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Marc Zahorchak Has the Beverage Pulpit at Teddy & The Bully Bar

Posted by on in December 2014 Editions
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MarcZTeddyBullyBar 12.jpg - 216.54 KBMarc Zahorchak, Beverage Director at the Teddy & The Bully Bar in Northwest D.C. didn't come to the nation's capital in the early 1990s to tend bar.  He had an MBA degree and found work as a management consultant.  But then the recession that ushered in the Clinton era hit, and he suddenly found himself downsized and unable to find a job.

"A buddy of mine suggested that I get involved with the restaurant business at night to keep the cash flow going while looking for another job," he recalled during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "I absolutely fell in love with the business!  I was hooked from the first day I got behind the bar and have been doing it for more than 20 years now."

He tended bar at Charlie Palmer Steak on Capitol Hill for nine years and also served as the original bar manager for Hook in Georgetown.  He has been full-time at Teddy since August 2013.  " I came in about two months after they opened up," he stated.  [Proprietor] Alan Popovsky  was looking for someone to kind of corral and bring bar costs in line.  More importantly, I think he wanted someone with my experience to come in and teach the younger mixologist-types."

Zahorchak winced at even his own mention of that term.  "I'd rather not be called a mixologist," he said, with a slight grimace. "I think mixology tends to be a selfish pursuit.  There is the danger of making it about yourself.  For me, it's all about the success of the restaurant.  And the only way to be really successful is taking care of your guests."

There is one thing he did for himself, though, in coming aboard the summer before last.  In negotiating his deal to be the Beverage Director, he told Popovskly, "'I'll do all of the work you need me to do to make this work.  I'll do all of the paperwork, all of the ordering, the receiving, the inventory.  I'll do whatever it is you need me to do.  But I still want to bartend!'  I really love bartending.  I love the adrenaline rush."

But in the two-plus decades of serving drinks and concocting cocktails, the business hasn't always changed in ways that Zahorchak has liked.  The Internet, for one, has altered things in a big way.  "What I have found disturbing and difficult to deal with is the Yelp/Open Table social media reviewing of restaurants," he lamented.  "I think it is profoundly changing our business.  You're seeing a lot less personality behind the bar.  It's become a bit more vanilla, a bit more homogenized.  I was a bartender on Capitol Hill, dealing with senators and congressmen and lobbyists for nine years.  They kind of enjoyed my snarkiness and my occasional off-color comments.  It broke the ice, and led to a lot of laughs.  Now, you're afraid if you say the wrong thing to the wrong person, you're going to be skewered on social media."

Whenever he gets really down, though, he remembers some of the mentors he has had along the way.  One of them was Washington beverage biz guru Dennis Asaka.  Zahorchak recalled, "It was at his restaurant that I realized I was pretty bad at what I was doing.  He emasculated me in front of  guests.  He would say, 'What are you doing?!  You're worthless!  You don't work hard enough!"  It was that person who instilled a work ethic in me.  He would tell me, "Be on time, work hard, and give the people what they want.  They are the ones who are paying our bills and keeping this restaurant open.'  Once that all clicked, bartending actually became more fun and more lucrative."

Zahorchak also still draws on his experience in business and management consulting, especially when dealing with the Type A, Capitol Hill clients that often frequent the Teddy and The Bully Bar. He said, "I understand the mentality of businesspeople. What the business man and the politician in this town really cares about is service.  That's what will get them to come back.  If you see four guys walk into your bar, identify the pointman, see who is in charge, see that he has clients with him, and make that guy look like a rock star!"

Finally, there are the connections within the business that make his job worthwhile.  One of his favorites is Shannon Crisp of FEW Spirits.  "Shannon brought me a great product called Virginia Lightning from Culpepper, Va., and we use it in one of our most popular specialty cocktails called the Obamas' Honey Cider.  I tell you, this town is still enjoying its love affair with bourbons and ryes!"

FAVORITE MOVIES: "Star Wars," "Swingers," and "Goodfellas."

FIRST THING PEOPLE NOTICE ABOUT HIM: His height.  He's 6'4"

SPECIAL INTEREST: "I'm an avid motorcyclist."

SPORT HE PLAYS: Ice hockey.

MOST FAMOUS PERSON HE'S EVER SERVED: (tie) Bill Clinton ("He's very charismatic.  He talked so much that I actually had to excuse myself from the conversation, because I had to get back to work!") and Brad Pitt.

PERSON HE'D MOST LIKE TO SERVE A DRINK TO (living or dead): Teddy Roosevelt.

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Teddy is a graduate of UMBC. In additional to his Beverage Journal writing duties, he is an entertainment reviewer.