Simon Majumdar Interviews Legendary Bartender & Author of "I'm Just Here For The Drinks,"

Sother Teague

Listen Now

Digital-Patreon-Logo_Black.png
Sother Teague Interview Notes

In this episode of Eat My Globe, our host, Simon Majumdar, interviews Sother Teague, legendary mixologist and author of the terrific book, “I’m Just Here for the Drinks.” Along the way, Simon challenges Sother to name five people from bar history who may have contributed to food history in a way we might not have thought of. It’s a wide-ranging discussion and there are some fun arguments. So don’t miss this episode of Eat My Globe.

Share This Page on Social Media

TRANSCRIPT

EAT MY GLOBE: THINGS YOU DIDN'T KNOW YOU DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT FOOD

Simon Majumdar Interviews Author of "I'm Just Here For the Drinks" and Legendary Bartender:

SOTHER TEAGUE

INTRO MUSIC

 

SIMON MAJUMDAR (SM):

Hi everybody. Simon Majumdar here. Welcome to a brand-new episode of Eat My Globe. A podcast about things you didn't know you didn't know about food. And on this very special episode, I am very pleased to welcome a guest.

 

Let me tell you a story about how I first met this guest. I'm not sure if he even, he remembers how this happened. But we were at a fascinating event that used to be held – or still is held when we can get out and about anyway – in New Orleans. And at one event, we were following a street party following – I think it was a Sherry event or a Port event, I can't remember – and I got a tap on the shoulder from someone who told me we had a mutual acquaintance, a  Mr. Alton Brown. And we started chatting and it turned out that this was one of the most interesting people in the drinks industry. We've kept in touch ever since. Particularly in 2018, when he published a really, really terrific book called, “I'm Just Here for the Drinks: A Guide to Spirits, Drinking, and More Than 100 Extraordinary Cocktails.” I've got it in front of me. It's a really, really wonderful book, very rarely far from me when I am making a drink. It really is a terrific book. You need to go out and find it. So it is my real pleasure to introduce to Eat My Globe my special guest today, Mr. Sother Teague.

 

How are you today?

 

SOTHER TEAGUE (ST):

Hey Simon. I'm well. I'm happy to be here and maybe, uh, you know, have a great conversation. Uh, even though we're kind of mired in a difficult time. It's good to catch up with old friends and, and, and have a good, a good chat. So I'm happy to be here.

 

SIMON:

Oh, I'm really pleased that you are here. And I know we've, we've spent a bit of time trying to figure out our schedules off this. So, uh, I'm really thrilled. But what. . . Tell us a little bit more. I've obviously just given people a kind of a brief glimpse of how I met you, but you've got such a long history in the drinks business, and obviously it's such a great reputation. I'd love to hear more about what you do before we go into the kind of challenge that I've set you today.

 

ST:

Yeah. Um, well, again, my name is Sother Teague. I own a bar in the East Village of New York City called, “Amor y Amargo,” which means love and bitters. And it's a really unique and special bar. And I know people say that about, you know, their places all the time, but mine, mine really breaks the mold a bit. We don't use any sugar. We don't use any juice. We don't shake any drinks. All of our drinks are stirred and involve lots of bitter agents.

 

I have the world's largest collection of tincture bitters. Those are the ones like Angostura or Peychaud’s or DeGroff’s Pimento or things like that, that you might know. Uh, I have the world's largest collection of Amari, uh, which are, you know, potable bitters. There is that you can find a glass like Campari or Aperol or even Jägermeister falls into that category.

 

 

Um, so we do this really unique and special thing and it’s all in a tiny room, 240 square feet. Um, and you know, the bar's been open for nine years. We just celebrated nine years during, uh, during the pandemic and we're hoping to make it to 10.

 

Um, I also have a radio show that's been on for the same amount of time, nine years. It's called, “The Speakeasy,” on Heritage Radio Network. Uh, a weekly interview show where we talk to people from our industry, everyone from bar backs and bartenders, bar owners, spirits, writers, journalists, um, uh, makers, distillers. ambassadors, uh, nine years worth of, uh, cataloging there. You can go catch up on at Heritage Radio Network.

 

Um, and until the pandemic, I had a couple of other bars that we permanently shuttered those, but we have plans to reopen, uh, you know, things as we can move forward and get back into the business.

 

Um, and then, you know, before all of this I've been in the drinks business for 20 years. And before that, uh, about 12 years, I was a chef. So I taught at the New England Culinary Institute. Um, I taught butchery, mostly, uh, senior level classes there. Um, and I've traveled the country cooking, you know, have might as well travel.

