eenly aware of mixology’s impact on pop culture for the last two decades, actors, rock stars and other celebrities have gotten into the mixology world through the power of celebrity branding. By now, we all know Sean “P-Diddy” Combs, Sammy Hagar and Willie Nelson are among the entertainers who put their name on or endorsed spirits with varying levels of success, using their personas and lifestyles as selling points. The rub, however, is that consumers have become so sophisticated about their spirits of choice that a celebrity name is not necessarily going to clear bottles off the bar shelves. This has given way to “bar chefs” as an alternative moniker to “mixologists” and “bartenders,” as they are bringing aspects of the chef’s playbook to their game plan. It is also leading to nationally recognized “celebrity” chefs putting their money and reputations on the line and the bartop.
these ideas don’t necessarily work in everyday working life bars. Start with fresh ingredients along with your premium spirits, because if you have those, you are one up on your competition.” “If you are a chef, always share with your lead mixologist things that you’re planning to bring into your seasonal food menu,” adds Casey. “You also need to be on the same page about ingredients that will make for accessible, appealing and well-balanced cocktails with great flavor. As I am a technique lover, the exchange of ideas can be a great opportunity for both chefs and mixologists to refine their techniques. Picking the best ideas comes down to tasting things before you introduce them into the menus. Chefs on a regular basis do tastings of their dishes with the staff before adding them to a menu, and that also needs to happen with a bar.”
The Great Recipe Swap “There’s a lot of synergy between the mixologist and the chef, not only with our tools but also the ingredients,” observes Bridget Albert, a master mixologist representing Southern Wine and Spirits, whose acclaimed recipe book Market-Fresh Mixology has been praised for its culinary approach to cocktail crafting. “A mixologist, like a chef, is only as good as his or her ingredients,” says Albert, based near Chicago. “There is a lot of great learning going on between chefs and mixologists, as well as deepening relationships and mutual respect for each other. When I started out 20 yeas ago, the only time I would see the chef (at a venue I worked at) was at the end of a very long shift. The chef would give me a leftover burger, and I would give him a shot of whiskey. Today, I am seeing chefs and mixologists coming together and making decisions about what kinds of produce they are going to order from their purveyors. This results in bar menus that reflect what’s on the venue’s food menu.” While “reality T V” entertainment may be showing its age, one thing that will remain timeless are cooking shows and cooking showmanship, from how-to formats to game showy competitions to makeover shows like Spike T V’s Bar Rescue, where restaurants overhaul their business and menu models. Chefs and mixologists are observing that by adopting each other’s approaches, they’re better adept at keeping customer interest. Albert, as well as Seattle-based chef Kathy Casey (the mind behind the revolutionary Liquid Chef consulting business) can’t stress that restraint and approachability are also parts of the equation even with lines blurring between food and drink (evidenced, among other things, with the popularity of foam-topped and bacon accented cocktails). “You have to consider what’s practical,” advises Albert. “While mixologists these days are coming up with cool, interesting, sexy ideas for specific events, www.barbizmag.com
Latin Heat New York City-based chefs Alex Garcia and Richard Sandoval are prime examples of nationally-recognized chef/restaurateurs who have extended their signature styles and techniques to their restaurants’ bars…and beyond. Not content to just influence drink recipes alone, they have applied their culinary craft to develop spirits meant to be enjoyed not just solely in a highball glass, but in a variety of food dishes, too. Chef/Restaurateur Richard Sandoval (whose resume includes Zengo in New York City and Santa Monica, CA, and Maya and Pampano in New York City) has partnered with the distillery behind Herradura Tequila to create custom barrels of tequila since 2012. Like the finest wines and champagnes, Sandoval’s Herradura bottles are stored in special lockers and served in luxury formats, either in tasting flights or by the bottle. December 2014 Bar Business Magazine