….concluding Real Talk – The Bartender Series, with the final installment – part 7
THD: Do you guys feel indebted to the beer industry for advancing the cocktails from the craft beers?
CHRISTIAN: I do, absolutely..
SHANE: I love what’s going on with beer, and I love living in Michigan for that reason. We have some of the best breweries, and you can quote me on that. We do have the best breweries in the country. I absolutely love the craft industry and I think people are so excited about craft beer, especially in Michigan, that that is leading to them being excited for craft cocktails and craft spirits.
CHRISTIAN: I feel like where we’re at where, spirits and cocktail-wise, is probably where the craft beer industry was like 15, maybe 20 years, you know, like we’re sort of at the forefront right now. It’s really exciting.
SHANE: There’s a new bar every single day popping up that is doing the same style that we do here, and then there’s also–there’s festivals. Tales of the Cocktail, comes to mind immediately.
YANI: Bigger and bigger every year.
SHANE: They’ve been doing this cocktail festival where they do it in New Orleans and it’s, you know, they get spirit companies to come and to bring stuff and to showcase new stuff, and it’s for, you know, it’s open to the public. You can go, you can take seminars, you can learn all about that sort of thing. But you can also go and drink.
ADRIANNE : Work like a dog and drink well.
SHANE: Work like a dog. Yes, I do apprentice work.
CHRISTIAN: What I think is fascinating is this almost goes back to the beer thing. I was at a classical old man bar, and they had like 20 taps of all microbrew, and I think ultimately where this is going to go is you can go into a dive bar and you may not get a crazy craft cocktail but you can get a well-made Martini, a well-made Manhattan. I think that’s just where it’s going to trend.
THD: Do we expect our craft cocktail bartenders to have the same kind of knowledge then about the beers they serve?
SHANE: Absolutely. I think if you–again, it goes back to knowing your menu.
SHANE: You should be educated on every single product that you’re putting out. If–whether you have beer, wine, spirits, food, you should be able to talk about–and talk about intelligently–every single item that you’re putting on the table.
SHANE: I think one of my favorite things, kind of talking about old man bars with microbrews, I love going into, like, an old man bar that has been there forever that just hasn’t changed–
CHRISTIAN: Those are great, dude.
SHANE: And it’s so good because it’s like you walk in and you’re like, “Oh, my god, you have Campari and you have this and you have that and you have this and you have that,” and you have a box of pickled eggs on the bar.
CHRISTIAN: And that bottle of Galliano that has not been touched since 1979.
SHANE: Right. And you go in and you ask the bartender which is like some like, just, you know, ancient human that just says, like, you know, “Can I have an Old Fashioned?” They’re like, “Would you like that muddled?” And you’re like, “How do you know?” Like, they have fresh fruit and it’s like–because they were doing it when that was the thing.
CHRISTIAN: They were doing it before it was cool.
SHANE: And they just never stopped. They were just these old schooled bartenders. And I think that’s kind of more the style that I think all four of us can say we’re trying to, you know–
ADRIANNE : We adapted to it.
SHANE: Well, not adapt it, but I think, memorialized, I guess, and, like, keep alive the drink.
The Next Wave
THD: What’s the next wave?
ADRIANNE : What’s the next wave?
THD: Call it right now, what’s the next thing to happen?
ADRIANNE : In the industry?
THD: Yeah. Like, we went from like craft–we went from like Bud Light and Miller Lite, and we had those great commercials of High Life and Genuine Draft to moving into, like, a craft beer kind of trades, summer beer festivals and this and that. And then we’re moving into the craft cocktails and all the bartenders have–well, not all of them, but–have the beards and the checkered shirts and…
YANI: Not to say that Europe’s ahead of us but a lot of trends that are happening in Europe have eventually found its way here and I think that a lot of the places in Europe are either doing, you know, over the top, high end, like more unfathomable then any place in the U.S. could have, you know.
SHANE: The most expensive cocktail in the world.
