In Bars & Clubs

Brion Sohns: one part pilot, one part mixologist.

Featured bartender: Brion Sohns at Vitucci's

This bartender profile is brought to you by Somersby Hard Apple Cider. Find out where you can try Somersby here.

Brion Sohns has worked at Vitucci's for three years. He started in security, then became a bar back and, finally, a bartender.

"I love it here," says Sohns. "I have a German last name, but my mom's Italian so when I'm here at Vitucci's, I'm all Italian, too."

When he's not serving beers and shaking martinis, Sohns is working on a commercial helicopter pilot's license. He received an associate's degree in aviation technology in Salt Lake City and is finishing up at a flight school in Kenosha.

Recently, we stopped by the iconic cocktail lounge and chatted with Sohns about Salt Lake City, flying, Door County and a new Somersby drink that's very popular at Vitucci's this summer.

OnMilwaukee.com: You've held three different positions at Vitucci's. How did that transpire?

Brion Sohns: I was working security and wanted to work my way up to bartender, so when I got offered to be a bar back I said yes. And, eventually, I did work my way up (to bartender). Got my license. Here I am.

OMC: Are you a student or is this a full-time career for you?

BS: Right now it's full-time for me. I finished a two-year program in Salt Lake City – an associate's in aviation technology. I got my pilot's license to fly helicopters. It's a private license, not a commercial license, so I can't get paid yet to fly. Still working toward a commercial license at a fight school in Kenosha now.

OMC: What kind of job can one get as a helicopter pilot?

BS: There are tons of jobs. Not so much in Milwaukee, but around the world there's a major industry for helicopter pilots. Anything from working for police, news station, EMS, hospitals, flying over power lines to make sure they're good or pipelines in Alaska, tours, search and rescue. There are big starter jobs in Florida, Texas and Louisiana, flying guys out to the oil rigs in the Gulf.

OMC: What was it like the first time you flew by yourself?

BS: I'll never forget the first time my instructor got out of the helicopter and said, "OK, go. Fly a couple of patterns and come back." He had a radio and was listening to me making my calls around the airport and when I got back, I was shaking I was so scared. He chuckled and said, "I could hear you. You sounded like you were hanging on for dear life." And I was. It was really fun. Never forget it.

Now I've done cross-country solos, flew all over the mountains in Salt Lake and Park City, flown from here to Kenosha and in Door County, my hometown.

OMC: Where in Door County are you from?

BS: In Sister Bay. My dad was born and raised there. My mom is from Chicago, she started going up there for summers. I was born and raised up there, too. I loved it. It's a big huge tourist town in the summer and in the winter, it's dead.

OMC: What was that like?

BS: The winters were especially great. We took snowmobiles to school. We did a lot of ice fishing, broom ball and hockey. We made our fun. In the summer, it's pretty much tourists from Chicago. It can get annoying, but we made our living from the tourists. My mom owns a big resort: Newport Resort in Egg Harbor. It's a premier resort. Every unit is a two-bedroom with a full kitchen and jacuzzi. It's a fun spot.

OMC: Have you ever flown over Lake Michigan?

BS: Not too far, they have strict regulations on how far you can go out. If you have an engine failure you have to be able to coast back to land.

OMC: How did you like the beer in Salt Lake City? It can't contain more than 3.2 percent alcohol, right?

BS: Yeah, it's called "three-two beer." The Utah state government regulates all of it. Every liquor store is state owned. I'm a beer drinker, so I often "had to" drink it.

OMC: Or you could fly to Nevada.

BS: Actually, we lived in Park City in the mountains, and Evanston, Wy. was only a 45-minute drive. My dad lives out there, he's from here but moved there for work purposes, so we'd go to Evanston and load up on all sorts of good beer. Being from Wisconsin, we needed to do that.

OMC: What's the worst fake ID you've seen?

BS: Holy cow. I've seen people come in with things that are made from paper, more like a business card. I just laugh in their face.

OMC: What's your favorite drink to consume?

BS: If I'm pacing myself, Miller Lite, but if having a cocktail or two, a dirty martini is my choice. Something about it – it's the olive juice. I love making martinis, too. We have a great list of martini's at Vitucci's.

Our most popular is the Princess Peach, made with Bacardi Limon, peach puree, simple syrup and Pearl peach vodka. I helped name it. Also we have very good cucumber, ginger pear and a delicious white cosmo made with white cranberry juice.

OMC: How do you serve Somersby here?

BS: People drink it down to the rim (points just below the neck of the bottle) and then put a shot of Captain Morgan's in there. It's called the Caramel Apple. It's a big hit around here.


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