The Happiest Bartender in Boston

"People are always celebrating and we are a part of the celebration."

There is a bartender in Boston who seems to be the living embodiment of "Happy Hour."

Tenzin Samdo works at Tavern Road in the Seaport District, and has been bartending in Boston for the past sixteen years. He is known across the globe for his unique approach to classic cocktails and offbeat presentation. He is also known for the incredibly positive attitude and the sheer delight he shows when he is behind the bar.

"There is so much energy when you’re behind there," he said. "People are always celebrating and we are a part of the celebration. This is my job and at the same time I am happy and love every single minute of it."

You can feel his passion for cocktail crafting as he mixes his creations, like the "Incan Garden," with a lovingly-crafted mix of pisco, cassis, lemon, saffron, green cardamom, passionfruit, elderflower and saffron.

Almost as if he doesn’t know he’s speaking out loud, this bartender softly repeats "you are going to love this," and his eyes naturally light up with joy when the drinker does, indeed, love it.

"Bartending is not just about mixing cocktails and knowing everything, it is about accommodating guests," he said.

Taking a look at the amazing cocktails on his Instagram page would lead one to believe that he was born behind the bar. To the contrary, becoming a bartender was a mix of luck and being in the right place at the right time.

Samdo’s childhood was spent as a Tibetan refugee living in India along with 150,000 other refugees. In the early nineties, his father was one of 1,000 refugees chosen for American visas in a lottery.

His father ended up in a resettlement in Boston and Samdo was able to join him after a few years.

Samdo grew up in Cambridge and later went to UMass Boston to study set design, film, and photography while working full time. He entered the restaurant business by working the back of the house and helping behind the bar.

One day, the bartender called out sick and his manager told him to fill in as a bartender for the afternoon. Samdo had never made a cocktail before that day, but that four-hour shift would change the course of his life.

"I loved it - the adrenaline rush was insane," he said.

He immediately went to a store and picked up a book on how to make different kinds of cocktails. He spent the whole night reading it and studied it from cover to cover.

His dedicated study to the art of the cocktail lead him to bartending positions at restaurants across the city and on to becoming an internationally-known cocktail artist.

Although he left India and his theater studies behind, these stages of his life have had a major impact on his craft. His time in India can be seen in the unique spices and ingredients he uses, like the ginger tea syrup and red mukhwas in his Dharamsala Cocktail - rarely seen in Western drinks.

His time studying theater taught him how to put on a show and entertain an audience, even when the only stage available is the bar table. This also plays a huge role in his side business organizing cocktail events. 

"It is almost like a really good theater show. I believe presentation plays a huge role," he said. "Having someone sitting at your bar is a huge compliment. The least thing I can do for my guests who sit in front of me is put on a show."

This showmanship is obvious in his ingenious presentation and garnishes that play important roles to his cocktails. To this bartender, the garnish is just as important as the cocktail it is complimenting.

His focus on presentation gained him a huge following on Instagram, with fans flying in from around the world to try his cocktails. One couple from England even stopped over in Boston during their honeymoon just so they could have one of the cocktails he shared on Instagram.

Taking a seat at Samdo’s bar is like being welcomed as a guest within his home. He has an inner joy he wants to share and some delicious drinks for you to try.

"It became a passion, I didn’t see it coming," he said. "This is something I can see myself doing for a very long time. This is my job, and at the same time I am happy and love every single minute of it."

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