YANI: Just top of the line. The number one cocktail bar on the continent–in London is like the–you know, they have, like, a really nice marble bar, and it’s just really nice. Or it’s going to be in that same retrospective but in the style–the scene of it being kind of like more futuristic, like, everything’s going to be very, kind of cold, lit up, neon lights and stuff and it’s going to have the same concept of having craft drinks but it’s just going to be–it’s going to be expected. There will be a new expectation. So instead of being able to, you know, when I wanted a Manhattan I expected bourbon with, you know, some ridiculous vermouth and then called it a day. I am–people are going to expect bitters and vermouth and rye whiskey and all these things as opposed to Knots (phonetic) any more.
ADRIANNE : Okay. I’ll answer that question then. Everybody’s grandma is going to know exactly what Mezcal is. Mezcal, that’s it.
YANI: That sounds so good.
ADRIANNE : I want everybody in the world to know what Mezcal is.
YANI: No one knows what Mezcal is.
ADRIANNE : Nobody knows what it is. It’s my favorite thing ever. It is!
YANI: I love it. It’s smoky and delicious.
SHANE: See, and I think, for me, like, in my head of like what the next big thing–the next big cocktail movement is, I think it’s–it’s gotten to a point now where everybody is doing Infusions and everybody’s doing this and that. I think what it’s going to be is more of a Daiquiri, doing a Daiquiri properly. I think that’s kind of the next trend, for not just craft cocktail bars, but bars in general, making it a standard. Like knowing what goes in an Old Fashioned at, you know, the dive bar down the road, at your corner bar, and being able to walk in and go, “I can order this and I know what that means.” Understanding terms, you know, knowing the difference between, you know, a fix and a fizz and things like that. Really coming down to it for the bartender’s aspect, I think that’s kind of where it’s going. I think people are intimidated more and more and more by what we do and it’s not that–it shouldn’t be intimidating, they should just open their mind.
THD: Christian, what about you?
CHRISTIAN: That’s similar to where I was going. I just think–I think there’s going to be more bars–I think you can go into almost any bar in a few years and you’ll find just–the selection is going to grow. Options are going to grow. It’s going to be–
CHRISTIAN: I mean, it used to just be–yeah, Jim and Jack, a few whiskey’s, maybe Crown, you know, Absolut, you know. The bar I used to work at now has Fernet behind the bar for fuck sake. When I was working there, Maraschino was thought to be the juice in the cherry jar. And I think distilling is going to get bigger, like micro-distilling.
SHANE: I think places will–the new trend will be that you could walk into any bar and get a well-prepared drink, and I think it’s–
YANI: Yeah. I think that’s kind of all our drinks, though.
SHANE: I think it’s happening.
CHRISTIAN: I mean, we have our weird experimental menu, but our every day menu is just classics because it’s…
YANI: And our menu right here, we have a hundred classic drinks.
CHRISTIAN: Because it’s like 98 percent of people have not had a properly made Manhattan and it blows their mind, you know what I mean? It’s just–
SHANE: I get that all the time. “This is the best Old Fashioned I’ve ever had” and you’re like, “Well, it’s just an Old Fashioned.”
CHRISTIAN: But it’s–but those classics are classics for a reason.
YANI: Well, even–when I first–when I started drinking, I loved Manhattans, and I mean, I knew what I thought a Manhattan was because I read my mom’s 1980’s “Mr. Boston.”
SHANE: “Mr. Boston.”
YANI: “Mr. Boston,” black and white book or whatever, no, it might have had a car on it, I don’t remember. But it’s just a shitty “Mr. Boston’s” book, and it was, you know, for sweet vermouth and bourbon, of course, and I like Jack Daniels because I was a kid and that’s what–that was the cool thing to drink and that’s what I had, and I started being able to tweak my own Manhattan and have a certain expectation for it and then go into other places and see that they’re not even using–
SHANE: Talk about personal touches.
YANI: –I got no bitters. Like where’s the Angostura, you don’t–you’re going to–I’m going to ask for a Manhattan, and you say you can make one, wonderful, and then you’re not going to put Ango in it, like, that’s ridiculous.
CHRISTIAN: The generation we’re at, though, from before was like–it wasn’t a big deal, you know. Like, dude, when I got taught the Manhattan, I don’t know, throw that shit in there, that shit in there. There’s that weird bottle with the white paper, I don’t know, I throw it in the tin and shake the shit out of it. Like, that’s how you were trained, man.
