By Frank Sabatini
Portrait by Kristina Yamamoto
Unlike some of his esteemed colleagues and customers, bartender Ryan Andrews is playing with a full deck. Andrews is the bar manager at Coin-Op Game Room in North Park. With the help of friend and fellow bartender Alex Maynard, he developed The Drinking Deck, a set of 52 illustrated playing cards that depict the usual suspects - jacks, queens, kings - alongside cocktail recipes and booze-culture trivia revived from a bygone era.
Leading the nostalgic trip down (hazy) memory lane is a fictional character named Thomas Tippins.
"I kind of envision him as the Forrest Gump of cocktail history, being present in all these events and being the catalyst for the growth of cocktail culture in pre-Prohibition America," says Maynard on the Kickstarter campaign video that helped raise more than $11,000 to create the deck.
Andrews and Maynard first discussed the project while cleaning the bar at their former workplace, Little Italy's Craft & Commerce. (Maynard now works at Jayne's Gastropub in University Heights). They tapped Bay Area bartender and artist Cora Tang (who previously worked at Neighborhood in East Village) to design the cards.
So far, the trio seems to have dealt themselves a winning hand, as BevMo! will soon carry The Drinking Deck in all 150 of its locations nationwide.
"We'll be printing another 4,000 decks to keep up with the demand," says Andrews.
Aces in The Drinking Deck "focus on the cultural and physical effects of alcohol," Andrews says. The Ace of Hearts, for example, comes with this heartfelt message:
Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that transmit signals throughout the body that control thought process, behavior and emotion. Alcohol increases levels of dopamine & serotonin, which are related to relaxation, peace of mind, and feelings of euphoria.
Pick a card, any card... and be sure to tip the bartender.