October 31, 2022

John “Corky” McCarthy

1.5 min read| Published On: October 31st, 2022|

By Gina Horan

John “Corky” McCarthy

1.5 min read| Published On: October 31st, 2022|

A toast to friendships

John McCarthy is a bartender for the people.

There is rarely an empty seat on weekdays at City Fire American Oven and Bar in Brownwood, so I avoid it like the plague. One day I managed to find a rare barstool and asked a neighbor, “Why is this place so nuts all the time?”

Answer: “Corky.” 

“What is a Corky?” I wondered.

John “Corky” McCarthy has been described as the “Mayor of Brownwood” by several residents of The Villages I spoke to. He has such a loyal following that people get worried when he takes a rare night off.

Originally from Virginia, McCarthy started as a barback in 1997 and quickly ascended to bartender for Kincaid’s, part of the Restaurants Unlimited Group. After he was voted Bartender of the Year, he went on to become the national bar trainer for Palomino’s, which had locations from coast to coast. 

Corky relocated to Florida in 2011 to help his mom. A year later, he answered an open call to bartend at City Fire and hasn’t looked back. 

He loves working there for many reasons, but it’s the atmosphere he loves best. “We are one big happy family,” says the man who strives to treat people the way he would treat a mom. 

But it’s also painful at times. 

“The Villages is unique because you must accept that people will pass away,” he says. “If people don’t show up, I worry and call them.” 

As luck would have it, the job also brought him Sandy Reed, his fiancé and love of his life. “We were working across the street from one another and when we met, it clicked.” 

They spent COVID-19 together and are planning a wedding for next year. The elaborate Niagara Falls proposal was known by all, except Sandy. Two of his regulars, Les and Rob, who split their time between here and Buffalo, planned the whole thing. 

“The entire Villages community knew but me,” she says. “He was showing the ring to everyone, and if you can believe it, I never knew.”

“Maybe I’ll slow down one day,” he says. “But I honestly love bartending and don’t plan to leave any time soon.”

His intent to stick around for a while is just fine with his fans. 


  1. Avatar
    Sandra Reed November 2, 2022 at 5:41 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this perfect article explaining how loved Corky is. His work ethic is commendable, his bar drinks delicious & quick. His secret ?
    Stick to the recipe. That it!

  2. Avatar
    Lee-Ann November 2, 2022 at 6:55 pm - Reply

    I absolutely love this article and am so glad that my husband and I decided to make this community our retirement plan. Corky is an amazing bartender and I am honored to say that I know him and have had him make me delicious drinks LOL !!!!!!!!

  3. Avatar
    Dana Lyons November 2, 2022 at 10:09 pm - Reply

    So awesome ? love Sandy

  4. Avatar
    Henry Barber November 3, 2022 at 10:41 am - Reply

    Had the pleasure of working with Corky years ago in Va. He’s always had a positive attitude making others smile. So glad to see he’s doing well for himself. Congratulations buddy, keep up the good work.

  5. Avatar
    Cindy Altomari November 24, 2022 at 1:47 am - Reply

    Corkey! This is your cousin Cis in Maine! I’m so proud of you and your grandmom would have been so proud.

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About the Author: Gina Horan

Gina moved to central Florida in August of 2021 from the San Francisco Bay Area. She has a bachelor’s degree in Linguistics and spent 10 years as a fashion editor, columnist and food writer for The Knight Ridder Newspaper group. She was also a photo stylist and covered concerts, fashion shows and festivals all over Northern California. In 2000, she joined KSAN radio as a morning show co-host and produced the news and sports content there for 4 years. She also covered travel, events and the restaurant scene for KRON-Bay TV. She is a veteran bartender and has worked in hospitality on and off since high school. Her passions include travel, road trips, history books, baseball, tasting menus and most of all, landing in a new city with no map or guidebook. Gina lives in Oxford with her mom, cats and baby hamster.

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