This dear friends, this is my only OCD moment. Normally, if you know me, I have my mise en place in order but I can’t find my house keys for a week, I try to buy 3 of everything because then I can misplace 2 and still have a good chance of finding the third. As an adult, I started collecting legos when I was 22, I went to visit my mother to pack up all of my belongings in VA and she freaked out and could barely speak to me. My dad was away at a tennis tournament, which left me digging through the attic to pack up. I found a toddler’s ransom in Legos and sat around sorting them, controlling little bits plastic until I felt solace in order over my life. See? I don’t need to pay a therapist for shit.
So the other side of the coin is that 4 months ago I wrote a blog about people that influenced me behind the bar, rendering them in Lego, well I finished up another set and took better photos for your Facebook profile pictures. I also rebuilt a couple people because Santa brought me some new rare pieces. Don’t see yourself? Don’t worry, my birthday is next month, if there is any justice in the world, me a grown ass man age 30 will get a bucket of Danish plastic to mark my old age.
This here is the Mistral Kitchen Management Team. It consists of Patrick the lil’ ninja, dressed to kill but pictured here also carrying a pimp cup full of fine wine. Tip number one: don’t want to pay corkage fee? Offer up some of your bottle (if it is worthy) to the sommelier on duty. When I first met Patrick he smiled in a way across between a puppy wanting to play, Bruce Lee ready to school chumps and a little boy about to m-80 his first mailbox. To discuss many of the things I have learned from Patrick would nit pick my co workers and or expose with ignorance. So let it just be said he is pictured as a ninja because he is awesome and has ninja stealth. Amber, is the Wendy to the lost boys. Also she atherially floats about making sure things get done. But this many lost boys need a Wendy. As for Chef /Ower William Belickis, I just lost $20 to William in a “throw the cork in a bucket from across the room,” competition so he can fuck off. This is a perfect example of how William keeps the work environment fun and new. He can also eat a hamburger really fast. He makes up a lot of French sounding words too. What is is like working with William? DUCK! He is pictured here with his pan and scallop.
Sidonie Rodman smiles more than you. I do not, thusly I come off pensive or dickish. Which when the time is right, I can be both. I have heard Sidonie say to people, “Oh, I just smile a lot.” but in a sincere she actually really wants to buy the world a coke way. That is why Sidonie starts off as a better host than most bartenders and when the time is right, she is a better bartender because of it.
Dale DeGroff, yes he taught us the flame zest and the power of cufflinks but he is also as much of a master of the bar lifestyle as he is of the cocktails that create it. Dale is in no way a relic, rather an oracle of how things were and how they will become. I watched him tell a bartender speaking about making touch-downs at his bar position, asking Dale what he thought of it, Dale said, “do like doing that stuff? No? Quit your job, life is short.” He went on to discuss how that wasn’t what he was about, and do what you will (and he knows that is the job that pays) but that doesn’t have a future. I was in awe of the precsion and empathy with which he dealt the news. I wanted to be the guy Dale was telling to quit, that guy must have felt great, he had a brand new world that day, just dropped in his lap.
Casey Robison has a career like mine but tougher, more successful and younger. He, like me (but less so) is an example of working hard and fast and studying just as hard will get you to the top faster than your pedigree, which is meaningless if you can’t hang. Casey is fucking fast, he used to tend bar at Clever Dun’s, an Irish pub that I used to frequent, and more so when I found out the bad ass with the sleeve tattoos made a great Manhattan. These days he manages a couple of bar for a huge restaurant group and I’m sure he will own his own bar before he is 30. And according to Coughlin’s law, no matter how liberated this world becomes a woman will always be impressed with how much a man can drink, Casey is the stuff of myths and legends.
In Reality, Jay doesn’t look so evil, but in reality, his shirt is way more unbuttoned. It is a secret, but Jay is the best bartender in Seattle and his bar, Sambar, one of the coolest bars you can be in. Jay is 100% without pretense, his cocktail list is for the greatest snob and the most fearful of flavor. His casual use of aloe, gooseberry and vinegar are tributes to his skill. I have a long way to go to begin to match how Jay puts the “b” in subtle in every way except buttoning his shirt. But hey, it gets hot behind the bar, and chest just makes things more steamy.
