A lot of people start off in the hospitality industry as a way to make money quickly to pay for school or simply as a first time gig. For me it was a little different, I got my start as a busboy in an Italian restaurant on Hempstead Turnpike in Levittown, NY. The person who found me the position was my father. His idea was to help me understand the value of hard work, and appreciate making wages for my time. I would save a little, put it away for college and leave the restaurant industry behind. Only that wasn’t the case. I loved it. I caught the bug.
Many years passed from that summer when I was 16, and I was starting to build a respectable resume, I found myself working in a hotel, then trailing behind the bar, learning from sommeliers, bartenders, food and beverage directors and executive chefs. I started to buy books of cuisine, dictionaries on food terms and cooking methods. In a way I was getting paid to be taught. After I left the hotel I found myself at a few smaller mom and pop locations and finally got the chance to jump behind the stick, at this point in my young career the only thing I had known to make was an occasional half-assed shaken martini for my dad. So I went back to school again, this time it was in the form of paper backs and youtube videos. The bars back then had the old Boston Bartenders guide, they had ill made v-shaped jiggers and plenty of roses lime juice. The first cocktail I tried to master was the Cosmopolitan, and from there it was mostly fiddling around with the idea of infusions, citron vodkas and specialty liquors, it was a time where it was easier to make a random-tini drink than to sit down and research a sazerac. At one point my crowning achievement was a tirimisu martini. I must have been around 23.
Let’s fast forward to playing mad scientist. Molecular Mixology was pretty damn hot at the time. Everyone was getting beakers and graduated cylinders and Ferran Adria’s instructions were gospel. You can imagine I climbed on that band wagon very quickly. The alchemical approach really resonated with my love for all things science. For a time I went under the pen name of Ask Me Mixology. The problem I was faced with is wanting to build a rocket ship before I could light a fire. Focusing on perfect cranberry carviar in retrospect wasn’t as important as how to make gomme syrup, or how the white bitter pith can affect a drink. Although from time to time it does come in handy to have a little calcium chloride and sodium algenate at your disposal.
As I mentioned before, I wasn’t too lucky back then to have mentors or much guidance when it came to working on drinks. The internet was the best resource I had, and much of it was trial and error. First I started looking for ways on making foams, how to use an iSi Whipper and the merits of NO2. Which brings me to Jaime Boudreau, he was the first bartender I found making videos of some amazing cocktails. He had brief tutorials on garnishing, prepping cocktails, keeping drinks cold. Stirred vs. Shaken. That old familiar bug caught me again. I searched more and more and came across Robert Hess, a drink historian with some serious cred under his belt. The history of American cocktails is not an overnight thing to say the least. As I kept working on my self educations I found Charlotte Voisey’s clever cocktails using scotch and gin in ways I wouldn’t think, which finally brought me to probably my biggest influence, Jeffery Morgenthaler. I finally had all these tutors and guides on how to really make great drinks. I shifted my focus on accuracy, about diligent research, and most importantly; humility.
Which brings us to today. I am still searching for my voice and a way to branch out. Make a name for myself and learn as much as I can. This site is dedicated to that search. I do hope I don’t bore you too much about history or science. So grab your favorite drink and follow me on this journey. Cheers!