For Shannon Lindsey, bartending is about personal expression. "I love the freedom," she says.
Lindsey, 39, grew up in an Air Force home. Born in Athens, Greece, she spent her childhood moving from place to place, attending each school for just two years. When her father retired in Jackson, she found a home here. After high school, she played with the idea of going to an emergency medical-technician school or a veterinary-technician program, but nothing ever worked out.
"I never really liked the day-job thing, so that's how I got into bartending," she says.
Her first service-industry job was at Outback Steakhouse in Jackson. From there, she moved on to Time Out Sports Bar, during what she calls its "heyday." It was there that she really honed her bartending skills. Since then, she has worked at numerous local bars and restaurants, including The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen and BRAVO! Italian Restaurant and Bar. In May, she accepted a position at the Library Lounge and 1908 Provisions in the Fairview Inn. A couple of weeks ago, Lindsey left for a job at Jeremy Enfinger's future restaurant, County Seat, in Flora.
If you ask Lindsey why she likes her work, she'll simply tell you, "It makes me happy." Her favorite challenge is convincing customers to try drinks they thought they wouldn't like by putting her own spin on them. "I really love the freedom I have to express myself," Lindsey says. "If someone comes in and tells me they don't like gin, I make a gin drink."
"I like to make them happy and blow their mind a little bit," she says. She hopes to be at the forefront of the movement to elevate the cocktail to the level of wine and whiskey when it comes to craft pairings.
"You can't just Manhattan your way through it, especially if you want to enjoy the true flavors of the meal, not to mention if you want to remember them," she says. "Food and craft-cocktail pairings are definitely upon us and should be taken to the next level."
One of her favorite pairings at Library Lounge and 1908 Provisions was a northern lights cocktail—gin, yellow chartreuse and orange bitters—served with Chef Gary Hawkins' oysters on the half shell.
"The craft cocktail is becoming a player in the game, without a doubt," Lindsey says. "It is a collaboration between the bartender and the chef. Let's see how we bar chefs can step that game up in Jackson, for the people."
When she isn't at work, Lindsey enjoys cooking, being outdoors, and eating and drinking locally. "I think it is so very important to invest in your local economy, and supporting one another is key," she says. "All the new things opening here are much needed and truly a breath of fresh air."