I have always admired the person(s) on the other side of the bar. Sometimes I notice the mixologists because they are very attractive, trendy, friendly, and accommodating. Sometimes I applaud them for patiently dealing with indecisive or obnoxious/drunk patrons. Frequently I appreciate them because they serve me the perfect martini (shaken), on the rocks, with the world’s largest olives or introduce me to a new rum or scotch.
Bartender Appreciation Day
After taking an evening workshop at New York’s Liquor Lab, and having the Mixologist-In-Training experience, my respect for their smarts, savvy and creative skills knows no bounds. Chefs have made it to the status of superstars (think Bobby Flay), now is the time to recognize and applaud the value of the mixologists in our lives.
The brains behind Liquor Lab is Owen Meyer. Formerly a TV talk show host in Chicago and founder of the Wine & Whiskey Club in NYC, Meyer assembled his knowledge of the spirits world through association with Jim Beam where he was a certified spirit specialist. At Liquor Lab his objective is to corral the world’s best bartenders and certified beer, wine and spirits specialists to create a link between their talents and the consumers’ quest for alcoholic-infused “experiences.”
Sarkis adds his skill-set to Liquor Lab. His knowledge of spirits has been developed through his association with Beefeater and Plymouth Gin, where he was national brand ambassador, developing programs in Chicago that include Celeste, Bordel and the Broken Shaker.
Meyer’s inspiration for Liquor Lab is a direct result of his years building brands and watching the companies struggle to create educational experiences that the consumer would value. He was troubled by the difficulties associated with brand development, finding that consumers were unable to connect to the brand because of the less than stimulating lectures. What did they crave….hands-on interaction with the merchandise. At Liquor Lab the focus is not on the product but rather on the consumer.
According to Meyer, “The challenges are never ending as an entrepreneur. You wear every hat: sales, events, marketing, and finance. …every day…is a crash course in getting your MBA.
“The real ‘ah ha’ moment was when I was working for Beam Suntory (formerly Jim Beam). I felt there was a better way to educate consumers about the industry and the brands…
“I have a list of people that have helped me and a list of people who doubted me, and I won’t ever forget who are on those lists.
“The early stages of business are so insanely hectic. It’s one thing West Point taught me that I’ll carry with me forever: time management. When you only have a couple of people helping you in the early stages you need to do twice as much in half the time. The ones who can do that AND deliver an exceptional product to their customers will find a way to succeed. “
Shake, Stir and Sip
Media and trade were recently invited to participate in a Liquor Lab class and I was probably the first one to RSVP to the invitation. I was so looking forward to playing Mixologist that I arrived at the Wooster Street, NYC classroom before the staff had finished setting up the space.
In an experiential/ participatory 2-hour session I learned how to make four distinctive cocktails. The COO led the group, demonstrating how to shake a drink (I was unable to get the glass and the shaker to bond – leaving more booze on the floor than in the glass), use the strainer, and muddle the mint leaves.
1. Spicy Mezcal Margarita
The first mixed drink we developed was the Spicy Mezcal Margarita. Liquor Lab provides all the raw ingredients, including the frozen green pepper for serving, and walks students through the mixing, muddling, icing, shaking, straining and salting process. The raw ingredients include Ilegal Mezcal, lime, Agave Syrup and Jalapeno.
2. Spiced Rum Mojito
The Mojito was born in Cuba and is one of the nation’s oldest cocktails. Research suggests that the name, mojito, comes from the African “mojo” which means “to place a little spell.” This blended mix of spirits includes Blackheart Spiced Rum, Lime, Simple Syrup, Angostura Bitters and springs of Mint.
3. Pineapple Basil Smash
For a good source of vitamin C, this is a perfect winter beverage. Mix Four Roses Bourbon with Pineapple juice, Simple Syrup, Lemon Wedges, Basil Leaves and Angostura Bitters
4. Aged Rum Old Fashion
If you cannot get a flight to the Caribbean this season, curl up with this mood-alternating pick-me-up. Mix Plantation 5-year old Rum, with Demarara Syrup, Angostura Bitters and Orange Bitters. If you listen to Reggae singer Bob Marley while working your way through a pitcher, the winter chill will disappear.
Be Your Own Bartender
After attending a few classes at Liquor Lab you are likely to feel confident enough to be your own mixologist and turn your private space into a classy nightclub.
© Dr. Elinor Garely. This copyright article, including photos, may not be reproduced without written permission from the author.