The Lola offers fresh, made-from-scratch foods including family-style shareables, rustic salads, decadent desserts and always-fresh craft cocktails. Chris Simmons has been a bartender for nearly a decade and is currently at The Lola at Westgate Entertainment District.
We recently had the chance to sit down with Simmons and get the backstory on his career and what the cocktail lab and eatery have to offer.
Tell us about your career as a bartender.
In high school, I was getting scouted to play baseball and I was actually drafted by the Angels. And then I tore my rotator cuff in half my last championship game I had with my club team. I didn’t know what to do then. I was kind of depressed. I was sitting in my friend’s pool — my best friend from high school — and he played college ball but never made it to the pros. We were just sitting there, and I was like, “Guys, what am I going to do with my life?” I didn’t have any college scholarships. I wasn’t the greatest in school, so I just didn’t know. He said, “You love talking to people. You love having fun. Why don’t you just become a bartender?” That’s literally why I’ve been doing it. I’ve been at literally every nightclub in Arizona. I looked over all of the pools and restaurants and everything over at the Arizona Biltmore Resort. I was just thinking of something part time to do, and that is when I landed at McFadden’s. Then, months ago, the Biltmore shut down, McFadden’s shut down, but because we were a full-sized restaurant, we were able to stay open, and that led me over to The Lola. Now I’ll be going to The Ainsworth (to) be the bar manager over there. I’ve been bartending for probably 10 years now. I started working with the same company over at McFadden’s, and they realized they needed some help over here. I just transitioned over here. I’ve been here ever since.
What is your go-to drink when you are at a bar other than your own?
Mine would just be an Old-Fashioned. I love Old-Fashioneds. I love speakeasies and things of that sort. Other than that, if I’m at home I usually make a tequila Old-Fashioned, or we actually have a drink similar called the Old Amigo, which is one of my favorite things on the menu.
What is the oddest ingredient that you’ve ever used in a cocktail?
That’s tough. Probably cotton candy — that’s the only thing we do here — or, like, chocolate bunnies and every other crazy drink they have us make here.
What is your favorite memory working behind the bar?
Just having fun with my friends, meeting new people, and making them smile and laugh and have a great time.
What is the best piece of advice you would give someone looking to get into the industry?
Work hard and keep grinding. You can never make enough money in this industry.
What does ordering a vodka tonic say about a person?
Basic white girl. Someone who wants to look the part and not want to taste anything.
Tell us about the beverage program here at The Lola.
We strive to make craft cocktails but at a fast pace — a couple of ingredients simple, easy and just very good. We like to post on social media. We’re really big on social media and try to make everything look pretty and cute. The garnishes are crazy to make people want to post it. That is how we get our advertisement. It’s about 99% of our advertisement here.
What cocktail would you love for us to feature?
What do you like about the drink?
Who doesn’t love a spicy margarita? It’s very refreshing, very light and perfect for the summer. I always like spice. I love spicy margaritas, so that extra kick gives it a little flare in the end. We put it in an actual pineapple and pour it ourselves, and it just looks amazing. We bring the fruit in and do it here, so you’re getting something light and summery that is not made from a bottle somewhere.
1 1/2 ounce 3 Amigos Blanco Tequila
1 ounce agave simple syrup
1 ounce fresh lime juice
4 to 5 jalapeno slices
1 small pineapple
Cut off the top of the pineapple and remove insides — keep excess juice for drink. Muddle jalapeno slices, then add remaining ingredients. Garnish pineapple with salt and tajin and pour the drink in pineapple.
6770 N. Sunrise Boulevard, Suite G109, Glendale