By Angeline Grenz | Photos by Ben Bradley Photography
Ray Harvey leads two lives.
In one, he is our local celebrity bartender. His popularity comes from Harvey’s ability to play maestro to the individuals in his barstools. He knows which one is looking for conversation, which one wants to be left alone and who might be looking to make a new friend. He also makes a mean cocktail. He’s so good at this, Northern Colorado has voted him their favorite bartender in 2019’s Best Of NOCO survey, released last month.
But that’s one life. Harvey’s second, albeit less well known, claim to fame is that he is a published author, with nine books under his belt, both fiction and non-fiction. His two lives rarely converge but live together quite happily.
“I have found that bartending and literature work in tandem,” Harvey says, who just finished his latest book. He has been able to leverage his bartending career to pave the way for the time he spends writing.
Harvey hails from Ouray, where his mom owned a successful restaurant for several years. The man who is so comfortable behind the bar actually started as a line cook. But despite his early restaurant career, Harvey knew from a young age he would be a writer, and he has never veered from that path.
After traveling around the country, Harvey was in the Denver area looking for work and found Jay’s in Fort Collins was hiring. He approached the original owners, Jay and Jackie, and secured his first position bartending in a fine dining restaurant in 2002. He credits Jay’s for much of his education. “I learned a lot from Jay’s. I had a lot of experience at sports bars, music venues and pubs, but Jay’s is where I learned to bartend at the more upscale [restaurants]. Dinner service with courses, wines, Scotches—I got that experience with Jay’s.”
Harvey spent five years there, but he found an opportunity. He approached then-customers and owners of the Armstrong Hotel, Steve and Missy, about his concept for Ace Gillette’s in the bottom of the hotel. They bit, and in 2010 the jazz bar opened to the public and Harvey became a fixture at the swanky nightclub.
He stayed with Ace Gillette’s for several years—a labor of love, he says—until the hotel was sold to new owners. At that time, he made the decision to move on and was approached by Jay’s new owners and former co-workers from his original stint there. It was at Jay’s that Harvey took this year’s first place award, and he only recently left the restaurant in order to pursue some travel and focus on his writing for a bit.
Harvey pictured with Aaron Gonzales at Laureate Publick House in Loveland. The Laureate served as the setting for our photo shoot and Gonzales was chosen by NOCO as 3rd Best Bartender in our 2019 Best Of NOCO survey.
“I picked bartending as the occupation to pursue because I felt like it would facilitate my writing the most.”
“I picked bartending as the occupation to pursue because I felt like it would facilitate my writing the most,” says Harvey. “And that was one of the few smart moves I ever made.”
That is apparent by Harvey’s success in publishing multiple novels, as well as a non-fiction book entitled Whiskey Wisdom, A Bartender’s Guide to Living Ravenously. He also teaches courses on reading, is himself a voracious reader and maintains websites where his “cyber friends,” most of whom only know him through his books, are ardent followers. In fact, Harvey made the bold move of posting a chapter a week from his latest novel so that followers of his website could read along as he completed the novel.
“I have stayed true to my vision of being a writer, and that is a big deal. It could have just as easily not happened,” he says. “I do have a genuine and deep abiding love for literature. It’s the thing that drives me. The older I get, the more that grows, and bartending grows along with it.”
Perhaps they’ve grown in tandem because Harvey seems to be the type of chap who is going to do that thing in his life at 110 percent. No faking his way through, even when it comes to standing behind the bar making small talk with strangers. Harvey approaches it with an intensity and a dedication that shows he plans to make an impact.
So, what are his passions outside of writing? We have mentioned reading. It is the one thing he does daily without exception. After that he “drinks a lot of coffee. And I run a lot.”
Now that we have all been lured in by his mixology and smart eye toward entertaining, is our chance of seeing Harvey behind the bar gone? Probably not, says Harvey with a little gleam in his eye. “Odds are pretty decent Northern Colorado will see me behind a bar again at some point.” Possibly at a place we are already familiar with, but Harvey doesn’t dismiss the idea that we might see him at a place of his own in the future.
Want to explore Harvey’s other life? Visit his website at journeypulp.com.
Harvey’s original Drink Recipes
The most popular recipe I’ve ever created, by light years, and the number one seller every single month the entire eight years I was at Ace Gillett’s, is a grapefruit cocktail I call the Ruby Soho. Simple but good. It was meant to taste like a freshly cut grapefruit, with a little sugar sprinkled on top, and eaten with a grapefruit spoon. I’ve often said that if I’m remembered for anything, it will be as the inventor of the Ruby Soho.
The Ruby Soho
3.5 ounces grapefruit vodka
¼ ounce Aperol
½ ounce St. Germain
2.5 ounces of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
ShakeShakeShake and strain into a martini glass.
Like almost every cocktail which stands the test of time,
less is more.
But I don’t want to be just another one-trick pony. What about a lychee-pear-elderflower cocktail, which was also quite popular? I call it a One-Eyed Joe.
The One-Eyed Joe
2 ounces pear vodka
2 ounces lychee liqueur
½ ounce St. Germain
A splash of lychee juice
ShakeShakeShake and then strain into a cold martini glass. Garnished with a big fat lychee.