Dave Wondrich brought back the Blue Blazer, which is great because it is by far the easiest way for a bartender to get their picture in the paper. To me, Dave is the perfect example of one of my mottos behind the bar: “use a pencil.” So the science legend goes, NASA spent untold time and money creating a pen that would write in 0 g’s, extreme pressure, underwater and when frozen, the Russians used a pencil. Crushed ice? A giant expensive machine that pulverizes ice? No, a giant fuck off mallet and a canvass bag. Use a pencil.
Rocky Yeh is a traveling man, some believe that there are 2 of him. He is a man that could teach classes in how to enjoy life. I feel like my last restaurant, Chanatnee was designed for him because he got it better than anyone else, light cocktails then salad followed by sours and light bites then a huge tiki drink with a huge fried animal, finish with coconut ice cream and an underberg. He know how to enjoy life, and you should hang out with hm to get some good ideas.
Phillip Tricky is my favorite person to have in a bar. Phillip Tricky in many ways is the foil to the bartender that knows everything about sports. We once, very enthusiastically high fived in mid service over our love for Lyle Lovett. Tricky saw that movie and knows if it sucked, he has that bands first record, he said the smart ass thing to the person at the bar that is annoying everyone.
Zane Harris and Anu Apte are actually two different people, but much like a salt shaker and a pepper shaker are two different things. Anu Apte is a study in grace. I have never seen a foot print that she has left, so I beilve that she floats about, un sullied by the earth. Anu moves in a way that implies: 4 years tap, 3 years ballet and 3 years modern dance. Also, Anu is clear evidence that a man named Zane Harris is lucky like no other man on earth, but is surely a shitty gambler as all of his karmic luck was spent on boyfriending Anu.
Zane? He is a study in technique, perfectly absorbing the best of everyone he sees, otherwise, see my blogpost on Chainsaw Thursday to find out more about Zane.
Amanda Womack is my walking fact checker. I often use her to back up outrageous claims that I make as she generally appears more responsible and sane than myself. I also learned from her to measure better. I learned to measure long ago, but there were several drinks that she made, much better than I, by using the simple technique of caring more about measuring. Jigger twice drink once.
Daniel Shoemaker has charts, graphs, recipes and great style. He is ahead of the curve on everything in the bar world, making his own everything, he has a scientific mind that fits perfectly into this business. More importantly, it is my mother meeting him and Rocky Yeh (a few mini figs up) that made her OK with my career choice. She was so impressed that such a stylish preacher’s son, so well spoken and successful could be a bartender, it must be OK for me to try too.
Will Ritthaler may not look like a caveman now, but when he did he was prime to be the best craft bartender in the Paleolithic era. Will Ritthaler showed me the importance of looking things up. We were joking about the foreword to the Gentleman’s Companion, “not show fancy boy drinks like the Widow’s Kiss,” and we realized that we didn’t know what a Widow’s Kiss was, and Baker does not give the recipe for such a, “fancy boy,” drink. We had to look it up, like any bartender should when faced with an unknown drink. Also Will had, and should have again, have a beard so epic that it shames any homeless man. Lastly the first time I tried to get a drink from Will he kicked me out because my ID was suspect, lesson: don’t take chance on getting arrested because of fake IDs.
Eric Chapman, fly fisherman, Underberg lover, cyclist, great barman. Eris Chapman, so may things, salty snacks at the bar, clever ways to manage staff for optimizing fly fishing trips, but recently, I learned that a Vieu Carre cocktail with bonded applejack instead of cognac is amazing, try one today!
1oz bonded apple jack
1oz sweet vermouth
1 dash angostura
1 dash peychaud
Eric remembers peoples’ names, makes great drinks and blah blah, but he also knows that there are 3 months out of the year in which air conditioning is very important, and his bar delivers on this.
Kevin Langmack writes on a blog called beers in the shower, which if you look up on urban dictionary.com you will find the following: beers in the shower- the most satisfying beer
and when ever I think of Kevin’s blog, I go have a beer in the shower.
