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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to

< Back to Oral History project: Bartenders of New Orleans


Martin Sawyer

Rib Room

In 2005, with almost fifty years of bartending under his belt and thirty-four years working at the Rib Room alone, eighty-four-year-old Martin Sawyer has seen it all. He got his first job as a bar-back at the infamous 500 Club. A bartender friend recruited him to help make out drink orders, as Martin was one of the few young men in his circle of friends who could read. With the nickname “Professor,” Martin studied up on cocktails and quickly became a fixture on the French Quarter bar scene. He had his picture taken with Louis Armstrong and served Champagne to General de Gaulle. After all that time tending bar, it is easy to believe his brushes with celebrity. What’s hard to believe is the number of cocktails this man has mixed over the years. With time, care, and painstaking attention to detail, he has made mixing drinks a high art. All of these years later, Martin is still at it, making his famous Mint Julep with all the care and attention he did when he first mixed the drink almost five decades ago.

On December 25, 2018, at the age of 97, Martin Sawyer passed away. He bartended for 62 of his 97 years. His obituary is online here.

Date of interview:

Amy Evans


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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


Alex Raij Txikito

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