 

SM:

I know that feeling. Well, obviously not traveling anywhere right now, but it's wonderful that we're able to catch up like this.

 

What I did before this interview, everyone who's listening is I set Sother a challenge as I've done before with Alton Brown. If you go listen to that episode, which I think is the most listened to episode of Eat My Globe so far, where I set out to the challenge to name five people in the food industry who had been in food history, who'd been forgotten and needed to be raised back up to the Pantheon.

 

Well, if you've got someone with this knowledge of the drinks cocktail business and the spirits industry, then there's an obvious challenge to set. So I sent you and I hope you've been doing your homework and thinking about this, a challenge to give me five people who are most important in the drinks business, who may have been forgotten or people don't really think about being in the drinks business.

 

You know, I think if I gave it to some people, they might name some famous bartenders along the way, and lots of other people like that. But I know you'd come up with different answers. So I sent you this challenge, five people in the drinks and spirits and cocktail industry over history that we should bring back to the kind of Spirit Pantheon, shall we say, for now.

 

So how, how was it to think about what, before we go into the people themselves, which is obviously what we're here to do, tell me a little bit about how you kind of set yourself out to name these people and what you thought about. What your criteria were.

 

ST:

You know, I, I looked at it as, um, I wanted to maybe highlight some folks who you wouldn't necessarily think had direct impact. You know, I feel like we've come to the place where we can start to zoom out and we can see the greater patterns that are around us in all sorts of things, food drink, uh, society at large, etcetera. So I kinda, I, I sent you a list of some folks who I think some people may have never heard of some of them. Um, I certainly have heard of all of them. Um, but, but maybe they had an impact that that was, it was not direct. Um, I think, uh, one of the first ones I sent you was Carrie Nation. And I don't even know if it's a lot of your listeners would know who that is, but. . . .

 

SM:

Well, let's start, start with Carrie Nation because she's someone I'd heard of and obviously read about, um, but a lot of people might not know the name. But in her day, she was quite infamous. And why, so why don't we start there, let's go. Let's dive straight into Carrie Nation as your first person. Tell us all, tell us all about her and why you think she was important.

 

ST:

Well, I mean, so Carrie Nation was, uh, known for being a staunch advocate for the temperance movement. You know, she wanted to abolish drinking altogether. Um, and she very famously would go into pubs, bars, saloons, whatever you wanna call them at that time. Um, this is, you know, before Prohibition. She's, she was a springboard for it.

 

Uh, she would go into them with a hatchet. . .

 

SM:

[Laughter]

 

ST:

. . . and she would literally, she would literally start whacking away at the bar tops, uh, and, and, and bottles and smashing things. She was a very revolutionary person.

 

And you think to yourself, well, why would, why would this drink's guy mention this woman as a, as a creator of cocktails. Well, is she sprang us into this, uh, you know, noble experiment, which, which, you know, was an abject failure, uh, known as Prohibition here in America. Um, I know some of your listeners aren't here in America, and I think a lot of the world kind of forgets that America didn't drink as a, as a group for 13 years. Um, not legally anyway.

 

Uh, but so her unwitting, uh, she. . . . I think she unwittingly forced creativity upon the bartenders who, um, had to be, had to kind of live underground for the 13 years. So in a strange way, you know, a little sort of roundabout way, I think she had a lot of impact on, on cocktails and how they're made because during Prohibition that was difficult to get a hold of spirits at all. And the ones that you could get ahold of were not great. Uh, you know, poorly made, poorly filtered, adulterated, oftentimes with, uh, with ingredients that shouldn't be in there at all. Um, so not the tastiest.

 

So how did we hide those sort of, uh, imperfections in the spirits? Well, we created cocktails using, you know, juices and sugars and syrups and egg whites. And so I think that in a strange sort of left-handed way, Carrie Nation hacked into the bar, uh, with our hatchets, uh, and, and sort of created a space where, you know, creative thinkers could, could create drinks that we all still enjoy today.

 

SM:

Tell me a little bit about why she thought of the temperance movement thought that, you know, I mean, alcohol was, was a bad thing and I mean, but it was, we're not just saying, you know, drinking a little bit too much is bad for you, which is kind of a kind of classic medical reaction to, you know, overindulging, which we've all done. But why they thought that it was something that was destroying America, for want of a better way of putting it.

