Bartender Sambonn Lek was something of a fixture at the Mayflower Hotel's Town & Country bar. He poured strong drinks and did magic tricks for his patrons. But then, in January 2011, Town & Country closed its doors, and it wasn't until this March that another bar, Edgar Bar & Kitchen, opened back up at the Connecticut Avenue hotel.
Meanwhile, Lek headed back to his native Cambodia, where he runs Sam Relief, a charity that builds schools in the country. "I decided to take early retirement," he explained to Yeas & Nays. But after a couple of months Lek got antsy. "I'm very [bored]. I miss my children," he said, explaining that his two kids still lived in the States. "I had been living in the United States more than 38 years, so therefore my heart was in Washington, D.C."
And thus Lek moved back, taking a job at the Hamilton Crowne Plaza hotel in downtown D.C., where he started earlier this month. He now bartends at the 14K Restaurant & Lounge and has already created a new specialty drink -- the 14K Gold, made with Patron Gold tequila, a dash of Grand Marnier and four squirts of lime juice. "The first day that we opened over here, a lot of guests came in. I was so busy I didn't have time to talk to anybody," said Lek. "But my regulars keep coming, plus I have my new, fresh guests over here -- I entertain them ... I make them happy, that's my job."
Lek then poured several 14K Golds for patrons sitting at the hotel bar, intermixing those orders with requests for the specialty cocktail from his Mayflower days, the "I Am Sam," a sweet, pink drink served in a martini glass. Lek said now that he's back behind the bar, he has no plans to leave again anytime soon. "No, no, honestly I'm not that old to retire yet," he said. "I still have good spirit to serve my guests."