Mixologist Paul McGee of The Whistler - Biography

Chicago, IL

April 2011

2011 Chicago Rising Star Mixologist Paul McGee came up through the ranks of bartending before the craft cocktail revival, in a time when Manhattans were requested shaken and an Old Fashioned meant a muddled mess topped with club soda. In 1984, at the tender age of 14, he got his start in the hospitality industry washing dishes at a local seafood restaurant in a northern suburb of Houston, Texas. A few years later, he was finally old enough to step behind the bar, where he worked for nine years at Pappa's Seafood House before moving to a Las Vegas.

Once in Las Vegas, McGee spent four years slinging drinks at a number of busy casino bars and nightclubs, including properties at Rio Las Vegas and Bellagio Resort & Casino. In 2003, McGee joined the Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group, first as a bartender at The Venetian and MGM Grand, then acting as corporate mixologist for restaurants around the country. It was here that McGee soaked up the value of good service behind the bar. A fateful trip to the Windy City with his wife in 2007 hooked McGee on Chicago—the people and the low-key vibe, not to mention its cocktails. McGee and his wife decided to pack up camp and resettle in the Midwest.

In 2008, McGee opened The Whistler in Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood with partners Robert Brenner and Billy Helmkamp. Since then, he has been named TimeOut Chicago's Best Bartender (2010), and The Whistler was included in GQ's list of The 25 Best Cocktail Bars in America (2010). McGee prides himself on The Whistler's approachable and affordable cocktail menu. He's even taking the bar's community-center business philosophy to the next level by offering cocktail classes, which focus on assembling an efficient, affordable home bar without sacrificing quality ingredients or proper techniques.