David Nelson, no one is kinder to bartenders in airports. From Dave Nelson, I learned to say less. And to honor that, I shall say nothing more than that. But I also remember a time were there were 6 drunk bartenders all asked to make the flaming blue blazer at the end of a long night, Dave bowed out leaving only 5 drunkards to toss about fire. I believe Dave is the only person without a scar from that night. Because Dave knows his limits.
AJ Rathbun, always showing off his legs and books. Unlike me, AJ proof reads his writings, someday he will teach me to do the same. In the meantime he has taught me the beauty of curious cocktail books. The last one he gave me, that I verily enjoyed was the Cheers cocktail book, an amazing resource for cocktails. His cocktail inspirations seem to come from old pulp novels as much as anything else, something that has kept me looking into to film and old novels for drink recipes.
Paul Clarke already wrote about it. Paul Clarke, what can’t you learn from Paul Clarke? Go to his blog Cocktail Chronicles and learn something right now. Also Paul is great at humanizing all of the aspects of cocktail culture that get wrapped up is obscurity and seriousness. I have made gallons of Paul’s#8 falarnum. Reading Paul Clarke is like having a drink with him, though I must point out in person, he is more likely to use a potty mouth that he would never use on the blog. My favorite Paul Clarke line, “ gins proliferate in liquor stores at a pace envied by kudzu and bunnies.”
These two are cute. Robert Hess is proof that the Riker Beard is still awesome. And also, like Dave Nelson, I have learned from Robert to say less and be subtle. Hess could walk into any bar, list 100 things they were doing wrong and never be invited back. But he doesn’t . The highest critique he generally levels is, “I might try something different.” He is a man along for the ride although in the mean time truly prefers that the ride be of the highest quality but will not mention such unless he is asked. That is a difficult burden that he bears well. Audrey was the first person that posed to me the concept of creating cocktails with notes like a perfumer. In doing so, I reevaluted every scent and flavor I put into a drink, testing aroma vs mouthfeel vs scent. When these are out of balance, one ingredient can generally be swapped for something else that brings the balance needed, for example trading a liqueur for a ticture if a drink is too dead on the nose.
Jamie Boudreau asks you the questions that count. Jamie Boudreau enseigné m’à orthographier mieux en français et que les Canadiens parlent drôle mais nous shouldn’ ; t font l’amusement de eux parce qu’ils ont des soins de santé bien meilleurs que nous même si ils ont de mauvaises lois d’importation qui rendent le tequlia très cher. Also, even though he gets all this cred for being a molecular mixology guy, he is better at refilling a water glass than any other bartender ever. This is important because most good scotches need a drop of water to open up. Also, you need water to live and it should always be in front of you in a bar from the moment you sit until the moment you leave:professional. Two other things I learned from him, he was the first guy I met that used a y peeler instead of a channel knife to better control the oils going into a drink, this is a method I don’t know how I waited so long to learn. Also, he inspired me to use my own custom took kit suited to my own style. I however use a chef roll rather than Jamie’s suitcase because i admire the professional chef more that the traveling sales man but:De gustibus non est disputandum-which I learned again, from Dallas.
Gwydion Stone has the truth about absinthe. . He makes it, drinks it and will be one of the first guys to bring it back from the absinthe murders and Czech fire to grace and dignity. Also, he rock Hawaiian shirts.
Dallas Taylor has pearls of wisdom. Many of which I can not repeat because they are about the boobies. Dallas Taylor doesn’t always look so angry, but he often does. From him I learned when to shake a drink (when it has juice) and when to stir (when it is clear and only booze. This is rule number one for me in separating rubes from pros and I learned it from him. Dallas also taught me the importance of the book Kitchen Confidential.
One thing I learned from MickiT is something that I wish most bartenders didn’t know, you get a dollar every time you open a beer. Working with her made me develop themy 3.5 rules of tending bar:
2.Use 2 hands
3. Be nice to people
3.5 Unless you are a girl, sometimes then it is better to be mean
I learned much more from Michelle that this, this is just the quantified list. Michelle and I spent a lot of time closing the bar, and from her I learned everything that is important about that that doesn’t involve cleaning or money.
