The Jinx has been cleaning house in the Best of Savannah awards for years now.
“In the infamous words of Rakim: ‘We got the juice,’” explains Gil Cruz, longtime employee. A hustling multitasker and Renaissance man in a black-band-tee-and-cap uniform, Cruz is a Jinx bartender, booker, DJ, Rock ‘n’ Roll Bingo director, karaoke host, and occasional onstage vocal guest. He’s also a husband, dad, a helluva cook, and now Savannah’s “Best Bartender” and “Most Crushworthy Savannahian.”
“We’ve been doing it right for so long, the bar almost does it by itself,” he says of The Jinx’s strange magic.
As a music venue, the place is unparalleled in the consistent quality and diversity of acts it ropes in, from Skeletonwitch to American Aquarium to their infamous two-night Halloween celebration. Buy one, get one for a dollar happy hour is a favorite; Hip-Hop Night is a staple, and Rock ‘n’ Roll Bingo is a Wednesday night tradition.
Now, back to that Best Bartender. Frequenters of The Jinx’s predecessor, The Velvet Elvis, may have occasionally caught Cruz behind the bar back in the day.
“I would do the door once in a while and DJ’d a couple of times,” he adds.
When Susanne Guest Warnekros, Cruz’s friend of over 20 years, bought The Velvet Elvis in 2003, he picked up shifts as bar back and bartender.
“I can’t put a number on it, but it’s been on and off at least for the last 13 years [The Jinx] has been a bar,” he reports of his time slinging drinks.
Cruz discloses that the secret to a good bartender is “attentiveness and neutrality.”
“Being neutral, especially if your friends and fellow employees are at the bar when you have main customers, is important,” he recommends.
Typically, The Jinx keeps it simple—shot-and-a-beer and whiskey Coke-type fare are the mainstay of many regulars, but occasionally you’ll find a limited-edition cocktail advertised in chalk above the coolers. Cruz looks forward to bringing back The Jinx’s annual summer cocktail menu—he whips up a mean homemade horchata that, when spiked with rum, is a delicious treat on a hot day, as is the green tea mojito.
When he’s not working, Cruz likes to wind down with a shot (whiskey), beer, or a gin and juice. “The only lady’s name I have tattooed on me is ‘Gin,’” he says with a mischievous grin.
Speaking of the ladies, Cruz was deeply surprised to have won the enviable crown of “Most Crushworthy Savannahian.”
“I’m flattered,” he says humbly. “I still don’t think it’s real. I think I’m being tricked! I’m often referred to as an asshole at best, so I’m very surprised and flattered.”
Yes, folks, he is taken, by designer/artist/Savannah Sweet Tease Art Director Jessica Knapp, and the couple welcomed a child, Strummer, last year.
Cruz suggests that the best way to woo a person you’re interested in is by simply being yourself. “That’s all I’ve ever been,” he shrugs.
To maintain a healthy relationship, he advises “saying yes every once in a while.”
Or, he jokes, “Work a bar job so you’re always at work and don’t argue all the time!”
As he celebrates another year of marriage and another year of Jinx wins, Cruz acknowledges that The Jinx’s communal environment and supportive patrons are responsible for the bar’s continued success.
“If there wasn’t that Savannah family, the community—that’s what holds this all together,” he asserts. —Anna Chandler
Runner-up: Barrelhouse South