Brian Blair

Brian Blair

Jo McGarry photo

Ferguson’s Irish Pub, Honolulu

Where are you originally from? Salinas, Calif. I came to Hawaii 15 years ago via Fresno and Santa Cruz, among other places.

Great bartending is such an art. I seem to remember you come from a long tradition of professional bartenders. I do. My grandmother, my uncle and my father were all in the industry. There are a lot of bartenders in my family.

That must explain why you have mastered the art as well as anyone I’ve ever seen. (laughs) Well, thank you. I actually progressed into bar work because, when you’re 21 years old, the restaurant/bar industry is obviously a very cool place to work.

Ferguson’s has only been open for a week, but already I see signs of an ultimate neighborhood bar: classic cocktails, a great wine list, small plates of food are on the way … We have some great wines by the bottle and by the glass – Caymus, Silver Oak, Cakebread … we have the Delille D2 from Washington. We want to do stuff that’s recognizably great, but a little off the beaten path. We don’t want to get too eclectic, but we do have some amazing wines by the glass, like BlackBilly from Australia. The thing about our wines is that we’re able to share some great ones without charging an arm and a leg.

And I’ve a feeling we won’t be seeing any cucumber martinis topped with vegetable foam here. No. You’re right. You won’t. (laughs) We have a traditional, classic cocktail menu. We like to think that our cocktails are hand-crafted without going crazy.

You know there’s about 1,000 people right now who are rejoicing that they have found a neighborhood classic bar where they can catch a game and grab a martini. Good. Because I’m giving up golf to be here all the time (laughs)!

I kept hearing that you were actually retiring from the industry … To be a part of this, a classic-style bar with people like Don Murphy and Danny Dolan, and to be around these kind of customers, who could resist? This is exactly what I was looking for.

Who’d you most like to see sipping at the bar? Joe Montana and Sofia Vergara.

So now that you’re back center stage with the sports crowd, who’s going to win the NBA playoffs? The Oklahoma City Thunder is going to win.

Brian, I think you might owe a lot of people a drink.

Ferguson’s Irish Pub 729 Bishop St., Honolulu