Bartender Chat: Shafer Hall of Mongoose vs. Cobra on Shots and Beers and Redheads
If you've ever been to Mongoose vs. Cobra, the funky beer bar across from Leon's in Midtown, you probably already know Shafer Hall. The affable redhead is there all the time, mixing cocktails, pouring beers and chatting with anyone with an interesting word to say.
Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg Stacy Gouty (left) and Shafer Hall show off the Red-Headed Stranger cocktail.
Hall is a partner in the business along with owners Mike Sammons and Ian Rosenberg, so he has a vested interest in keeping the customers happy, which he does with his penchant for storytelling and mad mixing skills. Because MvsC is known for its craft beer selection, Hall is a fan of incorporating beer into cocktails, combining the traditional "shot and a beer" into one drink.
Oh, and if you've seen Mongoose vs. Cobra in the Yellow Pages while looking for a go-cart dealership, yeah...it's the same place. And it's Hall's fault if you're confused.
"Somehow we got put in the Yellow Pages as a go-cart dealership," Hall says, "so we get phone calls all the time that are like, 'Hey, could I buy an engine and not buy the go-cart?' Or 'Do you have wheels?' We just laugh and tell them we're a bar."
When he wonders aloud how the misidentification happened, a coworker gently reminds him that it was probably his own doing.
"There's an old drag racing rivalry between the snake and the mongoose," Hall says, recalling how it happened, "so I think I was talking about that on a radio show and said something like, 'Yeah, just tell everyone we sell go-carts!' I mean, it's cool. We haven't asked them to change it or anything.
Keep reading for more of Hall's unique perspectives on life and drinking.
How did you get started bartending?
I was filling in for a buddy at a bar in Brooklyn. He was leaving town and didn't have anyone to cover his shift, so he was like, "C'mon, man. You can do this." So I gave it a shot, and that was 15 years ago.
So you worked one night and they just told you to keep coming back?
Yep. They said we had a lot of fun, so I got a regular shift. I still had a day job, but I did that twice a week for about a year. And then one of my buddies opened an Irish bar in the Village (Greenwich, not Rice), and when he did that, I went there full time. I was there about 10 years, and then I came here to open this place with Mike (Sammons) and Ian (Rosenberg). Mike and I went to college together. We've been best friends since we were 18.
If you weren't bartending, what would you be doing?
I'd probably be editing and writing for some magazine or tech company. I'd be writing and editing to pay the bills. That's what I was doing before. I was a literature major. I still write poems.
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