The Place to be by Far is Harper’s Bar
by Mary Brady
At only 30 years old, our beloved Harper’s Bar Bartender/Mixologist, Luke Jones, is a treasure. He has been at Harper’s for the last three years, replacing Andy McCutchen. He credits Andy for teaching him the “tricks of the trade,” and showing him the ropes.
Luke started out at Gianni’s, but before that, he did night club bartending in Miami and also in Key Largo. He did mostly wine bartending at Gianni’s and learned a lot in that role. Inspired by Master Mixologist David Ortiz and with encouragement from Club management, Luke moved to Harper’s Bar at the Reef Lounge and found his niche. He explained to me that every mixologist is a bartender, but not every bartender is a mixologist. Luke is a master mixologist.
Luke told me, “I haven’t worked in eight years because that is how much I love my job.” His favorite thing is not just the work, but the people. He says, “I have a servant’s heart and love taking care of people. It is a gift, not necessarily a talent.” I disagree, as he surely has talent. He is poetry in motion as he concocts drinks that people just savor. His dexterity and ability to make a production out of making an “awesome coffee,” with the flames and liquor flowing from his backhands are a thing to behold. It is evident that Luke loves every aspect of the service industry, and as he interviews with me, he is setting up his bottles, Windexing the shelves and mirrors, and greeting fellow employees coming in for their shift. He is a real multitasker and so pleasant and upbeat. “I have the best corner office in the world,” he says looking out at his ocean view.
Luke is the oldest of four boys in a tight knit family from Miami. They all live within 45 minutes of each other except for one brother who lives with his wife and son in Orlando. In his spare time, Luke loves to be out on the water, spearfishing, diving and boating.
Luke was very close to his grandfather and learned some very important life lessons from him before he passed away. He speaks of his grandpa with respect and affection. Luke has a real knack with all people both young and old. His talent for listening and making people feel “a part of” is key to his success.
“I love seeing new faces as well as Member faces each night. I love meeting new people and sharing experiences. Many Members are like family to me. In this industry, I am onstage every night. It is my job to serve, delight, surprise and lift people up. I try my best to accomplish that.”
At Harper’s Bar
One night as I sat at a high top with my husband, Luke came over and asked if I would like a margarita. I responded I did not drink alcohol. “No problem was his reply. Tell me if you like sweet or spicy and I will make a non-alcoholic one for you.” I told him spicy and sweet and the drink he created was fabulous! I now go in just to have him make something wonderful for me. That is how he makes people feel, and how he draws you in to make you a part of the action. That is his talent and his gift – making you feel special.
Luke lives in Key Largo with his dog Ajax, cat Snowball and his flying squirrel, Sugar. Sugar is nocturnal and keeps the same schedule as Luke so they are very close.
Luke’s favorite drink to make is anything exotic. “Tell me what you like, and I can make it.” Personally, Luke drinks vodka and sprite, which he admits is quite boring.
One year ago, Luke attended Tales of the Cocktail Festival in New Orleans. It is an annual event that is geared to bartenders and mixologists. He said most of the people attending were all tattooed, but Luke was comfortable in his own (non-tattooed) skin and made no apologies. “I work at a private club and need to present myself accordingly.” He explained he learned about the low ABV (alcohol by volume) trend that is happening. Low ABV preference shows that people are enjoying cocktails that are lower in alcohol which you can drink over a longer period of time without the effects of stronger drinks. The culture is changing and getting more social. Americans are starting to learn from the Italians, who can drink all day, every day. They have an aperitif, then wine, pacing themselves as everything serves a purpose. Luke treated himself to this Festival to not only experience it, but to learn from it as well. It is what he wanted to do for his 30th birthday.
Luke says the Ocean Reef motto “a unique way of life,” is meaningful to him – “Nowhere else on earth can I work in a place for people I consider family.”