Robbie Wilson: not your average bartender

photo by Sarah Page

Robbie Wilson, the bartender and part owner of The Magenta Bar, runs the SNUGbar, a side bar downstairs in The Magenta. The SNUGbar showcases a return to prohibition, portraying itself as a speakeasy. Through his interpretive drink making, Robbie teaches people that going out for a drink can be as wonderful as seeing Cirque du Soleil. With Robbie, you don’t just ask for a drink, you ask for him to make something specific and he will shock you with how on the spot it is.

Robbie will decide on an infusion of flavors unlike anything you could expect by looking at your facial expressions, your mood, your taste preferences, and even the weather outside. After stating that I loved fruity drinks, Robbie pulled out a square flower patterned tea cup and matching plate, filled it with ice and then begin pouring shots into a shaker as seamlessly as watching a waterfall fill into a perfect pool. He then began shaking the drink in a fashion similar to a performance dancer with a maraca in their hand, matching movements with the sound of the shaker. After, he poured out the ice from the tea cup, took a lemon peel and rubbed it along the edges of the cup, and then poured in the drink, pushing it elegantly toward me. Holding the ice cold tea cup in my hands, I tasted an immersion of lemon and honey while being submerged in a citrusy aroma.

Watching this performance would never suggest that Robbie Wilson used to be an accountant. After getting his degree in international business from OSU, Robbie started working as an accountant at a Japanese firm. He has lived inNorwayandJapanand speaks fluent Japanese. Listening to him talk you can still hear the slight Japanese accent. Robbie grew up in San Jose,California and came to Oregon because his father and grandmother are from Corvallis.

Robbie started as a lunch server at The Magenta. After a while he began making drinks for customers on occasion. He soon knew he wanted to bartend after enough customers asked, “Make me something,” and Robbie would do the best he could to customize a flavorful drink for that person. Enough people said they loved his drinks that he realized his calling and began reading books on drinks, and teaching himself the art of bartending.

 

What made me keep returning to the bar was not only Robbie’s ability to make a unique concoction for me, but also that he designed the entire drink menu using his own creations. One of his favorite drinks to make, and possibly one of the most interesting to look at, is the “Street Bum.” This cocktail comes wrapped up in newspaper to make a customer feel the atmosphere of being on the streets. The drink was inspired by the book To Kill a Mockingbird. In the scene where the kids are not allowed in the courthouse, they ask a bum to try his drink wrapped in newspaper. He lets them, and it ends up being root beer. Robbie wanted his drinks to bring customers to certain places or customs– the “Street Bum” clearly evokes the lifestyle of the streets.

Robbie puts all his effort into every drink and customer that walks in the door—as he believes everything to be “one chance, one encounter.” Walking into the bar you not only get the drink you want, but rather an entertaining show, great conversation, and an escape from the busy life. As Robbie puts it, “If you don’t like it, I failed.”

The SNUGbar has the second largest selection of rum of any bar inOregon. Robbie hand picks every bottle of alcohol he uses based on brand, flavor, and his drink-making preferences. Even the glasses are unique to Robbie’s personality and the bar itself. He has specifically chosen each individual glass that drinks are served in. The glasses range from a cocktail glass to a unique tall glass with white flowers all over it—something one would might see on display in someone’s “old, fine glassware” antique collection.

Robbie Wilson does not just bartend. He also creates a place where sight, smell, feel, and taste combine to provide the perfect bar experience. Don’t be afraid to start up a conversation with him, as he will surprise you with his knowledge and background. If you are looking for more than just another cheap round at the Peacock, look no farther than The Magenta which houses the best bartender in town.

Robbie can be found at the SNUGbar in The Magenta on 2nd street, next to the Peacock, every Wednesday through Saturday from 6pm to midnight.

 

By: Cristina Himka

 

 

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