 

ST:

I mean, at this time period, you know, uh, or late 1800s, early 1900s, you have to understand that, you know, we had lots of, uh, immigration from other countries and, and people brought their home with them. You know, you bring food and drink with you wherever you go. So we had, you know, lots of beer coming in from German immigrants. We had plenty of Irish whiskey rolling over from, uh, you know, Irish immigrants. Um, uh, and all these things were frankly, relatively cheap, uh, you know, by today's standards, but today's monies. So I think that drinking was much more rampant because imagine we have all of these luxuries in life, we have our iPhone in our computer. We're looking at each other right now from across the country while we talk on this podcast, um, via video chat. Uh, you know, there's so many things that can distract us today, which weren't available then.

 

And, and also life was harder. It was grittier, it was tougher. So the, you know, the ability to sort of self-medicate and to, to, to imbibe was a strong pull, a huge temptation. And to overdo it was often. And it was looked at as sort of the undercutting of society at large, you know, um, and don't forget at those times, women were sort of beholden to the men in their lives. And if the men in their lives were always at the pub getting drunk and maybe coming home and not being kind to them or not being kind to the children, or maybe not being, uh, productive and going to work, you know, then the whole family unit and, and financial infrastructure starts to break down. So we can certainly look back and see how, um, you know, the notion of Prohibition was, was again, noble. Um, but I think that, you know, as we all learn, you know, if you want to make something delicious, prohibit it, right? So we, we, we kind of went the wrong way when it all happened.

 

SM:

One of the things I noticed when I went on to obviously go and read about Carrie Nation, and there was a, obviously a big movement, the temperance movement, and then going into Prohibition itself, it was also the, the Prohibition that actually sent cocktails around the world, because a lot of the bartenders who were so successful in America or previously been successful, had to keep working. You know, they were faced with their own crisis, a bit like many bars and restaurants are faced with now. So a lot of them ended up going abroad, you know, going to London, Paris and opening American bars, which was a new thing then, and really making cocktails, which was predominantly, I think, an American kind of indulgence then around the world, people wanting to try these drinks.

 

Tell me a little bit about that, because I, you know, the fact that you find this expo. . . expansion of cocktails during Prohibition to other countries because of Prohibition.

 

ST:

Yeah. I mean, you're absolutely right. Uh, uh, bartenders who had made their career doing this and then were told by the government, suddenly you can no longer apply your trade here. So you're either going to have to go underground or expatriate. And as you mentioned, many did, uh, and went to places like Cuba and, uh, England and even Ireland and set up shop, um, and took their, their trade with them. You know, the cocktail was definitely, uh, an American invention. Um, and so to, to them take it to the masses elsewhere. I think that again, uh, Prohibition itself lent a great hand in spreading cocktails all over the world, uh, because of what you just said. You know, uh, if I were living during that time and, um, you know, it's been as many years as I've spent doing this job and are told I couldn't do it anymore, I'd go somewhere else where I could. And I would take those things with me and suddenly you've got a new audience, they're excited. They want to see what it is you're producing. They want that, you know, maybe they've read about you in America and now you're here in their country. So not, it just fed itself like in [inaudible]

 

SM:

[Laughter]

 

And did, and did Carrie Nation, did she survive to see Prohibition being enacted or was she, what was her time period in terms of. . . .

 

ST:

You know, I, I'm pretty sure she did. Uh, don't quote me on that. You'll probably have to put some notes somewhere, but, uh, you know, her activism leading up to it was so legendary. You know, again, a picture. . . picture that today, you know, picture rolling around with a hatchet and, and, and cruising into businesses and whacking them up at will. Um, that's just unheard of, um, and that she did it. I know that she was arrested numerous times. I don't know. She's just a fascinating character. Um, and you know, she, she got out there and she made her message clear and, you know, it took hold and it got some traction,

 

SM:

I, I think I said, cause I have the final veto in all of these because it's my podcast. I think she definitely needs to go into the Spirit Pantheon, if only because I would love to see her face as, as being one of the most important people in the spirit industry when she spent most of her life fighting against it. And yet, because of Prohibition, because of everything that she pushed towards, uh, she's ending up being in that. And she would be mortified, I am sure. But I think just to see the look on her face, unless she came up with her hatchet.

 

So number one, I think definitely Carrie Nation will go and read. . . . I'm going to go and read more about her because I think her life is a fascinating one. And I'd heard the name, but I didn't really know much about her. So the hatchet lady. . .

 

ST:

Yeah.

 

SM:

. . . Uh, is, is definitely in. So if we, if we. . .

 

ST:

I think she would be maybe a bit of chagrined, for sure. But at the same time. . .

