Favorite Female Bartender: Sarah Tompkins Gutierrez
Behind the counter two nights a week at JR’s Bar & Grill is Sarah Tompkins Gutierrez, an openly bisexual woman who has set a precedent for many of queer Houston’s up-and-coming female bartenders.
“I work in a male-dominated industry,” Tompkins Gutierrez says. “Back in the day, women who worked at gay bars got picked on. I’d like to think that our male counterparts now perceive us differently, because of my hard work and thick skin.”
Tompkins Gutierrez began working in mixology seven years ago. Her first bartending gig was at EJ’s (since renamed La Grange), where she became its first female manager. Since 2011, she has held administrative positions at several bars in Houston’s gayborhood—one of only a few women to do so.
“I’ve been so successful because I’m a hard-ass,” Tompkins Gutierrez says. “When you’re a female in bartending, you need to have a certain attitude or you’re gonna go home crying.”
Born in Maryland,Tompkins Gutierrez grew up all over the U.S. as a military brat, relocating with her family about once a year. Her family frequently spent time in Houston, her father’s hometown.
Tompkins Gutierrez lived in Qatar from 1997 to 2002, working in oil and gas. When she returned to the States, she found a sense of belonging in Houston’s LGBTQ community, and has resided in the city ever since. After working at EJ’s for a year-and-a-half, she worked in management at F Bar, Ripcord, and now holds the title of director of promotions and special events at JR’s Bar & Grill.
At JR’s, Tompkins Gutierrez is famous for her cantaloupe shot, a potent drink comprised of vodka and melon liqueur. She recommends that everyone who visits her at JR’s try it at least once.
“Bartending is just like cooking with liquid,” Tompkins Gutierrez says. “My cantaloupe shot tastes just like a freshly squeezed cantaloupe. Even people who don’t like the fruit say they like my shot.”
Tompkins Gutierrez works six days a week. On Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, she begins at 9:30 a.m., and does promotional work at JR’s. On Thursdays and Sundays, Tompkins Gutierrez works nights as bartender during karaoke.
“I’ve been told to take more time off, but I’m an overachiever,” she admits. “That all has to do with being raised in a military environment.”
On her off days, Tompkins Gutierrez unwinds at home by gardening, cooking, playing with her dogs, and binge-watching TV shows. “I may be outgoing at work, but I’m really a homebody,” she says. “In this industry, when you work as much as most bartenders do, sometimes you just want things to be quiet.”
Tompkins Gutierrez says that her favorite part about bartending is the people she meets, and her customers seem to appreciate her just as much. She has won OutSmart’s Gayest & Greatest Best Female Bartender four years in a row.
“I’m still surprised every time I win,” Tompkins Gutierrez says. “Winning a Readers’ Choice Award is flattering. I was up against a bunch of other really cool girls who are amazing bartenders themselves.”
Club or Restaurant with Best Happy Hour
Finalists: George Country Sports Bar, JR’s Bar & Grill
Club or Restaurant with Best Margarita
JR’s Bar & Grill
Finalists: Guava Lamp, Hamburger Mary’s, Houston Eagle
Club or Restaurant with the Best Martini
Finalists: Guava Lamp, Hamburger Mary’s, JR’s Bar & Grill, Neon Boots
Favorite Brand of Beer
Finalists: Karbach Brewing Co., Saint Arnold Brewing Company, Stella Artois
Favorite Brand of Liquor
Tito’s Handmade Vodka
Finalists: Deep Eddy Vodka, Dripping Springs Vodka
Favorite Female Bartender
Sarah Tompkins Gutierrez
Finalists: Kristina Prats, LaReyna Reyes
Favorite Male Bartender
Finalists: Austin Abernathy, Boris Greene, Bryan Wade
Favorite Wine Bar
Finalists: 13 Celsius, La Carafe