Behind the Pine / Yuri Polyachenko
Photo by kc kratt
Name: Yuri Polyachenko
Title: Bar manager; Lloyd Taco Factory
Nickname: Yur, Euro
Years behind the pine: 10; two working with a from-scratch cocktail program.
Yuri Polyachenko, the always-enthusiastic bar manager of both Lloyd Taco Factories, counts being officially “vested” as a bartender as one of his proudest moments. He’s also a hardcore mezcal and tequila purist. Perhaps most notably, this young gun has been able to do something relatively unheard of in WNY, and that’s run a full high-quality scratchmade craft cocktail program in a fast casual restaurant. Employing very regimented policies about cleanliness, organization, and procedure means Polychenko’s bar staff is granted clear standards and structure, while also having enough freedom to have fun and enjoy both one another and their guests.
What really sets Lloyd’s bar program apart?
We are a mezcal bar in Buffalo. When we opened, that was risky, but looking at it now I’m extremely happy with the direction the owners, Pete Cimino and Chris Dorsaneo, chose. I am very fortunate to have owners who supply me and my team with unlimited resources and support.
What are the best and worst things about being a bartender?
The best thing would have to be the different people that I get to meet and talk to, someone new and different every day. The worst thing is that my sleep schedule is never normal and there’s no such thing as weekends in our profession.
So what do you do on your night off?
If I am not visiting my friends at their bar establishments, then I’m usually spending time with my fiancee and our dog, or going to the movies. Love me some Twizzlers and a raspberry slushy.
What is the one mistake you see new bartenders make?
Eagerness over patience. So many people want to jump in and become a “startender” before they’ve put in the time to master all aspects of the program. Master prep and bar backing first. Build knowledge on classics and spirits and learn everything about how to provide amazing service. People will forgive a bartender for a poor drink; they will not forgive poor service.
What do you think is the biggest misconception the public has about bartenders?
Such a good question. I think people believe that bartending has to be a bridge to another career, they can’t fathom how someone can be a career bartender. I am here to say that’s a false perception. Some of the smartest, nicest, and most talented individuals I’ve met are career bartenders. They love what they do and make a lot of money doing it.
What is your favorite cocktail and food pairing from the Lloyd menu?
I would say a Paloma with two fish tacos and an order of our Mexicali spring rolls would put me in my happy place.
Is there an ingredient or spirit you are particularly enamored with right now?
Mezcal would be the obvious choice here, but we’ve had fun playing around with amaros (Italian herbal liqueurs). The beauty of the spirit is that there are so many varieties and different tasting notes that you can go in multiple directions when creating a cocktail. We currently have three cocktails on our menu that use amaro. It also helps that Cimino’s dad (a native of Italy) requires that we carry a lot of it.
Is there a type of liquor you really dislike?
Jose Cuervo Gold. I think it’s poisoned people’s perception of tequila. Jose Cuervo Gold is a mixto, which means it is only required to use fifty-one percent agave and the rest is made up of sugars, glycerin, food coloring, and things I wouldn’t give my worst enemy.
We know most culinary folks listen to music during prep. What’s your jam?
Depends on the mood, but anything that has a catchy instrumental or some alternative hip hop like Ugly Duckling or DJ Format.
What’s your death row drink?
A two-ounce pour of El Jolgorio Pechuga. Pechuga is meant to be consumed in celebration, in this case life.
Is there a big creative/artistic/business influence for you that comes from outside of the hospitality world?
I think New Era Caps is inspiring. It’s a brand started in Buffalo that is recognized all over the world. So many athletes, musicians, and celebrities own some sort of New Era paraphernalia, that’s wild to me!
Christa Glennie Seychew is founder of Nickel City Chef and Spree’s former food editor.