Mind of a Mixologist

By Lucas Dunn / Photography By Reagan Kloiber | September 01, 2017
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CHRIS BARRETT Ludivine

Q&A’s With Your Favorite Local Bartenders

Sitting at a good bar on a busy night watching the staff at work is akin to experiencing a magic show. Bartenders quickly yet precisely measure various liquids like modern day alchemists as the bar backs run to and fro with glassware and bottles. Their space is cramped, so there’s a delicate dance with all the hustling bodies weaving around each other.

It’s not an easy job, combining the care and know-how of a chef with the patience and charm of a waiter. Good bartenders attract their own regulars won over initially by the quality of the drinks and then made into loyal followers thanks to the bartenders’ fun and gregarious personalities. We’ve rounded up four of the best bartenders in Oklahoma City to find out what goes on inside their minds:

What are the hardest elements of bartending to master?

Hospitality. Making drinks is easy. Making good drinks takes a little bit of practice and study. Making someone comfortable, happy, or just content...with some people it's easy, others not so much.

Do you have a go-to order when you go to another bar?

A Manhattan or a daiquiri. If I'm some place where I know they can't deliver one of those properly, a gin and soda or a whiskey on the rocks.

What signature cocktail that you've created are you most proud of?

I don't know if I have a signature cocktail per se because at Ludivine our cocktail menu is constantly changing, but a few that I think of as creative, fun, and tasty are the Little Saigon Mule: a Moscow mule cocktail interpretation of pho with vodka, beef broth, sriracha, hoisin, cilantro, lime and ginger beer; the Sundown on Midtown: a tiki inspired cocktail of rum, Benedictine, lime, pecan orgeat, and ginger juice; the Whiskey Peach Cobbler: rye whiskey, peach brandy, lemon, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, all over crushed ice.

Do you have any advice for home/amateur bartenders?

In a cocktail, balance is key. Not too sweet. Not too sour. Not too boozy. Not too bitter. Taste everything and try anything. Experiment.

Are there any drinks that excite you when people order them?

French 75 with Cognac. That always gets my attention. I know the person that ordered it knows the history of the drink and appreciates classics.

What are the hardest elements of bartending to master?

Multitasking. Taking an order while tabbing out someone, firing an entree, running a rack of glassware, pulling three shots of espresso, resetting the bar for the next guest, etc.

Do you have a go-to order when you go to another bar?

Beer and a shot of Fernet-Branca.

Which spirit do you think is most underappreciated?

Brandy. It’s a spirit distilled from wine. Someone got the idea to make shipping wine cheaper; they would just distill it and remove the water to make it more concentrated, then add the water back to make the wine again. Obviously that didn't work, but brandy was created from distilling wine.

JEFFREY COLE O Bar

What was your first bartending job like?

 

My first bartending job was awesome. I worked at a BBQ restaurant (Iron Star) under this cantankerous Navy vet named Dave. Dave was the bartender who didn’t take lip from anyone. He was terrifying to me at the age of twenty-one. He took me under his wing, showed me not only how to take drink orders, but how to talk to people and how to drink in general.

Do you have any advice for home/amateur bartenders?

Read all the books but try not to take anything written as gospel. It’s just like, a lot of opinions, man. With that being said, ice matters, use fresh produce, buy good tools, and don’t wear yourself out playing bartender when you host groups of people. Start by making punches, or assembling the ingredients so guests can make the drinks themselves if they choose.

Are there any drinks that excite you when people order them?

Cane-based spirits such as rum, rhum agricole, and cachaça.

What are the hardest elements of bartending to master?

Empathy: I think that if you don’t have it instinctively, it’s tough to develop.

Emotions: some of the best advice I was ever given is to remember this isn’t world peace. It’s hospitality.

Conversation: not all of us like sports, politics, current news and events, but it can be so helpful to read something before a shift. Responsible imbibing: this makes or breaks the career.

What was your first bartending job like?

My first bartending job has actually been my only bartending job, which is pretty rare in this field. Other than guest bartending and random party events, Whiskey Cake has been my home for three years now, and there isn’t another place I would have wanted to learn and grow as a bartender. Whiskey Cake has one of the largest stocked back bars with a unique crowd of people who come to enjoy it. I always walk into that bar saying, “What am I going to learn about today?”

What is your favorite classic cocktail?

Ah, yes. A Bijou. It is a classic gin cocktail paired with green chartreuse, sweet vermouth, and orange bitters. Super easy to make, so it is my go-to recipe at home. Chartreuse is my favorite liqueur of all time so match it with vermouth to give it body and the gin plays with the herbaceous nature of the chartreuse.

Do you have a go-to order when you go to another bar?

Every bar I go to, I have to try their Old Fashioned. It is such an easy cocktail, but so many people royally mess it up. More often than not, I get a bad Old Fashioned. Depending on how it tastes determines if I am switching to beer or ordering a more complex cocktail.

Which spirit do you think is most underappreciated?

Oh gosh, gin. It may just be the type of bar I work at, but I still get tons of people that say they don’t like gin, and I’m like…it’s 2017, people. Who doesn’t like gin?! I then proceed to tell them they just haven’t had a gin cocktail made by me yet. More often than not, they love it. Gin is just so customizable and fresh that paired with the right herbs and botanicals, it can just make masterpieces of cocktails.

Article from Edible OKC at http://edibleoklahomacity.ediblecommunities.com/drink/mind-mixologist
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