SHANE: See, I think people are more and more are moving out of bottled mixed shit. People want fresh. I think more…
YANI: All the organic, USDA stuff.
SHANE: Right now, exactly, it’s organic. “Oh, is there sugar in it?” you know.
SHANE: Like, all this sort of thing where I think people are becoming more aware of what they’re consuming.
YANI: That leads to prior knowledge, though, and what people expect to drink, you know.
YANI: If someone knows, well, I expect my nice Manhattan to have this in it or my Old Fashioned to have this in it. They know what’s in it, they’re going to expect certain things in it only purely on they know what everything else that they put into their bodies are, and that it’s the whole health conscious forward.
CHRISTIAN: Yeah. Even–it’s just a simple matter of quality, man. Like, I have people who order a whiskey sour with actual fresh lemon juice and it blows their fucking mind, you know what I mean?
SHANE: I just got that question the other day actually, “Do you make your own sour mix?”
CHRISTIAN: Yeah. “Does your sour mix have high fructose corn syrup?” “I don’t have sour mix, man.”
SHANE: And, yeah, he’d be like, “Dude, do you make your own sour mix?” And I go, “Yeah, lemon and lime juice.”
ADRIANNE : I used to use egg white, lemon and lime juice and a little bit of sugar.
YANI: That’s definitely different than making your own sweet and sour mix by opening a packet of powder and adding some water to it.
ADRIANNE : Yeah. Yeah. Nobody does that, though.
SHANE: People do that. No, they do!
CHRISTIAN: That happens, yeah.
ADRIANNE : Yeah, wow.
SHANE: I love that pre-built in pour spout bottle. I wish more bottles have them.
On Women in the Industry
ADRIANNE : I like being a woman in the industry and having men walking up to me and asking me if I know how to make a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned.
YANI: “Can you make a Manhattan?”
ADRIANNE : And I’m like, “Yeah, no, I never heard of those things before.”
YANI: “I’m just a girl.”
ADRIANNE : “What’s that?”
ADRIANNE : Do you know, it happens to me every day, it never fails, the man that wants an Old Fashioned or Manhattan walks into the bar and he’s like, “Do you know how to make one?” And I was like–
YANI: “ No.”
ADRIANNE : Always. Always. Every day.
YANI: It’s funny that you say that because that is the reason why, when I started bartending to avoid it, because I felt that I was being overpowered by all these sexy women with big boobs opening beers and getting bigger tips. And I’m like, well, how–I can’t open beers better than these hot chicks, how am I going to make money.
ADRIANNE : Yeah.
YANI: Well, let’s open a book and try to read some more and maybe I’ll know some stuff and that’s–that was my whole motivation, which is the exact opposite of your motivation, which is kind of funny.
ADRIANNE : It is funny.
ADRIANNE : Craft cocktails are definitely dominated by men, more than women.
The interviews in this series were conducted by VATO. The panelists include Yani M. Frye, of The Sugar House, Detroit, MI, Adrianne Martin, Beverage Director of Bigalora Royal Oak, MI and Southfield, MI, Shane Bang, of The Oakland Art Novelty Company in Ferndale, MI, and Christian Hetter, of The Berkshire Room in Chicago, IL.
In 2014, Shane was named as one of the “America’s 25 Best Bartenders” by The Daily Meal. In 2013, he was selected by Eater Detroit as the Bartender of the Year. Also, in 2013, Shane won the regional competition for the GQ Magazine / Bombay Sapphire’s Most Imaginative Bartender contest in Las Vegas, NV. For this event, GQ Magazine featured Shane in Season 1 of their America’s Bartender series. Shane is currently the President of the Greater Detroit chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild (USBG).
In 2013, Yani was the top winner of the Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge, and went on to represent the United States in the Global Cocktail contest in Trinidad.
Christian Hetter, was formerly from The Ravens Club in Ann Arbor, MI (at the time of the interview) and Balena in Chicago, IL.
We hoped that you enjoyed Real Talk – The Bartender Series, and appreciate your feedback. Make sure to check out the final part of Real Talk – The Chef Series on Thursday. As always, please don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.