Bryan Parker wasn’t successful in his recent bid to become mayor of Oakland, but he was the popular favorite at a “Candidates and Cocktails” celebrity bartending event last year.

“He was definitely the star,” says Nicole Hankton, marketing manager for the Oakland Marriott City Center, where the event was held at the Marriott’s Twelve Bar Lounge.

The charismatic Nicole used her considerable marketing wiles to convince me to be a celebrity bartender this Friday to raise money for Children’s Fairyland. And although Nicole assured me that I won’t be required to pour mixed drinks — just beer and wine — I was still nervous about ensuring that folks have three very happy hours. I decided to go straight to the expert, Bryan, to get some tips.

Bryan, a successful healthcare and tech professional who has managed a $700 million budget and serves on Oakland’s influential Board of Port Commissioners, was not always the high-profile business leader he is today. He proudly told me that he’d worked his way through college (Cal) and law school (NYU) by bartending. “I was good at it from the start,” he says with a laugh. “It’s a job about personality. If you’re pleasant and engaging, you’ll get good tips.”

But real bartenders need to know how to concoct dozens of drinks, so Bryan studied the formulations and then practiced. He slung drinks throughout his undergrad and law-school years when he wasn’t working on housing and civil rights issues or serving as president of his NYU class. “Everything you do gets you ready for life,” he told me.

OK, but how did he knock it out of the park when he bartended for charity — in his case, the wonderful Alameda County Community Food Bank — at the Marriott? What could I do to assure my success?

First tip: The hotel gives the bartender a microphone, and Bryan recommended employing it to maximum effect. “I’m not a standup comedian, but I tried to make some witty observations,” he said. And don’t worry about the occasional dud: “Sometimes you hit, and sometimes you don’t.”

Second tip: Walk up and down the bar and engage with people who, by their body language, suggest they are open for conversation. “Most people were curious and receptive,” Bryan  told me. Be sure to mention — repeatedly — the nonprofit cause and the great work it does, to remind people where a portion of the take from each order will be going.

And since he’s a tech guy, Bryan also recommended using social media — a Facebook event page, live tweets during the event—to promote the event and the cause.

But the best advice Bryan gave me about this celebrity bartending gig was: “Just have fun with it!”

I felt a lot better after talking with Bryan — and even more confident because I’ll be coming to Friday’s event with an ace in the hole: a Fairyland cocktail. Mark Drazek and Barbara Mulas’ Sidebar restaurant on Grand Avenue created the drink a couple of years ago to serve before Fairyland’s big annual fundraiser, donating a dollar from each drink to our nonprofit park. They graciously agreed to share the recipe for my debut bartending event on Friday at the Marriott. Here it is:

1 ½ oz. cachaça

¾ oz. pineapple gum syrup

¾ oz. lime juice

4 sprigs of rosemary

Pour ingredients into shaker with ice, strain

Garnish with rosemary on top

Please join me Friday, April 10, from 5 to 8 p.m. at Twelve Bar Lounge in Oakland Marriott City Center. In addition to earning some tips to benefit Fairyland, I’ll be sharing a bit of history and plans for the future of our storybook park on the shores of Lake Merritt. Invite your friends and coworkers, and say hello to me behind the bar! Depending on how well the evening goes, I just may add a bit of fairy dust to each drink.

Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland. For guidelines, see:

For more information on posting to Community Voices, see The word on Oakland Local’s Community Voices posts.

One Response

  1. Carol Wildman

    So that’s how you become a fairy? Drink that? No wonder fairies are such a rare and special breed. Great piece, enjoy the schmoozing at the fundraiser and stick to the beer and wine.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.