Raising the Bar: Robert Arender
Everyone wishes for a job that energizes them. Seek – and you shall find is the message from Robert Arender, head bartender and manager of The Apothecary at Brent’s Drugs.
Beginning in the service industry shortly after college with stints at Amerigo, Martin’s, BRAVO! and Little Tokyo, Arender, 44, found his true passion creating craft cocktails at Parlor Market. It was there that he brought back classic gin drinks like the Aviation and Last Word.
When he met Parlor’s graphic designer, Jonathan Shull (now a partner in Brent’s and The Apothecary), Arender saw an opportunity to work with top notch talent. “Working with the guys from (New Orleans’) Cure (Neal Bodenheimer and Kirk Estopinal, who consulted on the opening of the bar) was a big incentive,” he said. “They’re world class bartenders. They were ‘the’ draw for me.”
Arender says it’s important to have something where people come from another town and find places that leave an impression. “They go all over Jackson and pop in here, and they’re like, ‘Wow,’” he noted. “It’s a growing trend – things being made in house. Parlor Market pushed that. So it’s the same for The Apothecary, pushing other businesses. It’s important for places like Brent’s to evolve, pushing the culinary scene. It’s raising the bar. Let’s see if anyone else makes cocktails on this level.”
On Arender family land in Polkville, Miss., heirloom tomatoes grow. On any given Thursday or Saturday during the growing season, you’ll find Robert at the Mississippi Farmer’s Market downtown, selling several varieties of these fruits.
Begun by his grandfather Luther Arender in 1977, the tomato farming has been passed on to Robert and other family, including his uncle, who he calls “the backbone” of the operation.
Find The Apothecary and Brent’s Drugs at 655 Duling Avenue.