As happiness advocates from the multi-billion dollar self-improvement industry champion our creative, entrepreneurial impulses and encourage us to find “work that doesn’t feel like work,” Andy Norris is quietly two steps ahead of the pack. Mixing stiff drinks and sharing laughs behind the bar at Spanish Street’s upscale, locavore-catering haunt The Floridian, Andy distills his job requirements to “hanging out.”
“As cheesy as it sounds, my favorite thing about bartending really is the customer service aspect,” he says. “I really enjoy the people I work with and I really enjoy meeting new people. Mostly, I just feel like bartending is hanging out and having a good time.”
When it comes to doing what he loves, at just 28-years-old Andy’s already a hardened veteran. Born and raised in St. Augustine, Andy started working at noted Hypolita Street watering hole, Scarlett O’Hara’s, at the tender age of 18. While attending the University of Florida, he found himself behind the bar at an Italian restaurant in Gainesville. Years later, he was back at Scarlett’s when old friends and Floridian owners, Jeff and Genie McNally – having just secured a liquor license for their new, upstart restaurant – acquired his services.
He now works at both places. But while Andy’s easy-going, yet gregarious nature might mix with the low-frills scene at Scarlett’s like gin to tonic, he’s found a new, untapped well of creative energy in the Floridian’s seasonality-dependent menu. “The creativity aspect is a bonus,” Andy says. “With a seasonal menu, we are always trying and testing to see what kind of flavors and interesting things we can come up with.”
They may not be reinventing the wheel for The Floridian’s cocktail menu, but Andy says the subtle changes to classic drinks and an insistence on quality liquor offer patrons a unique drinking experience that can also be educational.
“If someone orders a Crown and Coke, well, we don’t have Crown and we don’t have diet coke,” he says. “We’re not trying to be pretentious, but if I might make you something with 1792 Small Batch [bourbon] and you might get turned onto something new. It’s funny, I’ve had people who’ll take pictures of the bottle of liquor so that they can go to the store and buy it the next day.”
A self-proclaimed Florida history geek, he’s known to take day trips to visit state parks and Ginnie Springs with his dog and girlfriend. But, he’s sure to never stray too far. “Sometimes on my days off I just want to be by myself in a quiet room,” he laughs.