Nearly one billion people worldwide lack access to clean water. Legendary, British-born bartender and author Gaz Regan is trying to do something about that. He has organized a week-long charity event starting next Monday, April 8th, called Just One Shift, benefiting Wine to Water, a nonprofit organization founded by a bartender named Doc Hendley. Bartenders from 25 countries, as far-flung as Cyprus, India and Finland, have signed up to donate 100% of their tips from working one shift. Regan himself will be donating his tips from two shifts; Monday night he'll be at the Dead Rabbit in the Financial District and on Thursday at the Lower East Side's Experimental Cocktail Club. This morning he took some time out from organizing to chat.
At last count, how many bartenders have signed up to donate their tips?
200. People are still waiting to find out which shifts they're working next week so I expect the number to go up massively by Monday.
How much can a bartender in New York make in tips in one night?
The last shift I worked at the Dead Rabbit there were three of us behind the bar and we made $900 on a Monday night. In Europe, where tipping isn't so much a part of the culture, a bartender might only make 15 euros. But even that small amount can help buy a water filter for a family in Haiti, which will supply them with clean water for five years.
I know you travel a lot doing bartending workshops, but how have you gotten so many involved around the world?
It's because of my reach -- over 8000 followers -- via Facebook and Twitter and email newsletters.
As well as filtration systems I read that Wine to Water raises money for digging wells in Cambodia and trucking water to displaced people in Darfur, and on and on.
The guy who heads it up, Doc Hendley, is on site helping them drill the wells. You'd be blown away if you met this guy. He's covered in tattoos, rides a Harley Davidson, he's a real character.
And Wine to Water is a play on a Biblical reference, about how Jesus turned water into wine. Are you a religious man?
I refer to myself as a New Age asshole.
What's your favorite bar in New York?
You're not going to nail me on that one.
What's your favorite bar in the world?
A pub called the Bay Horse in Thornton, Lancashire, England, the last pub my parents ran. It's still my local whenever I go home.
You're famous for stirring Negroni cocktails with your finger.
It's just a bit of schtick. It started when I was judging a competition. People love it.
You must wash your hands first.
I hope alcohol kills the germs.
I was touched by how many bartenders in Greece are participating when that country has so many economic problems.
Fifty-seven [bartenders]! I have a friend in Greece who's a bartender -- I met him at a competition a few years ago -- and he has spread the word. It's all over the press in Greece. 'It's because we can change the world, Mr. Regan,' this bartender said to me.
Does Wine to Water have any affiliation with Matt Damon's Water.org?
I have no idea.
He got a lot of attention in February when he said he was going on strike from using the toilet to protest the lack of sanitation in developing countries. Some people took it seriously but he was using humor to get attention. Will you be telling jokes behind the bar?
I will get laughs by stirring everybody's drinks with my finger.
Photo by Jimi Ferrera