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A glimpse at some of the brightest bar talent in NYC.

 

New York City has long been a place for innovation, so it’s no wonder that the Big Apple is also home to some of the most imaginative and well-made cocktails in the country. Our March/April issue celebrates New York and all of its bibulous bliss, and here we chat with a few of the city’s talented bartenders about everything from their more bizarre drink requests to what songs make their work-night playlist.

nybt_dushan_200x314Dushan Zaric
Employees Only

Bartending since: 1992.

I knew I wanted to work behind a bar when: I first stepped behind a New York City bar and started making cocktails—all the bottles on the back bar just made sense to me.

Proudest accomplishment behind the bar: My students and apprentices.

Define the perfect cocktail: Three dimensional in taste and perfect for the occasion or time of day.

Most unusual drink request: A lady once asked me to make her “something dry, not too citrusy, not too cold or strong, a touch sweet and acidic, and not overly boozy.”

I find inspiration in: Exploring new ingredients both liquid and fresh.

Can’t mix drinks without: Someone who is excited to try them.

At the end of my shift I pour myself: A glass of wine.

Favorite thing about working behind a bar: Serving people in such a way that they leave a little happier then they were before they came in.

Least favorite thing about working behind a bar: When the doorman lets 50 people in at the same time.

Favorite drink to mix: A dry martini.

I’d be happy never mixing another: Oh, I don't mind mixing anything. Whatever people want I'll make for them providing I know the recipe and have the ingredients.

The one thing I wish more people understood about bartending: That it is an old and honorable profession.

If bartenders had superpowers, mine would be: Mind reading.

The best piece of bartending advice I’ve ever received: From Henry LaFargue (my partner at EO): “At the end of the night just erase the blackboard.”

One thing I tell others about bartending: That it’s a really great way to learn how to be in service of others.

If I was a flavor I’d be: Bittersweet.

I’d most like to mix a drink for: Someone I really care about. Then the drink always comes out perfect.

I’d probably make them: A cocktail that fits perfectly to their personality, time of day and occasion.

Desert-island drink: An Americano.

If my bar shifts had a theme song it’d be: “Back in Black” by AC/DC.

If I wasn't bartending I'd be: A rock musician.



nybt_ivy_200x314Ivy Mix
Clover Club, Brooklyn

Bartending since: 2005.

I knew I wanted to work behind a bar when: I realized I spent all my time in one. I might as well work there if I basically live there! I knew I wanted to cocktail bartend the instant I realized that I could make an act that I already loved more creative.

Proudest accomplishment behind the bar: When my mother actually sat down in front of me and told me she was proud of me.

Define the perfect cocktail: Balanced, probably with mezcal.

Most unusual drink request: A virgin Margarita.


I find inspiration in: Art and books. My background—like so many other bartenders—is in art. I look to those for names of recipes. I go to pastry and dessert books for flavor profiles that might go well together.

Can’t mix drinks without: People to mix them for.

At the end of my shift I pour myself: Usually a mezcal … but lately it has been a larger-than-usual glass of fino sherry.

Favorite thing about working behind a bar: Controlling a room and conducting an evening. Not only do I get to make excellent drinks, but I can set the pace of how someone's night is going to go.

Favorite drink to mix: A Negroni.

I’d be happy never mixing another: Zombie.

The one thing I wish more people understood about bartending: It’s just a job, but also that it’s an esteemed job. Being a bartender is a career, but a bartender is not a god.

If bartenders had superpowers, mine would be: Turning everything to bubbles.

The best piece of bartending advice I’ve ever received is: Keep your head down.

One thing I tell others about bartending: It's the only time they can see me, so if you wanna, you'd better stop by.

If I was a flavor I’d be: Smokey roses.

If my bar shifts had a theme song it’d be: “Wanna be a Balla” by Lil’ Troy.

Desert-island drink: A Negroni. But dessert islands are hot, so probably a Margarita.

If I wasn't bartending I'd be: Training ponies.



nybt_theo_200x300Theo Lieberman
Lantern’s Keep, Milk & Honey

Bartending since: 2009.

