Every bartender (worth their salt) is a mixologist, but every mixologist is not a bartender. Anyone can study the art of mixing perfect drinks but for the bartender who takes their craft seriously, this is just one element of the equation. As aptly described by Dushan Zaric (Employees Only, Macao Trading Co.) and Aisha Sharpe (Contemporary Cocktails Inc.,) a bartender is equal parts mixologist, sage, and rock star. Integrating personality, salesmanship, wisdom, and technique, a bartender practices the mastery of service.
As I thought about the characteristics which bartenders and rock stars share, I was surprised by the abundance of similarities. Both are experience creators. Both cater to people seeking possibility - the possibility to connect, to disconnect, to have a visceral experience, to meet someone, to have something unexpected happen to them. Both bartender and rock star are front-men and women, artists, and stage performers under a spotlight. Each has their own sense of style, flair, and execution of their craft. Each sets the tone for a room, and people come to interact with them with the purpose of obtaining pleasure by their services. Intriguing, engaging and in control of his/her environment, a great bartender is a true creative pro and undoubtedly a f*cking rockstar.
August 2011′s Rocktail Culture Mixologist of the Month is:
Max Messier, Owner / Bar Chef – Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a new, conceptual bar and restaurant slated to open in Brooklyn, NY in Fall 2011. It will serve the general public of New York City as the first market-driven and handcrafted cocktail emporium and kitchen equipped with a custom-built iPad Beverage Menu system. Under Foxtrot’s roof, we’ll have a bar full of craft distilled spirit selections, eclectic New American and International fusion culinary selections, local and nation craft beer taps, wine on tap and an extensive bottle list, a multitude of seasonal and monthly hand-crafted cocktail menus and signature house-produced collection of syrups, vermouths and bitters.
1. Top five songs spinning on your iPod (or record player!) right now:
1. Holy Ghost – Jam for Jerry
2. Iron Maiden – Wasted Years
3. We Were Promised Jetpacks – Act on Impulse
4. Cold Cave – Confetti
5. Robyn – Call Your Girlfriend
2. Your most “rock-star” maneuver behind the bar:
I have a tendency to light stuff on fire. A bit of a cliché but give me some Chartreuse and fresh herbs or a citrus peel plus an open flame and it’s on like Donkey Kong
3. The cocktail or spirit that best describes your personality:
Campari – a bit gruff on the first sip and then so goddamn bright and refreshing at the finish.
4. Best music to close up to after last call:
It’s a toss up between the beautiful decay of Salem versus the smooth and subtle voice of Mr. Conway Twitty.
5. Bizarre, unexpected, surprisingly delicious cocktail recipe:
Mr. Disco – Sage Tea-infused silver rum, my own Pineapple Paradise Syrup with honeysuckle, pink peppercorns and cardamom and my Pineapple of My Eye Bitters
6. Best concert you have seen in the last 5 years:
I have two amazing shows – Robyn at The House of Blues in Cleveland (February 2nd, 2011) and VNV Nation at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco (March 16th, 2010). A grown man shouldn’t shed that many tears during a two-hour concert.
7. Favorite drinking song(s):
My whisk(e)y and me love to sing the songs of The National, The Smiths, The Cure, Tegan and Sara and of course – Mr. Conway Twitty.
8. Imagine you are in a band: what are you called and what do you sound like?
The Family Secrets – We are an electro-future-pop/doom metal/math rock/industrial country western band.
9. If you could have a conversation across the stick with any rock star (alive or dead) who would it be, and what one question would you ask him/her?
The rock stars would be Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe and I would ask ‘em how has it been possible for each of them to stay together for the past 30 years as Pet Shop Boys.
10. Choose a band or song and create a signature “Rocktail” for our readers! Include drink name, recipe, preparation and glassware.
Guns of Brixton
Chinese Gunpowder Iced Tea, Willet Pot Still Reserve Bourbon, Campari and Demerara Syrup with a lemon twist.
Brew tea and settle to room temperature. 2 oz Iced Tea, 1.5 oz Willet Pot Still Reserve Bourbon (or Jim Beam Black Label), .25 oz Campari and .25 oz Demerara Syrup (1 part hot water & 2 parts turbinado sugar)
Shake and strain over ice into an old-fashioned tumbler. A single lemon peel twisted for a fly-by over glass and then slotted into the drink. We have cocktail magic!