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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.


Michael Smith

The Columns Hotel

“Big Mike,” as he’s known to his customers, is a celebrity in New Orleans. Voted Best Bartender five years in a row, this guy knows how to keep the people happy. Today, he’s a fixture at The Columns Hotel, but he got his start in bartending by accident. After some time working in room service at alocal hotel, he was recruited to work at The Columns as a bar-back and quickly made his way up through the ranks. It was trial by fire at first, but soon Big Mike had the recipes down—recipes for the drinks and the recipe for giving the people what they want. Behind the bar, Mike is an entertainer. Whether it’s singing a song, doing a little dance, or just making you feel like you’ve been a regular when it’s your first visit, pleasing people is the name of the game. So if you come to The Columns thirsty, he’ll make anything you like. But Mike says that anyone can make a drink; his talent is dealing with people. One visit, and you’ll be convinced.

Date of interview:
2005-03-31 00:00

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.


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