The bartender at Salinas on Negroni, foodies, and setting the bar on fire.
Orson, Drink consultant
136 9th Ave, New York
What exactly is a drink consultant?
I take care of the cocktail menu at Salinas and make sure everything works together for the whole place. The lighting, the music, the neighborhood — we take everything into account.
So, what's this drink?
This is the Cucumbertini. They changed the name. I'm actually happy about that. This cocktail is a baby-cilantro-infused gin. Also, it has cucumbers, which are a new, more modern thing. We have a sour mix with agave nectar and lime juice. And also some White Lillet. The rim is Himalayan salt with fennel seeds and star anise.
God. That’s a lot for such a simple-tasting drink.
My goal with any cocktail is to make something clean and balanced. Something where you can identify all the flavors. Nothing overpowering.
You've put so much thought into these drinks. Is it disappointing when people come in and don't really care about the craft, but just want to get bombed?
You know, people enjoy alcohol in different ways. But this is my job, so it has to be an experience. I want people to have a good time and enjoy the place and like the cocktail, especially in taste. So I prefer when people aren't just trying to get drunk. It's like when you eat too much and just get sick.
If you were bartending and there were a pretty girl and a guy wanted to send her a drink —
Of course I would do it!
But what would you send?
You know something amazing? Fifty percent of bartending is knowing how to guess. Every night, before someone talks to you, you guess what they're going to have. So you get used to knowing what people will like. It depends on the age, it depends on the dress, it depends on the face, mood…
Okay, so if some enterprising young gentleman was trying to send me a drink?
For you? Something fruity, bubbly, fizzy. Something pretty.
Maybe something with fresh strawberries, vodka, fresh fennel, a top of champagne.
What if I wanted to buy you a drink?
Maybe like an Old Fashioned, a Sazerac, or a Negroni.
All bartenders say that!
I love a Negroni. I love gin, I love aperitifs, I love aftertaste. It's not an easy drink. It's not a beginner's drink. It's a drink you really have to be into. It's not for every palate, but it's very popular in the bartender industry because it's a very fun cocktail.
I've been hearing that a big trend is the old cocktails coming back, like The Corpse Reviver —
Yes, it's true. I think history is important for any career. The beginning was so amazing. When people start learning about those spirits, they want to know everything about them. It's like food. Everyone is a foodie. I told my nephew, who's eight-years old, "We're going to go have sushi." And he says, "Okay, I want to go to Morimoto." Everybody is a foodie.
Last question: what drink would you make to impress a lady?
You know what? More than the drinks, is the way you move, the whole performance. The way you use your tools, the way you present it. It's a style. And yes, I can set the bar on fire.
2 oz. baby-cilantro-infused gin
1 oz. sour mix (agave and fresh lime juice)
1 oz. White Lillet
2 slices fresh English cucumber
Muddle the cucumber, then add the gin, Lillet, and sour mix. Add ice and shake for ten seconds, strain into chilled martini glass, and garnish with cucumber.