Behind the Bar

A look at the mothers, writers and musicians who pour Tucson's tastiest drinks

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The Up-and-Comers

Downtown, at least the area within a block or so of Congress, has emerged as a destination, not just for dining, but also for cocktail aficionados creating a breeding ground for mixologists. Largely kicking off that trend was the side-by-side establishments 47 Scott and Scott and Co., where manager Marlee Palmer and bartender Mandi Lynn currently create cocktails.

They are both 24 years old and studied under the 47 Scott bartending program whose graduates wear aprons behind many downtown bars.

Lynn and Palmer composed the latest brunch cocktail menu. "We talked about what we liked, what we have had before, what we wanted to use and started making things. Marlee is the messy mad scientist, and I have to follow recipes," Lynn said. "She's not afraid to try things, and I'm afraid of failing."

Palmer is from Telluride, Colorado, population: 2,303. "My high school graduating class was all but 40 kids," Palmer said. After a brief stay at the University of Puget Sound, Palmer took a big geographic leap moving to Nepal for six months. "I was working with families and helping them live sustainably. I was mostly grant writing, working with schools and doing home visits with poor children. They were living in mud huts that had no electricity."

Back in the states, after a stint managing Time Market, Palmer started working for 47 Scott, starting out as a hostess, but found herself promoted to manager after a week. "After six months, I told the management I was interested in bartending and studying cocktails."

Lynn is an Army brat born in Prescott, then moving all around the United States with her sisters. A former pizzamaker at Brooklyn Pizza, Lynn would rather be referred as a bartender than necessarily associate herself with the mixologist scene. "I kind of hate the word; I think there's a lot of pretension behind (it)," Lynn said. "A lot of friends work as bartenders in different restaurants and I think they would all say the same thing."

Lynn works five nights a week. I asked her if she notices the regulars. "Everyone is in control of themselves. Who am I to tell people what they can and can't do? We're here to make people happy.

"It's exciting to show people things they didn't know existed before," Lynn said.

Palmer encourages drinkers that aren't familiar with the mixology movement to come in and pick the brains of those behind the bar. "Come and sit at the bar and talk to the bartenders. If you tell them what you usually drink, flavors you don't like and explain what you're allergic to, they will make you something, tell you the story behind the drink and give you the history of mixology in seven minutes."

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