If you have ever been to the dentist’s office, you have no doubt seen a copy of the magazine “Highlights for Children“. Their mission statement is “fun with a purpose”, I have adopted that mission as my own. My purpose is to inspire people to think about what they are drinking while having fun and not preaching. I believe that drinking is important and that the attitude towards spirits and cocktails is changing. I support this shift and hope that people will seek a deeper understanding of spirits and consider the role that alcohol plays in everyday life.
Before you dismiss me as a snob, or cocktail geek please read on. I don’t consider myself a “mixologist”, nor have I deemed myself with any other ridiculous moniker. I am simply a guy who is fortunate enough to make a living doing something I love. I love the abundance and variety of quality spirits the world has to offer as well as the skilled people that can craft those spirits into a memorable experience. I don’t believe in telling people what they should drink, I am just a guide that can help people find something new should they crave it.
Drinking is bad for your health. It undoubtedly can have an adverse effect on the ability to live a full life. I am in no way trying to glamorize it, make it fashionable or encourage drinking to excess. I’ll leave that to reality television and rap videos. However I recognize that there are positive values of alcohol. It can be an escape, a social lubricant, and a means of relaxation when used responsibly. There is a civilized way to enjoy spirits and I am a proponent of sophistication and responsibility.
At the end of the day I hope that you will read my posts, that I entertain you and possibly spur some thoughts and conversations that have a meaningful impact on how you choose to drink.
Oh….You’re still reading?
You must be looking for a full bio. Okay, you asked for it.
I have been described as a liquor snob which is fair and also not. I enjoy fine spirits but I am not so high brow that I won’t drink a Jack and Coke or have a shot Jågermeister. What I will thumbs down in a hurry is liquor that is made cheaply, advertised heavily, and sold as “premium” merely because of the ad campaign. Admittedly there is a lot of money to be made in the spirits profession however there are some spirits that are crafted from passion and tradition while others merely exist to pick your pocket.
I am not one to judge anyone on their tastes or preferences and that is not what my writings are about. I am only here to try and open the doors to a world you may not know exsists.
I began bartending in college because I needed to make a full time income on a part time schedule in order to balance my finances and studies. I didn’t know much about bartending, but I knew a little (or so I thought) about drinking. Before I was 21 I was infatuated with drinking cocktails like margaritas and yes…long island iced teas. At parties I was the guy bringing several bottles and mixing things. That lead me to spirits. When I finally was 21 I was overwhelmed by the selection at the liquor store (which is actually small in Washington state) and started to try different vodkas, rums and gins. Since I was able to legally go to bars, I would visit a friend of mine downtown and watch him work. This was the first time I had a mojito with real lime juice and had seen a caiprihña. I would watch him work and taught myself how to make all of the drinks he was making. One busy summer day while I was manning the paint store I managed by myself a person I helped asked me if I had another job. Perplexed I said no, but he asked if I had ever considered bartending. I found this to be a strange coincidence but decided that I had to take a chance. I was terrified to leave behind a salary and throw my livelihood to the gratuity of my guests but I had little choice if I wanted to continue attending college full time. He offered me a job as a back up bartender at his restaurant but it never worked out.
I decided that I was going to shop my resume around and see if I could get my foot in the door somewhere. While in the first semester of my junior year I befriended a classmate who worked at a restaurant that was looking for a bartender. It was at a steakhouse called “The Keg”, a chain from Canada that had several northwest locations. The general manager took a chance on me despite my lack of experience. My first mentor was Jeffrey Cormier. On day one he had me read (and clean) every bottle on the shelves, make sure that drinks had coasters under them, and that no ashtray ever had more than 3 cigarette butts in it. Not as glorious as I was expecting but I was happy to have a job making good cocktails. The Keg bar programs juice to order and have great bars. I learned so much here that I still use behind the bar everyday, but the thing that makes me who I am is that Jeff had limited movement on the left side of his body because he had suffered a stroke. But he was still faster than all the other bartenders! I figured that if he was that fast with one good arm, I should be able to do some great things with two. I learned the drinks and became part of the team quickly. Within my first year I was nominated as one of the best bartenders in the company. I didn’t win, but I was incredibly honored to even be nominated.
As I continued to work at The Keg I kept waiting for an opportunity to work in downtown Seattle. I wanted to challenge myself to be even faster and learn more about cocktails. That opportunity came when my friend who had got me into bartending in the first place, Stan Schmidt became the bar manager at the Bada Lounge. Bada was one of the busiest places in Seattle and was making specialty cocktails at a high volume pace. The program was built by Robb Sheldon and Ryan Magarian was part of the original team. He offered me some barbacking shifts and despite already bartending I jumped at them. I wanted to see how clubs work and I recognized that what they did was special. I soon had a bartending shift and then became a full fledged bartender when one of the guys was injured. For working part time, I was doing alright for myself.
The day soon came when I graduated college. When I had first started my collegiate path I wanted to become a doctor. When I realized that path was a poor financial investment, I opted to study business and graduated with a BA in Business Administration. I had some great financial jobs to consider, but I had learned a few things about myself. One of those was that I wasn’t a morning person. But more importantly I learned that I wasn’t afraid to take some chances and create my own way. The owner of Bada decided to remodel and become a restaurant and I decided that I needed a new challenge for myself. After helping open Umi Sake House, I decided to move to Los Angeles to seek more opportunity and escape the greyness!
Since moving to LA, I have continued to hone my craft. Despite numerous accolades and achievements I remain humble and seek opportunities to learn often. After having several “shitty” jobs I am so happy to have a job which my boss appreciates my skill set. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I moved here but I am happy to see how much the cocktail scene has progressed in the last six years and excited to further contribute to it’s growth over the next five.
My journey as a bartender has taught me so much that I am so thankful for. I feel that what started as a job enabled me to learn much about myself and others. I created this site so that I can share with you my love of spirits and cocktails in hopes that you will see what I see. I assure you that I am not a fool nor drunkard and hope that my writing will prove it in the event that you believe the stereotypes of what a bartender should be. Thank you for reading, please comment or send questions!