We check in with past Metromix Best Bar­tenders—while you get ready to pick the next one

Red Eye Chicago - - Metromix - By Karen Budell

Sure, you tip your bar­tenders. But when’s the last time you re­ally let them know how much you ap­pre­ci­ate their well crafted cock­tails? Their friendly ban­ter? Or their smile of recog­ni­tion when you slide onto your reg­u­lar stool?

Now’s your chance to re­pay the fa­vorite mixol­o­gist in your life. Go to to nom­i­nate your best bar­keep for our fourth an­nual Metromix Best Bar­tender com­pe­ti­tion. But be­fore you do, meet the drink slingers who won the top spot at our pre­vi­ous show­downs.

Johnny ‘Cock­tail’ Vithoulkas, 33


J o h n n y Cock­tail wowed the crowd with a bar­tend­ing bag of tricks that in­cluded a se­cre­trecipe shot, cym­bals, a con­fetti canon, sirens and more. He’s still so proud of his vic­tory that you can find his en­graved mar­tini shaker tro­phy be­hind his bar—and a new “Chicago #1 Johnny Cock­tail” tat­too on his bi­cep. Catch him Mon­days at (308 W.

Buzz Erie St. 312-475-9800), in­dus­try night Tues­days at (151 W. Ohio St. 312-

Ruby 832-1436), and Thurs­days through Satur­days at (646 N. Franklin St.

Spy Bar 312-587-8779).

Stephanie Rabi­ola, 31


“ I’m pretty much work­ing seven days a week, but it’s all stuff I re­ally like to do,” Rabi­ola says. In ad­di­tion to her shifts be­hind the bar, she’s got her own pro­duc­tion com­pany, Reel Bronze, and is hold­ing fundrais­ers for in­de­pen­dent film­mak­ers. She also re­cently launched a Web site to sell acrylic shoe or­ga­niz­ers and other pieces of furniture she de­signs. Did we men­tion she still does those fancy bar tricks a la Tom Cruise in “Cock­tail”? Catch her Fri­days at (632 N.

Ex­cal­ibur Dear­born St. 312-266-1944) and Satur­days at the sky­box bar at (632 N.

Vi­sion Dear­born St. 312-266-3333).

Chad John­son, 30


Af­ter own­er­ship of Bun­ga­low changed hands last year, John­son left and did a nearly nine-month stint at Debonair So­cial Club. He took the sum­mer off to travel, and now he says he’s look­ing for a new job.

Be­tween bar­tend­ing gigs, this good ol’ boy from Ken­tucky has been trav­el­ing to Costa Rica, South Carolina and even his grandma’s farm in Ge­or­gia to rus­tle up some cows. But he won’t be trad­ing cock­tails for chaps any­time soon. He’s ready to dust off his shaker and get be­hind a bar. “I just want to get in there and make drinks,” he says.

JOHNNY BE GOOD Metromix Best Bar­tender 2006 Johnny “Cock­tail” Vithoulkas serves his sig­na­ture shot at the 2006 Best Bar­tender bash at Funky Bud­dha Lounge.

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