Bradley Hagen wants to take better care of people, and he has spent years in the service industry as a backpacker and barista in pursuit of that. Now he’s landed squarely in the bartending camp at Swordfish Cocktail Club.
“What I saw pretty quickly, the cocktail medium, especially the way Swordfish mixes cocktails, gives me more tools in my tool belt,” he says.
Co-owner, operator and bartender of Swordfish, Hagen uses all of his past experience – recommending beer, brewing the perfect espresso, composing a balanced cocktail – all in one place.
“In a cocktail bar, I can serve anything and that makes sense,” he says.
He also approaches each cocktail he prepares from the guest’s perspective.
“I can meet the wishes of my clients,” says Hagen. “Are they looking for a way to celebrate? Are they looking for a way to fuel conversations? With a cocktail bar, it’s very intuitive to be able to offer that. The other mediums are not so easy. When you serve coffee in the morning, it’s not that festive.
The desire to provide good service and help his guests whatever their purpose for being there that evening overlaps with his desire to promote the community around him.
“Along with cocktails, it’s such an effective way for me to take care of a bunch of desires that I have,” he says. “Participate in building a community of people, be it the people who work for me or the clients. “
“What I saw pretty quickly, the cocktail medium, especially the way Swordfish mixes cocktails, gives me more tools in my tool belt.” – Bradley Hagen
His experience in all previous roles has brought him to a current understanding of his role which shapes how he leads his team behind the bar and how he interacts with customers.
“The common thread from the past to today is that I believe service is a noble thing,” says Hagen. “This is not low level work. There is a lot more power and a lot more to enjoy. With Swordfish, we can take that up to the end so that everyone feels the goodness.
The way he trains his staff to follow a certain service flow devoid of all appearances sporadic and frantic ensures that customers are always in an environment where they are the center of their attention.
“They move with grace,” says Hagen. “If there is one secret technique for making drinks, it is grace.”
Did you know?
If Hagen is going to drink a neat liquor, it will probably be whiskey or brandy.
Hagen’s drink of choice after a long shift is a daiquiri, not the frozen mixed type. “Daiquiris are one of the most beloved bartender drinks of all time – it’s like this beer that’s really crisp and refreshing after a long day. It’s just the right kind of strength and has a bit of smoothness. It does not shine with sweetness.
Hagen and Swordfish co-owner and founder Evan Leihy worked for over two years to develop a less physically strenuous technique to make a Ramos Gin Fizz, and they pulled it off this year. Rather than shaking the drink for more than 10 minutes, as is customary, their method relies on a salt ice bath to bring the cocktail to temperature over time, delivering that firm egg white foam for which the drink is known. “It’s a satisfying drink to prepare. We made it even more satisfying.
Hagen has a background in pottery and works with his hands, and he is currently teaching his 8 year old son basic survival skills from his early days as a Scout – different knots and what they are for, how to use a small ax, how to use a knife correctly.