Nabil is the author o, “Constant Slop,” a zine that I have discussed here before. His deliberate nature is inspiring, he is a true bartender that lives the dream everyday. His zine is very inspirational to me and perfectly sums up what Willy nelson meant when he said, “The night life ain’t no good life, but its my life.”
Donald Brady showed me that many of the dumb sounding drinks in the Difford’s guide are the best, except those garnished with whole doughnuts. Also, he is my harshest critic and never lets me pass off crap. It is hard to find someone who will honestly tell you that something is forgettable and to try harder next time. And a harsh critic that has your interests at heart is a very valuable way to grow. He has also informed me of the toils of cutting peat; awful back breaking labor, but I have served Donald scotches that are old enough that they could have been toasted by peat that he cut in highschool. There are no pizzas that I made in highschool still in circulation.
Dan Crawford has seen it before. It is refreshing to have a guy like this around. He once said to me, “Andrew, I remember when I first met you in Vessel and I thought you were a prick, but I think you are OK now.” This is a very high compliment from a guy that has seen it all and isn’t likely to be impressed by new shit. Perspective is what Dan has and it is invaluable. Dan, even after a few beers is unclouded and will spit the truth at you. Also Dan is a big proponent of cash only, and I can’t agree more. He knows that credit cards hurt small business and he will tell you.
Chelsea “chuckles” North showed me how to better break balls without making somebody cry. A little Chelsea chuckle at the end of a scathing comment helps the medicine go down.
Michael Betrand is a handsome devil. When I worked with him at Vessel, he was the glue. The man makes prep happen like none other, his orgnizational skills are impeckable and I generally treated his as my boss though he was always my bar back. So that is was Michael can teach you, up and coming barback, be better than the bartender you work for, and then you’ll get his job. Michael does however have 2 huge flaws, he hates jazz and doesn’t understand that Band of Horses really sucks.
Jim Romdall can balance the un balance-able. I am always fascinated by he ability to balance the strongest of flavors. Jim Romdall taught me that he is the missing link between orangutans and men. At 5’7 with a 6’2 arm span, I call him the orang-tender. But seriously I learned from Jim that shoppers vineyard is an excellent substitution for the liquor board and well, the finest way to give people a truly meaningful x-mas bonus. I also learned from Jim that I am not alone in my belief that the best bartender have both dive bar and fine dining experience, and that mixing the best of both creates the gestalt of a better bartender.
Jacob Briars has a horse head, and a frog face. Professor Jacob Briars showed me that witty things I may say, should be slowed down, enunciated and emphasized for the general public. The speed at which the man speaks means that his brain is certainly fueled by vegetables and exercise rather than the animal fat and scotch like the rest of us. But his punch lines are crystal clear as is if delivered by certified mail. Jacob successfully sells vodka, the most maligned of cocktail bases to an audience that is unwilling to even shoot it, how? The twin guns of grace and tact, also he is a cowboy riding the horse of product knowledge. Lastly, I learned from Jacob that when one shakes a drink really hard, one makes the face one would make if he/she were having an orgasm. A curious but accurate observation to be certain.
Hidetsugu Ueno carves the diamond ice.
-In Japan, the ice ball is not special, they are found everywhere, and are sometimes sold to bars in sphere form
-What Ueno does is a technique he calls “Diamond Ice,” by which he cuts
ice to perfectly fit the negative space of the cut crystal glasses he uses.
And finally the most important thing that Ueno taught me was that even this “Diamond Ice,” was not special. Nothing that a bartender does is really “special,” nor is it “insignificant,” is just “is.” It just is because it’s your job, I think this is where Zen and existentialism overlap. The importance of ice Uneo understands that ice is as important as whisky, I know I need both.
Stanislav Vadrna understands that the play is the thing. I often say that people come for the show, they can drunk at home on the cheap. Stanislav really puts the theater back in the bar by reccommending bartenders use theater books to create a persona of being an even better host. This is not insincere though it may sound that way. Stanislav stresses that, “A statue of Buddha built without soul has no meaning.” Meaning, your persona, your hard shake all of your technique matters not if you don’t know why you are doing it, to be a better host for your guest.
Murray Stenson still has a few tricks up his sleeve and he always will.
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