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PHOTO BY ROB BARTLETT
  • Photo by Rob Bartlett

Jenn Harton

Bartender, Lil Indies | For giving Orlando drinkers their favorite bar exam

Jenn Harton never wanted to be a craft cocktail bartender.

"I was honestly terrified ... I didn't want to bartend on the Lil Indies side because it was so scary," she says. "I wanted to work at Will's and do, like, Jack & Coke, vodka soda, rum and Diet, things like that." But fellow bartenders Lianne Hayre and Kaitlin MacGavock taught her how to get over that fear. "Lianne is the reason that I got over being scared and got into making cocktails."

Since discovering her talent for mixing classic and brand-new cocktail recipes, Harton has become one of the city's most popular bartenders, winning the vaunted Best Bartender category in Orlando Weekly's Best of Orlando poll for the past three years in a row. But not everything she makes is popular.

"My favorite [cocktail] that I've ever come up with was honestly one of the lowest-selling drinks," she admits about her favorite creation so far, the Wild Hunt. "I did a butter-washed scotch with sweet potato juice and maple and cherry simple [syrup]. ... It was a great cocktail!"

Lil Indies also has a reputation for creative cocktail names, and Harton's favorites have been based on professional wrestling moves. "The Montreal Screwjob was a really fun one," she says. "Hurricanrana, which is a signature luchador move."

Harton's bartending résumé goes back to working under the original owners of Maitland's Copper Rocket, so she's seen plenty of change in the area's bar scene.

"Honestly, Will's getting liquor was huge for the area," she says about the Mills 50 district.

But part of the area's success she credits to having good neighbors. "Guesthouse opening up has been awesome for Mills, because having an anchor like us and then an anchor like Guesthouse that has very different demographics, there's much more foot traffic and barhopping going on," she says. "I think it fosters community."

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