FLINT, Michigan — Located in the heart of downtown Flint is a mysterious glowing red neon sign that reads “X.” By pressing a button, a doorbell will sound and lead you through a door, up a small flight of stairs, and behind a James Bond-like bookcase.
Inside, you’ll be greeted by dim lights hanging from the ceiling, eye-catching wall-sized artwork, head-nodding R&B tunes, comfortable seating, and a bar stocked with various alcoholic spirits. They call this cozy and intimate speakeasy The X.
The X caters to people who want to feel sophisticated and glamorous. According to the manager, Rogers Delgado, originally from Flint, who turned his passion for bartending in Miami into a career after graduating from Florida A&M, this decision is intentional. Together with fellow bartenders Raven and Marcus, who refer to themselves as “The OGs,” they mix drinks, cut fresh fruit, pour liquor, and interact with the speakeasy’s diverse clientele.
Looking to expand the reach of The X and pass the culture of bartending to their fellow Flintstones, Delgado, Raven, Marcus, and the team at X are spearheading a series called Mixology 101. The first event in the series happens on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Flintside caught up with “The OGs” inside The X on a busy evening to learn about the event and see bartending up close and personal.
Flint native and manager Rogers Delgado inside The X in downtown Flint on Oct. 25, 2023. (Bryce Mata | Flintside.com)
Flintside: You got into bartending in Miami. Does it allow you to get that connection?
: “You become like a family when you work behind the bar. It’s always something you look forward to doing. Behind the bar, it’s something new every day. You never know what to expect. That’s exciting, especially being able to bring it back to my hometown, all the knowledge I’ve gained being down in Miami. The bar culture [here] isn’t what I’m used to, so I try to bring a taste of that back home.”
Flintside: What The X is doing is something unique that Flint hasn’t seen in a while, if ever. How important is it to bring these types of experiences to the city?
: “There’s an appreciation and a market here. People may not know a lot of the ideas and concepts we bring to the table here at X, but they welcome it and want to learn more. A lot of times you have to go to a major city. For instance, Detroit has a bunch of different speakeasies, but you shouldn’t have to drive 45 minutes. Eventually, I want to get to the point where we do reach out and partner with other bars and put together a nice bar culture right here in Flint.”
One of the many colorful and dynamic drinks served inside Flint's speakeasy bar, The X, pictured on Oct. 25, 2023. (Bryce Mata | Flintside.com)Flintside: This segues into the Mixology 101 series getting ready to kick off on Nov. 2nd. What was the idea that birthed this?
: “This is something I’ve wanted to do since I got here. This goes into the culture, like I mentioned before. If I teach them more about what’s going on behind the scenes, they’ll have an appreciation for craft cocktails. They’ll feel comfortable regardless of where they go when they travel the world. But also, it’s nice to show people how to make stuff at home if they wanna show off for their friends. I want them to be able to say, 'X gave that to me.' I’ve had a long line of great mentors, so it’s only right that I pay that forward and keep the movement going.”
Flintside: Talk to us about the details of Mixology 101.
: “We’re leaning towards the first Thursday of every month. It’s a crash course into different style cocktails with each month bringing a different spirit, wine, or champagne. The first one is going to be bourbon, whiskeys, ryes. We’ll do a brief history, and then we’ll jump right into the cocktails. Every station will have all the tools and ingredients, so you’re going to be making it along with us. My intentions are to let you leave with a tool from each one. One day, you might leave with a shaker. So, if you come to every session, eventually, you’ll have a whole home kit.”
Delgado pictured roasting small pieces of wood in preparation for The X's signature old-fashioned cocktails on Oct. 25, 2023. (Bryce Mata | Flintside.com)Flintside: Raven, how do you feel about the Mixology 101 series?
: “It’s gonna be really cool. I think COVID changed the bartending game because people wanted access to those recipes because they couldn’t go out. I feel this will be an opportunity for people to play into that.”
Flintside: What advice can you give to people attending or simply wanting to learn about bartending?
: “The main advice would be anticipating and listening to the people that you’re serving. Also, shake it like you mean it. That goes a long way. Use fresh ingredients and fresh juices and play with different flavors. [Use] real fruits and dive in. There is no right or wrong. It’s something that’s just trial and error. The best trait a bartender can have is love for the people.”
Raven prepares a bourbon old-fashioned cocktail on Oct. 25, 2023, one of the many spirits attendees will learn to create at The X's Nov. 2 Mixology 101 event. (Bryce Mata | Flintside.com)Flintside: At the end of the Mixology 101 series, what do you hope people take away from it?
: “The main thing is having fun. As long as we’re capturing that, then the mission will be successful. It’s perfect for a date night. I want them to tell their friends. I want to be overwhelmed with the number of guests, I have to bring in more staff. I want it to be one of the main events people look forward to. For those who want to learn the right way and get a real strong base, this would be the event for them. I’m going to give away some gems that you wouldn’t necessarily learn in this market. So it’ll be worth your while.”
Flintside: On a personal note, what are your goals and aspirations?
: “The first thing is being part of the bar culture movement in my hometown. If I ever end up leaving, I want to be able to look back and say I had something to do with that. Aside from that, it’d be nice to have my name on a couple of different things. I’ve never been someone who wants for much. [I’m] taking it one day at a time and enjoying the moment.”
“Shake it like you mean it,” says Rogers Delgado after Marcus serves up a pair of drinks called The Aviator inside The X on Oct. 25, 2023. (Bryce Mata | Flintside.com)Flintside: Is there something you want to leave the people about The X?
: “I am looking for people to have a new and unique experience downtown. I think this is the only place doing something like this, and I don’t think Flint sees a lot of finer dining or intimate, quiet atmospheres. This offers something different, and I feel when people come in here, what I want to give them is a new experience.”
For more info about The X, check out its Facebook page. The Mixology 101 series begins Nov. 2nd at 7 p.m. Tickets are on sale for $40.The X is open in downtown Flint on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.