 

SM:

[Laughter]

 

ST:

. . . you know, her entire movement was temperance, um, which evolved into Prohibition. I think that the cocktail in its way is a temperance movement. Um, you know, you can, you can grab a bottle of, you know, your favorite rye whiskey from the local liquor store for $18 and go home and get the job done.

 

SM:

[Laughter]

 

ST:

Or you can go out and have a few cocktails that maybe cost $80 each and enjoy them, savor them. It's a difference between, you know, you're in the food world and I was in the food world. I still consider myself to be. It's the difference between, you know, cuisine and fuel, right? Oftentimes I'm eating because I need fuel. I just need to get some calories in me and I have to get it done. But when I'm enjoying it, I'm, I'm having cuisine, you know, I'm sitting in dining somewhere. So I think, uh, I think in a, in a strange way, she propelled the notion of cocktails. And I think cocktails are a bit of a temperance movement towards what she was viewing as excessive drinking, in a strange abstract way.

 

SM:

Yeah. I actually, that's a really, really great way of putting it. And one of the things I always say to people about the kind of modern development of the cocktail industry, I know we're going to talk about some people going way back when, but is that, to me, a great cocktail doesn't need to be more than about three ounces of alcohol. It's something that you. . . is made beautifully and you sip and you enjoy, and you, you indulge. You're not going to drink dozens of them and kind of keel over. The days of the 10 ounce tub of kind of slightly warm gin in a, in a martini, thankfully, are disappearing. And people are beginning to understand that it's an expression of a craft, the cocktail, you know, the craft cocktail. So yeah, maybe, maybe if you were to apply her just with one really excellent cocktail. What'd you think? Okay, before we move on, let's try for each one. If we had to give them a cocktail of any kind, what would you give Carrie Nation to persuade her that a cocktail is a perfect thing. That's another challenge I've just thrown at you, cause I just thought of it.

 

[Laughter]

 

ST:

Maybe something like a, um, an Adonis, you know. Uh, an Adonis is a low proof cocktail. It's maybe with Sherry and sweet vermouth, uh, um, you know, or [inaudible] sorry, the bamboo, uh, low proof, uh, you know, a fortified wine based cocktails that, uh, that I think she could, uh, taste and see that the taste is delightful and feel some, um, you know, effect of the alcohol, but on a much lower and slower plane. You know, I think, uh, I think you're right. I hope that largely gone are the days of the oversized fishbowl martini glasses, um, at lunch where halfway through it's so warm, you're, you're really just suffering the second half.

 

SM:

Yeah.

 

[Laughter]

 

ST:

Um, but I think, uh, I think, I think she would enjoy a cocktail that would be low ABV, but still quite delightful and tasty. Uh, and maybe that would, that would turn her eyes, you know, a little bit away from the evils of alcohol and a little bit more towards the, the goods.

 

SM:

Excellent first choice. Wonderful.

 

Now, so let's go in number. . . number two. Who do you have as a second on your choice?

 

ST:

I mean, in a strange and similar way, I, I, I thought, well again now s. . . Carrie Nation kind of took us out of drinking. Um, so then I, I, I, I thought maybe President Roosevelt, you know, he's the one who signed the repeal of Prohibition. Um, so he's the one who brought the nation out of that noble experiment. Again, I always point out that it was a failure. Um, [Laughter] but that's what experiments are, right? [Laughter] You're gonna learn something.

 

Um, you know, uh, by signing the repeal, he allowed us to get back to, uh, you know, as the people who were applying the trade, he allowed us to get back to work. He allowed, you know, distilling to start back up, brewing to get back into action. Um, uh, and of course the craft of, of, you know, hospitality and serving cocktails, uh, was re enlivened by his declaration and signing that. So, you know, again, in a strange way, I think my first two picks are people who you maybe wouldn't think of as driving my field of endeavor, but certainly they had a lot to do with, you know, hiccups in the road.

 

SM:

Let's talk about Prohibition then in greater depth, because I know obviously we've touched on it with Carrie Nation and kind of how we got into the situation that brought Prohibition about. But let's talk about. . . And you and you touched on it earlier about some of the, uh, the kind of failures of it while it was happening. You know, I believe that more people died of cirrhosis during Prohibition that the died before or after it, in terms of, you know, per head count of capital and, and some of the failures of it. And let's talk about what brought it to the point where they decided to get away from Prohibition, and to repeal it.

