The drink we have on today's, Follow The Liter, is called the Naughty Dog and it is a play on the Colorado Bulldog, which is essentially a White Russian with cola. This one uses aged rum instead of vodka and Root Beer in lieu of cola. The result is an easy to make creamy cocktail that fills the gap between a Cuba Libre and a Root Beer Float.
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The Kentucky Buck is an original recipe of mine that has kind of become my signature cocktail. Although, I first came up with it back during my Bourbon & Branch days in San Francisco, it has followed me around from bar to bar ever since, and I am proud to say that it has been featured on cocktail menus all around the world.
Given the amount of respect that I have for Imbibe Magazine this award truly does mean a lot to me. This honor would not have been possible without our incredible staff. Their hard work and efforts are what make the place what it is, and I cannot thank them enough.
Would you dial up a plumber to come out to your house and clear your drains for free? How about if you told him, if he did it on the house it would look great on his resume and would be good for networking?
Do you think your dentist would feel guilty for declining to come out and clean your circle of friends’ teeth free of charge for three hours on her day off? Of course not, that is her line of work and it is how she provides for herself and her family.
Why then, are craft bartenders continually asked to offer their professional services and years of experience for no compensation? Is it that we are not valued by the very industry that we help fuel? Or is it because we do not yet truly value ourselves? I hate to admit it, but I think it is the latter, every bit as much as the former.
Think about the last big liquor event you went to: think about the delicious food, the gorgeous decorations and the beautiful venue. Now while, the staff taking out the food got paid for their work and everyone from the cleaning crew to the audio/video team got paid for their work. There is a really good chance that the “mixologists” got paid zero dollars for theirs.
This is in addition to the fact that the bartender, their likeness and their recipes were most likely co-opted by the marketing behind the event. Explained in the most basic of terms, this seems completely foolish.
In many ways, the craft cocktail world is still like the Wild West. Given that the cocktail resurgence is still relatively new in many parts of the country, this makes complete sense.
There is not a lot of precedence for much of the growth that has occurred over these last few years, so naturally a standardized and fair pay rate has not yet evolved. This is a shame, because it is long overdue.
This is in no way a tirade against the brands who throw these events, because they are simply paying us what we think we are worth. Let me repeat that, they are simply paying us what we think we are worth.
Did you ever notice that one bartender will get paid for $1,000 for working a two-hour party, while another bartender works a six-hour party and gets paid nothing. Yet both bartenders will be similarly accomplished with nearly identical resumes.
Granted at times, these events are for charity or non-profit, in which our time is donated in lieu of cash, these events are both welcome and beneficial to the community. However, this is not alwyas the case.
What I am suggesting is that craft bartenders, as a trade come together and hold ourselves to something more resembling an equitable pay rate.
This should not be controversial, because there is nothing controversial about fair pay for honest work.
All I am suggesting is that if an event organizer can come up with $8,000 to rent a venue and supply attendees with cocktails & food, that same organizer can come up with a few hundred dollars to pay the bartenders providing the drinks.
I recently got an email from a bar owner who had fallen in love with craft cocktails as of late, and was wondering how his bar could take a small step into improving the quality of the drinks they serve.
While many bartenders get questions of this nature all the time, what made this email so refreshing was that the writer of this email had no misconceptions of what he wanted.
He understood that craft cocktail bars are extremely difficult to manage and run, and is not even considering going that route. He isn't looking for a fancy $15,000 ice machine or self-satisfied bartenders with adorable little vests and suspenders, all he wants is something simple that he can do to improve the guest experience.
In the distant past, I would have told him he was being unreasonable and that you can't take away just one component from the whole and still expect an improvement, but these days I have grown far more pragmatic on making small gains whenever possible.
With that said, to the bar owner or any other aspiring bar manager out there that is looking to make better drinks, I am not offering you any new advice.
I am not going to advocate some exotic cocktail shake from Japan or advise you to only stir drinks on crystal clear diamond-cut ice cubes. Nope, my suggestion is much simpler and accessible than that. If you want to improve the flavor of your most commonly sold drinks from front to back, the bare minimum you need to be taken seriously is fresh juice.
Now, before anyone takes issue with this, I do not mean that your bar needs to be hand-squeezing a la minute like many of the country's best bars, all that would be required is homemade sour mix. The pre-made bottled stuff is most often a disgusting mixture of high-fructose corn syrup and yellow #5, which makes it over-priced regardless of what you paid for it.
Homemade sour mix on the other hand is extremely easy to make, will make your drinks taste delicious, and discounting labor, is very inexpensive throughout the year. With that in mind go ahead and scrap the shelf-stable bottled stuff for good and your bar will be better off because of it.
Regardless or whether or not, you are just making Margaritas and Kamikazes, homemade sour mix will make your drinks taste infinitely better and do so without much of a commitment and at only a minimal cost.
Homemade Sour Mix 1 part Water 1 part Sugar 1 part Lemon Juice 1 part Lime Juice
1. Juice and strain the lemons and limes.
2. Stir in water and sugar until all the sugar is dissolved.
3. Store in the fridge in tightly sealed container. Lasts up to a week, but for best results try and use it within 3 days.