'Last Call' memorial for Detroit bartender
The Rattlesnake will honor bartender Farouk Elhaje, who served drinks at some of Detroit's most iconic restaurants.
Elhaje, a renowned mixologist, spent his 58-year career at the Caucus Club, London Chop House and Rattlesnake Club entertaining guests with stories and special concoctions.
Elhaje died Friday, March 2, 2018, of natural causes. He was 80. Regulars are invited to raise a glass in his memory from 5-8 p.m. Thursday at the Rattlesnake Club.
Elhaje started his career at the Caucus Club as a dishwasher. Detroit restaurateur Lester Gruber put Elhaje behind the bar. He was a bartender at Gruber's London Chop House for 29 years before moving to the Rattlesnake Club for 29 years.
The mixologist once won a local Kentucky Derby-themed celebrity contest for the best mint julep outside the Bluegrass State, according to club officials.
Michelle Taylor, catering manager at the Rattlesnake, said Elhaje would tell stories about his famous clientele, including Barbra Streisand, Walter Cronkite, Lee Iacocca, President George W. Bush, Detroit Mayor Coleman Young and many others.
"He was one of the most lively people you'd ever meet and told stories with such passion," Taylor said. "He was such an old soul ... we'd work long weddings together and he'd always be the first to tell me after a 13-hour shift to relax and have a beer."
Taylor said the Rattlesnake was Elhaje's home. His last day was March 1.
"He loved making Cosmopolitans for everyone, and his classic Bloody Mary with his own housemade mix," said Taylor. "No matter what people said they liked, he'd add his own twist on it. I'm a whiskey girl and I was lucky enough to have old of his old-fashioneds before he passed."
Rattlesnake officials said although Elhaje no longer stands behind the bar, his presence will be felt.
“Farouk has been the patriarch of the Rattlesnake Club family since its inception,” said Robert Sereno, general manager. “His regulars always greeted him with a jubilant ‘Hey, Farouk!’ and he would affectionately reply, ‘The bar’s closed!’ Farouk loved his career, never wanted to retire, and worked until the day before he died. He will be deeply missed.”
John Stroh III, CEO of Stroh Cos., said in a statement that Elhaje was an "iconic figure."
“Farouk was a great friend and a great character. He was an iconic figure in the Detroit restaurant scene over the past 50 years and I, along with many others, will miss him terribly,” he said.
A recipe for the hummer, which Elhaje is considered to have invented with others 12 years ago at the London Chop House.
- 3/4 oz Kahlua
- 3/4 oz white Bacardi rum
- 1 school vanilla ice cream
- blended and served in a cocktail glass