Interview with Coastal New England Rising Star Bartender Jay Carr of The Eddy – Providence, RI

by Sean Kenniff
April 2014

Sean Kenniff: How’d you get your start?

Jay Carr: I managed a restaurant in Rhode Island for 12 years. I worked at a place in New York that was vegan and vegetarian with a nice cocktail list. I set out to learn as much as possible—the Pegu Club changed my life. I read a lot of books, talked to friends, traveled, even just to Boston. I constantly check myself, making sure the drinks are good. You need to see someone else do it, to know your doing it right, you need context. 

SK: What do you look for in a cocktail?

JC: Balance and a shapely mouth-feel.

SK: How do you describe The Eddy?

JC: We’re a cocktail bar that’s not in a restaurant. We get to have more fun. The way you are at a restaurant is different from a bar.

We do 180 covers on a Friday, Saturday night [The Eddy is a 32-seat bar]. That’s 250 to 300 cocktails, not including beer, wine, and off-menu drinks like vodka-soda. I make 95% of them. Sometimes there are up to 70 people here. Cocktail culture is new in Providence, and we don’t want to get a doorman—even though that’s the only way to cut down on numbers. Summer is going to be crazy!

SK: How did you come to be the one behind the bar at The Eddy?

JC: Dumb luck. Six months before I was going to leave Providence for Boston, a friend told me about a possible business partner. They needed someone to be the face of it and run it. They screened me and The Eddy opened December 2012.     

SK: How did you gain confidence behind the bar?

JC: I was part of the opening team at The Dorrance, bartended there for a year.

After you make a couple thousand cocktails you gain confidence.

SK: Do you have a mentor?

JC: Jesse Hedberg from Justine’s, and Fluke down in Newport.  

SK: What’s your approach to working in such a small space with so many covers?

JC: Team service. I mix and [a bar-back] does the garnishes etc. My team behind the bar is just as able, or they wouldn’t be behind the bar. A day guy does juicing and syrups. I usually come in to prep around 3:00 pm. Thursday, Friday, Saturday I’m always at the bar. 

SK: What’s the most popular drink on the menu?

JC: Bartender’s choice. My biggest inspiration is the guest. Bartender’s choice is a way to give regulars something new. It’s the most expensive drink on the menu, so it’s made with better spirits.

SK: What’s the bartending community like here? 

JC: I think Rhode Island is interesting because it's small and known for food, and not cocktails. In Providence, it’s not over saturated, and we’re not noticed as much, we really have to work for it—we have one of the most active chapters of the United States Bartenders Guild. We’re close, we do shots at The Dorrance, borrow sugar.