I knew I wanted to work behind a bar when: I first walked into Raines Law Room and Milk & Honey.

Define the perfect cocktail: A Negroni.

Most unusual drink request: I once had a whole table ask for drinks incorporating fire.

I find inspiration in: Meaghan Dorman and the crew at Milk & Honey.

Can’t mix drinks without: My 3/4- to 1-ounce jigger.

At the end of my shift I pour myself: Laphroaig.

Favorite thing about working behind a bar: It might be cliché, but I really do love all of my regulars.

Favorite drink to mix: Anything in all equal parts.

I’d be happy never mixing another: Anything with heavy cream, I really hate the stuff.

The one thing I wish more people understood about bartending: It’s a career—my parents aren't ashamed.

If bartenders had superpowers, mine would be: The ability to fly—it would save me a lot of cash on cabs at the end of most nights.

The best piece of bartending advice I’ve ever received: “Work fast, pour slow.” —Michael McIlroy

One thing I tell others about bartending: It’s exactly as much fun as it looks.

If I was a flavor I’d be: Bitter.

If my bar shifts had a theme song it’d be: “Rye Whiskey” by The Punch Brothers.

Desert-island drink: A Jungle Bird.

If I wasn't bartending I'd be: A high school quarterback for the Dylan Panthers.


nybt_tj2_200x200T.J. Lynch
Mother’s Ruin

Bartending since: I was 9. I would make Gin & Tonics for my parents and their friends for their post-tennis cocktail—I'm sure they were horrible, but they were all good sports and drank them anyway.

I knew I wanted to work behind a bar when: I realized that I made more money than all my friends with “real jobs.”

Proudest accomplishment behind the bar: Whenever I use my powers for good, not evil, meaning when I raise money for charity through bar events.

Define the perfect cocktail: Exactly what the customer wants—end of story.

Most unusual drink request: A woman wanted a White Russian made with her own breast milk. No shit. I politely declined, citing numerous health code violations.

I find inspiration in: Just about anything.

Can’t mix drinks without: There isn't one thing that is a necessity. I can find a way to make a drink just about anywhere or with anything; you just have to be thirsty enough.

At the end of my shift I pour myself: Into a cab; I drink at work too much as it is.

Favorite thing about working behind a bar: Besides the obvious—cash—it’s making people happy.

Least favorite thing about working behind a bar: Stupid people (isn't that everyone's answer?).

Favorite drink to mix: One I haven't made before.

I’d be happy never again mixing: Anything for the cocktail nerd who orders a labor-intensive, esoteric cocktail on a Saturday night when the bar is totally packed.

If I was a flavor I’d be: Whisky-habanero ice cream. If that doesn’t make sense to you, you haven’t spent enough time across the bar from me.

I’d most like to pour a drink for: John Belushi.

I’d probably get him: A beer.

If my bar shifts had a theme song it’d be: "Apple Juice Kissing" by Deee-Lite.

Desert-island drink: Toby Maloney's Piña Colada.

If I wasn't bartending I'd be: Sleeping. A lot.


nybt_julie_200x314Julie Reiner
Clover Club, Flatiron Lounge, Lani Kai

Bartending since: 1991

I knew I wanted to work behind a bar when: I was working as a cocktail waitress in Hawaii at 18—I was always fascinated with what was happening behind the bar. 

Proudest accomplishment behind the bar: The day Flatiron Lounge opened.

Define the perfect cocktail: The one that fits the moment.

Most unusual drink request: "The grossest concoction you can make."

I find inspiration in: Warm weather and beaches.

At the end of my shift I pour myself: An Old Fashioned.

Favorite thing about working behind a bar: Making the guest’s day a little better than it was when they walked in.

Least favorite thing about working behind a bar: Sore feet.

Favorite drink to mix: I can't pick just one; it changes daily!

I’d be happy never mixing another: Long Island Iced Tea.

If bartenders had superpowers, mine would be: Moving at lightening speed.

The best piece of bartending advice I’ve ever received is: Don't take yourself too seriously; bars are supposed to be fun!

