Farrell’s isn’t the kind of place you’d expect to find one of the world’s best bartenders. The Brooklyn neighborhood pub that says it opened the day Prohibition ended and walking, it feels like it hasn’t changed much since that day. The bar is best known for serving up domestic drafts in giant Styrofoam cups. Even Jim Houlihan’s coworkers admit he’s no master mixologist. “I don't think he's ever made anything more complicated than a rum and coke,” another bartender quipped to a reporter.
But after 50 years behind the bar, Houlihan proved there’s more to being a great barkeep than shaking up complex cocktails when he was introduced into the Bartender Magazine’s Bartender Hall of Fame last week.
The Brooklynite, known to friends as “Hooley,” first started working at Farrell’s back in 1965 when he was just 26 years old. According to The Brooklyn Paper, Houlihan still serves many of the same customers now as he did back then. It’s that commitment to his community that inspired Bartender Magazine to add Hooley’s name to the 296 bartenders on their Hall of Fame.
Beyond slinging suds, Houlihan supports his neighborhood with charity work, like raising money for local schools and starting a scholarship fund in the memory of a former firefighter and Farrell’s bartender who died on 9/11. “He takes care of people's families if they need it,” bartender Michael O'Donnell told DNAInfo. “Everybody who's his customer is his friend.”
For his part, Houlihan just enjoyed the gig. “Since 50 years, I didn't do a day's work,” he said. “I love the people.” It’s an important part of bartending that often gets overlooked.