HANCOCK — Ironbound Restaurant & Inn bartender Wanda Pinkham has a following.
Customers reserve seats at the bar Pinkham presides over every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night at the Route 1 restaurant.
“We have a lot of locals that come to the bar,” said Pinkham, who is in her third season tending bar there.
If someone isn’t going to make it, he or she texts Pinkham to let her know the seat is available.
Nicolette Wallace of Franklin, who joined this season after a decade at Sips in Southwest Harbor, tends Ironbound’s outdoor bar situated on the patio with sofas and chairs and bocce.
“We have been coming here for years and each year it exceeds expectation,” said customer Bobbi Ames. “We love Wanda. She makes the best drinks but beyond that, she introduces everyone to each other, making you feel like you are visiting a friend.”
“She makes an amazing and unique cosmo and her Aperol spritz rivals any I have had anywhere,” Ames said, adding proprietor Leslie Harlow “is amazing too. She’s a great example of a smart and creative female entrepreneur.”
Pinkham, who comes from Steuben and lives in Milbridge, loves tending bar because she loves people.
“I like to socialize,” she said. “I like to mix drinks. The kitchen staff jokes ‘all you do is talk all day,’” but “that’s my job. I love seeing the people, helping everybody.”
Pinkham’s first job in the service industry was as a dishwasher at the Rusty Anchor in Steuben. Pinkham recalled being 14 or 15.
“I wasn’t even old enough to carry the liquor,” she said.
Eventually Pinkham would get out of the kitchen and tend bar. She became well known mixing drinks and tending to customers at the former Maidee’s (now Finn’s Irish Pub) in downtown Ellsworth, Chipper’s restaurant in Hancock and at the Hollywood Casino in Bangor.
Pinkham, however, did take a 20-year break from the service industry to work “office jobs” at MBNA and Eastern Maine Medical Center. She did collections at EMMC and found herself bringing coffee and tea to everyone on her team of 15.
Pinkham’s fondness for the hospitality industry eventually lured her back.
One gets the sense that wherever she is, tending bar, managing rental properties, hauling traps with her dad or making pickled wrinkles with her mother, she has fun and it’s contagious.
Pinkham bought “toys” for her customers this year. The trinkets are tiny, plastic figurines clad in swim trunks and bikinis that hang onto the side of drinks or play together.
“Their names are on their butts,” she said. “When I get busy, they entertain themselves,” Pinkham said of her customers. “Most of the time it’s inappropriate. I just laugh.”
Pinkham also bought stainless steel straws for the bar drinks. “The stainless steel is cold on your lips,” she said. “The colder the better.”
Quality liquors, wine and beer are important to Pinkham, whose personal favorite is a Lemon Drop Martini, made with limoncello — a lemon liqueur.
“I love our lemon drops,” she said. “That would be my go-to drink.”
Martinis are a specialty. Ironbound offers an espresso martini crafted with Van Gogh Double Espresso Vodka, which smells and tastes just like your morning espresso if you’re frequenting the right coffee joint.
Another Ironbound favorite is the Smoked Old-Fashioned, which combines Knob Creek Smoked Maple Bourbon, Luxardo maraschino liqueur and bitters.
The Bloody Maria, made with tequila instead of vodka and garnished with pickled jalapeno is another customer pick.
Outside, at the patio bar, customers are ordering up the Hancock Point, which is Absolut vodka, cranberry infusion, lime juice and orange bitters as well as the Grindstone — a classic mojito with rum, fresh lime and mint leaves with a splash of club soda.
Liberty School Cabernet is popular too. A sparkling rosé called Baron De Breban from Provence, France, also is in demand.
Four years ago, Ironbound opened in the former Le Domaine, a French country restaurant that had operated for six decades.
“We are so lucky to have both Wanda and Nicolette,” Harlow said. “We’ve all put together a great specialty cocktail menu that our customers appreciate and enjoy. And the bar queens do a fabulous job.”
Ironbound is open Tuesday through Sunday at 5 p.m. and is closed Mondays. For more info, visit www.ironboundinn.com.