One thing I tell others about bartending:
It's not as easy as it looks.

If I was a flavor I’d be: Sweet & Sour.

I’d most like to mix a drink for: My wife.

I’d probably make her: A Manhattan.

If my bar shifts had a theme song it’d be: “I Love Rock & Roll.”

Desert-island drink: A high-proof daiquiri.

If I wasn't bartending I'd be: A beach bum.



nybt_kenta_200x300Kenta Goto
Pegu Club

Bartending for: About 10 years.

I knew I wanted to work behind a bar when: I quit my 9-5.

Define the perfect cocktail: The one a customer craves and comes back for.

I find inspiration in: Traveling, reading, cooking.

Can’t mix drinks without: Customers liking them.

At the end of my shift I pour myself: A cold beer.

Favorite thing about working behind a bar is: Meeting so many people, of course.

Least favorite thing about working behind a bar: Meeting douches.

Favorite drink to mix: A Bloody Mary.

If bartenders had superpowers, mine would be: Mixing 100 drinks at once super-fast, reading people's minds and remembering everyone's name forever.

The best piece of bartending advice I’ve ever received is: Most importantly, to understand what the customer wants.

One thing I tell others about bartending: It's a sales job.

If I was a flavor I’d be: Umami.

If my bar shifts had a theme song it’d be: The theme song from “Rocky” on weekends, definitely.

If I wasn't bartending I'd be: Laying on a beach somewhere.


nybt_alla_200x314Alla Lapushchik
Post Office, Brooklyn

Bartending since: About six years.

I knew I wanted to work behind a bar when: I first saw the craftsmanship that went into mixing. I was really young and seeing guys like Brian Miller, Phil Ward and Joaquin Simo bartend imprinted upon me what working behind a bar meant. Then tasting the product cemented that this is how it should be done and this is what I wanted to learn to do.

Proudest accomplishment behind the bar: Being behind my own bar.

Define the perfect cocktail: Tasty, balanced and served in good company.

Most unusual drink request: There was once a request for Staten Island Ice Tea at Post Office. That’s a Long Island Ice Tea with grape juice.

I find inspiration in: Classics and the innovative things that can be and are done with them. Also the encyclopedic knowledge that a lot of people I admire have—it makes me want to learn.

Can’t mix drinks without: The awesome people I work with and a cup of coffee, or a couple cups of coffee.

At the end of my shift I pour myself: Brown liquor on the rocks and Fernet (which I lovingly refer to as devil juice).

Favorite thing about working behind a bar: Getting to learn about something I enjoy so much and getting to share that with people.

Least favorite thing about working behind a bar: That random spot of Angostura bitters on all of my clothing that is very difficult to get out.

Favorite drink to mix: Old Fashioned. The whole process goes from very savage (pounding the sugar) to very refined (stirring to ice cold perfection). I’m into that.

I’d be happy never mixing another: Screwdriver.

The one thing I wish more people understood about bartending: That making people happy and comfortable is a large part of what bartending is about, so please be nice.

If bartenders had superpowers, mine would be: The ability to forgo bathroom breaks for extended periods of time; or the Super Shake of Doom; or being able to fly.

The best piece of bartending advice I’ve ever received: “Lemon juice on the left,” which is just about how important it is to keep the bar organized and orderly for the sake of efficiency and mental well-being on a busy night.

One thing I tell others about bartending: It’s fun.

If I was a flavor I’d be: Wild strawberry—cause I’m wild and I’m sweet. (I found it very difficult to answer this without turning it into some kind of pick up line.)

I’d most like to mix a drink for: Slash.

I’d probably serve him: Brown liquor on the rocks.

If my bar shifts had a theme song it’d be: “Who’s That Girl” by Madonna and “Real Talk” by R. Kelly.

My desert-island drink is: A Jet Pilot!

If I wasn't bartending I'd be: Writing a revolutionary manifesto while sitting at a bar.

 


nybt_frank_200x314Frank Cisneros
Dram, The Drink, Bourgeois Pig

Bartending since: 2008, professionally. Though I slang some really questionable drinks back in Portland going further back, to 2001. I'd hardly call that bartending, though.

