Our Own Sam Malone
When being a bartender means more than pouring a good drink
When you enter Marly’s you’re met with a warm greeting and a genuine smile from Jack LaPick, bartender extraordinaire. If you’ve been to Marly’s more than once, it’s likely you’ll be greeted by name. Not only does Jack have an encyclopedic memory when it comes to people’s names, but also to their drinks, what they like to eat, and perhaps, more importantly, what’s going on in their lives.
Jack is a walking compendium of libations. He is faster than a speeding blender, and able to make tall, cool drinks in a single bound. Disguised as a mild-mannered guy, this superstar bartender helps many of us relieve the sometime ennui of our daily lives. “Regulars make up ninety-five percent of the business,” says Jack as he mixes a perfect dirty martini with extra olives and a mere whisper of vermouth. “At this point, we know almost everyone in town.” After you settle into your seat at the bar you can’t help but marvel at the guy’s ability to tend to your wants, while he engages in multiple conversations. Jack has an innate, enviable ability to relate to everyone who walks through the door. On numerous occasions I’ve witnessed people who have moved away from Wilton dropping in to say hello, and to tell him how much he is missed. Jack runs the kind of place where you can come in alone and feel comfortable sitting at the bar. He takes care of you. So he knows all about us but what do we really know about him? It took years of being a barfly but I have managed to get some inside intel.
He was introduced to the entertainment world at a young age by his father, a Mad Men–era advertising executive whose famous ad campaign slogans included “Ruffles Has Ridges,” “Does a woman offer a man a tipparillo?” and “Can you Canoe Canoe.” In addition to film editing, and working in various capacities on film sets, Jack has been doing radio and television voice-overs since he was a teen. The man does a spot-on impersonation of Rodney Dangerfield. Jack is also a knowledgeable cinephile, who is equally comfortable discussing first-run features or obscure documentaries. The guy has a fitting movie quote for almost any occasion. And if you challenge him with a quote of your own, he’ll likely tell you the film title, the year it was made, who directed it, and who the stars were.
I don’t know if this is a fun fact or just a weird one, but Jack is also an avid collector of mafia memorabilia. That’s right—mafia memorabilia. In his weekly blog post (“Mafia Monday”) he shares his new finds along with his extensive knowledge of infamous mobsters of bygone days. Strange but true.
As for his sporting tastes? You’d be hard-pressed to find more of a diehard Celtics fan—of both the players and of their cheerleaders. It began years ago when Jack was living in Boston and just starting out as a bartender. “I went to a Celtics game on St. Patrick’s Day and was completely hooked,” he says with obvious enthusiasm.
Working as a bartender at Marly’s these past seven years, Jack has seen a lot, heard a lot, and experienced a lot, but when asked what he considers his most memorable moment behind the bar, without hesitation he smiles and says, “I met my wife at work.” His wife Kim is equally charming and the couple continues to work together quite happily.
When I asked what the secret is to making a good drink, Jack authoritatively replied, “Ice. It’s all about the ice.” Apparently, no matter how good a mixologist you are, if you don’t have quality ice, you are doomed never to make a great drink. You and I know there’s a lot more skill involved than that—which Jack ably demonstrates during his nightly shift—but it confirms that this popular bartender truly has everything down to a science.
The bottom line? Stop trying to make drinks at home, go to the place where the ice is good and there’s a bartender who knows what to do with it. Order his famous Angry Watermelon and tell him I said Hi.