On-the-rise bartender finds luck on the competition circuit

“Pineapples are in my head.”

One quirky line overheard on the street has inspired so much. After Dave Bayley of the British indie-rock band Glass Animals incorporated the sentence into the group's song, “Pork Soda,” fans began dressing up as pineapples and bringing the fruit to shows. Then a Columbus bartender took third place in a national cocktail competition with a drink, Pork-N-The-Pineapple, based on the song.

“It was just really crazy and surreal, especially to find out where some of these other bartenders work throughout the nation,” said Chris Seney, who was recently hired at Wolf's Ridge Brewing's dining room.

Copper & Kings MixT&pe competition was held last July at the Copper & Kings distillery in Louisville, Kentucky. Seney decided to enter on a whim, creating a boozy concoction with the company's Butchertown Brandy, pineapple juice and candied bacon, among other ingredients.

Seney's entree into the cocktail industry was similarly impulsive. After serving in the Air Force, the Arizona native moved to Florida and took a job as a pipe-fitter. But he was fascinated with craft beer after visiting the Ale and the Witch bar in St. Petersburg.

“I quit the cushy job to go work at World of Beer,” he said. “I took the certified cicerone beer server test and passed it before I ever worked in the food industry. … I was like, ‘Alright, well, maybe this is what I should be doing.'”

Luck played a role in Seney's next step. When he moved to Columbus more than a year ago to be closer to family, it just so happened BrewDog was conducting group interviews prior to opening its Canal Winchester facility, located 10 minutes from his parents' home.

Seney got the job and was quickly promoted to head bartender. He then helped open the Short North location, developing a love for cocktail creation along the way.

“I got a cocktail menu started … and I knew that's what I wanted to do, but I didn't want to have a lot of restrictions,” he said.

At that time, if you wanted to work somewhere with room to be creative in the cocktail space, “You gotta go to Curio [at Harvest],” Seney said.

But three weeks after Seney was hired at Curio, the high-end cocktail bar closed. “[Since then] I have been looking for places that shared that same creativity,” he said.

Landing at Wolf's Ridge is proving to be a good fit. “They have an amazing food program and an amazing beer program,” Seney said. “I feel I have the opportunity to help push the boundaries on the cocktail side.”

And he'll keep challenging himself in competitions. Seney is participating in Espolon Cocktail Fights on Sept. 10 in Indianapolis.

“I'll always love beer because that's what got me into doing what I'm doing,” Seney said. “[But] I have a bachelor's degree in graphic design, and the artist in me likes the creative aspect of … cocktails because there's so many different things you can do.”