I knew I wanted to work behind a bar when: I picked up a really old copy of William Boothby while I was living in southwestern Washington back in 2002. I had no idea what I had my hands on, but I tried to make as many drinks out of that book as I could out of my home bar. I went on to work at dive bars, mostly DJ-ing and spent about a year helping run a very, very questionable establishment, (both legally and in terms of quality). When I moved to New York and started working in proper restaurants and studying wine and spirits formally, I decided I wanted to be behind the bar professionally, and it had a lot to do with the people around me, like Nick Jarrett, Tom Chadwick and Tonia Guffey, and the bars like Death + Co., PDT and Clover Club, which I thought were, and still are, doing something important. I wanted to be a part of that.

Proudest accomplishment behind the bar: Getting through a busy and chaotic shift. For the past four years I've always worked Fridays and Saturdays, and usually two other shifts throughout the week. The Friday/Saturday shifts tend to be ass-kickers for not much money, but it makes me faster, keeps me sharp and reminds me that I'm human. 

Define the perfect drink: The one in front of you. It's all about what mood you're in and discovering the wine, cocktail, spirit or beer that's going to suit you perfectly right there and then.

I find inspiration in: My fellow industry professionals. I've had the privilege of visiting cocktail bars, dive bars, restaurants and everything in between all over the country and a few jumps abroad. Seeing that there are so many techniques, styles and ingredients out there has inspired me. I believe in technique and doing things accurately, well and efficiently, but one of the greatest lessons I've learned is that there are many right ways, and it's important to share with each other to lift each other up.

Can’t mix drinks without: The basics. I collect a lot of fancy barware, and I love it, but I've bartended events where there was no sink, no ice, no ice scoop. You roll with the punches.

At the end of my shift I pour myself: A beer and a shot—nine times out of 10 it’s Pilsner and Fernet.

Favorite thing about working behind a bar: The fast pace and the camaraderie.

Least favorite thing about working behind a bar: The long hours standing and moving about can be a bit trying on your back and shoulders. That, and customers can sometimes be impatient or frustrating, especially on busy nights, but that's a tale as old as time. It comes with the territory and really isn't that big of a deal when you're doing what you love!

Favorite drink to mix: The one that you want when you want it.

I’d be happy never mixing another: Behind God's Back. That's a little jab at my good friend Jason Litrell who created the most popular drink that we've ever served at Dram! Honestly, it's a great drink and there's no drink out there that I'd NEVER want to make again. I like making them all and revisiting ones I don't like from time to time.

The one thing I wish more people understood about bartending: I'd say recognize the difference between going out to a dive bar and a cocktail bar. Usually we make the same money per hour, but put a lot more work into a drink, so tipping $3 on four Zombies with 12 ingredients each is just kinda shitty—we live off of tips the same way dive bar bartenders do, but due to the complexity of what we do, we make significantly fewer drinks per shift than a typical dive bar tender. And believe me, dive bar bartenders work their asses off, but so do we!

If bartenders had superpowers, mine would be: Is class clown a super power?

The best piece of bartending advice I’ve ever received: Nick Jarret always says, "Work faster, not smarter." Another one of my favorite bartenders once said, "You can't be in the weeds if you just don't care." I'm not saying I necessarily believe either of those two pieces of advice, but I do think they are of some benefit.

If I was a flavor I’d be: Whiskey.

I’d most like to mix a drink for: Stalin or some other terrible dictator. Maybe if someone made them a nice strong one every now and then they would have calmed down!

I’d probably make them: A really good Old Fashioned or classic Daiquiri, depending on their mood—they're calming drinks.

If my bar shifts had a theme song it’d be: “On to the Next One” by Jay-Z.

Desert-island drink: How deserty is this island? If it’s a full-on desert, then water. If not, then a Daiquiri!

If I wasn't bartending: I guess I'd go back to DJ-ing or pursuing my true passion—sitting at home in my underwear playing video games. So I think I have bartending to thank for having such a full life!



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