. We’ve been so fortunate to have a program where people from Romania and other countries come here to work for a few months. Getting to know them and their cultures, I feel like that’s an opportunity of a lifetime. Meeting the people, learning their stories — everybody’s got one.

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