June 28, 2024

Learning Goes Both Ways for Positive, Popular Bartender

1.4 min read| Published On: June 28th, 2024|

By Gina Horan

Learning Goes Both Ways for Positive, Popular Bartender

1.4 min read| Published On: June 28th, 2024|

Ski Beach in Leesburg has everything I love: beachy décor, lakeside views, an approachable menu and Chablis — not the crisp white wine, but a tall, veteran bartender with laid-back charm who wasn’t offended when I inquired about the origins of her name with one question—   

“Hippie parents?” 

“Yep!” she replied. 

Chablis Applewhite got her start working in the Orlando nightclub scene, then spent the last two decades traveling the country, mastering craft cocktails, brewing craft beer and crafting lifelong friendships. Now 47, the Florida native has landed on the shores of Lake Harris.

“It’s hard not to smile with this view,” says the self-declared “old lady bartender encyclopedia.”

The moniker refers to the occasional need to assist younger co-workers with old-timey cocktails like the Rusty Nail or Negroni, both popular with baby boomers.

“I might also be pulled aside for basic service questions or wine-opening assistance for a table and I’m always happy to help,” Chablis says.

Like me, Chablis occasionally turns to select “youth advisors” when it comes to building trendy, Instagram drinks or pouring shots that are a hit with the younger crowd. 

“The other day, someone asked for a ‘squid’ something,” she says. “So I immediately found a 21-year-old bartender who Googled it and before I could even get my phone out, we had seven versions of that drink.”

While she is generous with her time on the clock, she usually gently declines invitations to go out after work.

Professionally, Chablis says she marvels at the tenacity and grace of her younger co-workers and points out that several have kids, second jobs and go to school. And many seem to juggle everything with ease. 

“I don’t know how they do it,” she says. 

She also points out that the profession itself should get more respect.

“I sometimes get annoyed when people don’t understand how hard this is,” she says. “It takes discipline, efficiency and finesse, plus doing 10 things at once and thinking about the next 20 tasks. From my perspective, most of this crew does it with ease and is one of the best I’ve ever worked with.” 

You can find Chablis behind the bar during the day, mostly weekends.  

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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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