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Know Your Bartender: The Parish's John Coltharp

By Emily Chu
Published: Thursday, August 23, 2012, at 12:41PM

"I have two desert island drinks. In no particular order: a hand-shaken daiquiri made with fresh juice on what some would consider the tart side, and an Old Fashioned," The Parish's John Coltharp said.

Try and order an appletini from The Parish's 29-year-old head bartender John Coltharp, and he'll gently refuse and offer another option.

"No, that's not my style," he said, smiling. "I can make you a delicious Applejack cocktail using our apple brandy and fresh lime juice … It's a fantastic cocktail that I would drink many times over."

Coltharp is something of a familiar face around town. He's known for having worked at Seven Grand, but his experience in the service industry is a compilation of all the different jobs he's worked, starting as a 13-year-old dishwasher at a restaurant.

He's filled every role in a restaurant short of being a line cook or chef, and self-deprecatingly described himself as "a jack of all trades and a master of none."

Coltharp grew up in a small town in western Washington called Chimacum. "It's basically a dairy town in the middle of the woods," he said.

He came to LA after high school, thinking he wanted to pursue cinematography at Cal State Northridge. But when he arrived, he realized it wouldn't work.

"It felt like an industry where a lot of people could work really hard their whole lives and not make it," he said. "That really worried me."

In search of a different path, he studied photography, then botany, and finally ended up with a liberal studies degree. After graduating, his pursuits were just as varied. He even worked at a biotech lab, but ultimately came back to the service industry.

"I like the interactions (with people) and the pace. I could probably take or leave the late nights," he said.

As a bartender-mixologist, Coltharp has a distinct style (as evidenced by his response to appletinis). He favors classic drinks with fresh ingredients — juices always squeezed the day-of, he quickly pointed out — and what he described as "great base spirits."

This isn't just a job for him; it's his lifestyle. He met his wife of two years at Seven Grand. She was a cocktail waitress, he was the bartender.

And in his spare time, he roots for the Seahawks and likes to go hiking, but even his leisure reading involves bartending. He enthusiastically recommended Imbibe! by David Wondrich.

For the foreseeable future, Coltharp is happy where he is. "I like to make people happy with good drinks, so I don't see any reason to quit anytime soon," he said.

Find the other installments of the 'Know Your Bartender' series here and here.


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