The bartender at Employees Only, on Prohibition, bourbon, and airport bars.
510 Hudson Street, New York
What are we going to drink today?
I’m going to make a new one, called a High-Octane Fix.
What makes it high-octane?
It’s got a good kick to it, but it’s got a little hint of a smoky scotch, Laphroaig, which makes it kind of exhaust-y.
It seems like you’ve got sort of a speakeasy vibe in here.
That was the inspiration, but we’re not trying to be stuck in the past. It’s kind of nostalgia but with a wink. There are certainly those places that want to preserve that Prohibition-era feel, but here we wanted an update for a modern palate. But at the same time, every year we have an end-of-Prohibition party.
Where you all celebrate legal drinking?
We celebrate the legalization of our favorite vice. So there’s a procession, a band, and a show, and we make a coffin-shaped cake to celebrate the death of Prohibition.
Do a lot of people come here on dates? Can you tell?
Often, it seems like one person knows this bar, and brought the other person here. The guy might say to the girl, "You should try this strawberry drink," or "Give us two Amelías," because they know it’s a good drink that everybody likes. When that happens, I’m pretty sure it’s a date.
What kind of drink would you recommend a gentleman buy for a lovely lady?
The Amelía is the most popular drink here. It’s vodka, blackberry, elderflower, and a little lemon. That's a winner — both men and women drink them. Champagne is always a great choice, in cocktails or on its own. Now that we’re getting into the fall, it’s a great time to drink champagne.
As a bartender, what do you normally drink?
I do bourbon. I’ll drink an old-fashioned or a Manhattan, if I’m going to have a cocktail. But I'll only get those from a bar that I know makes good drinks, because there’s a lot of variation in people’s skills and also what they think it should taste like. If you’re in an airport bar and you order a Manhattan, you’re going to get a watered-down, shaken drink, with a cherry that’s been sitting in a jar since the Ford administration.
Do you ever get the urge to just crack open a PBR?
I wouldn’t call it an urge, but I sometimes take that opportunity. There’s a lot of great beer out there. But again, I only drink draft beer at a place where I know the drafts. There are a lot of filthy draft lines out there.
The High-Octane Fix
1.25 oz Zapaca 23
1.25 oz Carpano Anctica vermouth
.75 oz Grand Marnier
.5 oz Laphroaig whisky
Dash of Bitterman’s chocolate bitters