From managing a coffee shop to helping open Southeast-Asian fusion restaurant Sway in Austin, Texas, Brian Evans has come a long way. Today, the 33-year-old Arkansas native can be found nights behind the bar at Sunday in Brooklyn, pouring his concoctions like the Havana Honey Bear or Tokyo Bodega. From sommelier training to experiences from a decade of globetrotting, Evans makes drinking at Sunday in Brooklyn an experience his patrons won’t soon forget. I recently chatted with him about life as a bartender, and where bartenders go when—well, when they’re not behind their own bars.
What is your schedule at Sunday in Brooklyn?
Usually Thursday through Monday. You’ll definitely see me behind the bar Thursday through Sunday night.
I usually sleep until noon. I feel sleeping in is the key to happiness (laughs).
How did you get your start in bartending?
I came to New York in October 2015 with a goal of breaking into the wine world. I had a serving job at the [Danny Meyer restaurant] Marta and was switched to cocktails four months in. I got obsessed with classic cocktails and the New York culture.
Do you call yourself a mixologist or bartender?
I try to stay away from mixologist. I’m here to provide a good time. I can pour a glass of wine and talk about it or give you a shot and a beer; cocktails are just my focus.
When’s the best time to get a cocktail at Sunday in Brooklyn?
We’re an all-day brunch bistro. Brunch busts at the seams and tends to be fun and lively, and it’s a great vibe but I’d prefer dinner. The dinner menu is more exquisite and the chef’s mind translates to the plate.
What kind of crowd does the restaurant attract?
I’ve been with the company since last September and I’ve seen a metamorphosis here. There’s been exponential growth in Williamsburg. On the weekends you see more of a foodie, party crowd and during the week there’s a neighborhood feel to it. The weekends are more of what you’d find in the West Village or Chelsea, but both are fun.
What are the latest trends in drinks?
Tequila and mescal. Tequila is almost replacing vodka … Just adding tequila to the mix is a way of expanding the [drinks] menu.
What is your style?
I pay attention to the visual aesthetic. What sits in front of you, and how it looks, creates that flavor more than what it actually tastes like ... I like to create visual appeal using fresh produce and bright flavors.
Favorite drink to make?
I definitely love to flex my tiki muscle. I’ve spent time the last decade traveling around the world and I’ve been influenced by Southeast Asia; in Greece with tiki, they go above and beyond. It might be mean, but I like making guests wait six minutes while I create a drink with many visual layers. Its escapism makes you feel like you’re in paradise.
Where do you go to eat and drink when you’re not working?
There’s a laid-back, small neighborhood spot in Bed-Stuy called Moloko. They’ve got a great chicken sandwich. The great bartenders there make you feel at home. Win Son—my girlfriend and I always crave that place; also, Xi’an Famous Foods. Uncle Boons is a Michelin one-star spot with inventive, funky-fresh flavors and just a transformative place. I look for a place for a transformative experience.
To drink, I go to Blacktail: it inspired the trip my girlfriend and I took to Havana and Trinidad. Their cocktails are incredibly dialed in. Caffè Dante has bright walls and an inviting atmosphere.
Favorite things to do in Brooklyn?
I like to go for long bike rides or to museums or just to see all the great things this city has to offer.
You’ve traveled around the world. What are some of your favorite places?
The first trip overseas was very personal. I went to Hong, Thailand, and Indonesia. My mom’s side of the family lives there and it was like a big family reunion. Bali was mesmerizing. I’ve never seen paradise like that, with the overall kindness of the people and the stress-free environment. Peru is absolutely my favorite place: The people there make you feel like a villager … The Peruvian cuisine is some of the best in the world.