 

ST:

Sure. I mean, well, I don't know about the cirrhosis statistics, but statistics are out there to show that we certainly drank more per capita during Prohibition than ever before. And here's the kicker, even since. Uh, we drank more per capita during Prohibition than before or since.

 

SM:

Wow.

 

ST:

Um, which means that we were all out there being scofflaws, you know, breaking the law and, um, imbibing when we weren't supposed to. Um, I also know that it's a time that is largely, I think, even in my field of endeavor, it's romanticized. And I buck that tradition all the time. When I say this is not a thing to romanticize. This was a terrible time in our history. We, as you mentioned, lost a lot of people to, um, to death. And in fact, um, many of them were, were, um, pretty blatantly killed by our own government. The government tainted alcohol, um, and released it. . .

 

SM:

Oh.

 

ST:

. . . thinking and told the public we've tainted this alcohol. And we released it thinking that that would be a deterrent. But of course, if it wasn't. Again, we were drinking more than, than ever. So many people got ahold of these bad alcohols and, and perished. Um, and then what makes that even kind of worse is if you were drinking illegally, um, in an establishment and you let's say folded to the floor after drinking something poisonous, they didn't necessarily rush you to a hospital or to, uh, to find your family because they were doing an illicit business. So they rolled you up in a carpet and dumped you in the river. So not only did a lot of people die, they sort of just disappeared. Um, you know, their, their family has no idea where or what happened. So a pretty rough and tumble time, again, as an experiment. And then don't forget crime rates were through the roof. Um, you know, uh, lots of, uh, uh, people made millions and millions of dollars during Prohibition by bootlegging. Um, it was, uh, you know, I think, I think objectively, it was one of the worst periods of our history as far as crime and death go. Um, and again, completely counter-intuitive to the notion of, of the, the experiment itself, right? The experiment was, let's clean up and get better. Um, and I think it made us worse. Uh, you know, you, you, you tell someone, they can't have something, they want it even more than they wanted it before they want it just because they want it now. They didn't even want it before, but you said you can't have it, then they have to have it. Right. So I think it was just the wrong direction to go. Um, and I also find it pretty shocking that, um, we, as a society here in America, current day, we can't seem to kind of agree on anything. How on earth did we agree enough in majority to say that we're going to stop drinking?

 

SM:

[Laughter]

 

ST:

I think that's like from a political angle, I think that's incredible. How did we, you know, come to a consensus together that we're going to not have a place to go have a beer and read the paper?

 

SM:

Yeah, it is amazing. And I read somewhere when I, again, when I was doing some research, once I got the list from you about. . . . They say that Prohibition was the time when crime became organized. And the ongoing problems of organized crime in the United States, which obviously has turned its attention away from alcohol to drugs and prostitution and all kinds of other human trafficking and all kinds of other, really dark and dangerous things. The fact that they were able to kind of practice in a way during the time of Prohibition has made them the kind of monsters that they are in society now. So it created that.

 

Let's, I'd love to go towards that point then that President Roosevelt, you know, on an act of, you know, kind of Congress signed, uh, repealed, uh, the Prohibition Act. And what, was there a tipping point for that? Or was it just this realization that Prohibition had been over the last, what, 11 years – from 1922 onwards? – had been a great mistake. Uh, what, what was it that made him, you know, sign that, that repeal?

 

ST:

I mean, I think, um, men at the time were, you know, uh, if they had any, uh, income that could be used for leisure, you know, there were considered sporting men. That was kind of the phrase. Um, I think that he was in that group and I think that he enjoyed a drink, even though it was illegal. Um, I also think, and that's just my personal, uh, you know, guess on his, his behavior. But I think also, you know, my dad used to say all the time, whatever they're talking about, they're lying and whatever they're lying about, it's money.

 

SM:

[Laughter]

 

ST:

Um, so I think whenever I get stuck on a problem like this, I think to myself, Oh, it's the money. Um, surely, uh, the lack of income for the government from loss of tax revenue was a big player in that game. Um, and the, I think if you go back and do some research, you'll see that, uh, that we realized pretty quickly that, that, at that time, anyway, the majority of the tax, which cause this, this is don't forget Prohibitions pre, pre income tax, right? So the majority of the taxes that the government took in at that time were coming from the spirits industry. Uh, and you know, we, we, we cut off our nose to spite our face in it, in that situation. So I think we realized, Oh, the government, governments becoming a bit cash poor because we have made this decision. So just on a financial level, it seems the smart thing to do, you know, and to maybe sit there and sign the sign, the Repeal Act with a martini in hand to show that like, here we go, this is, this is important for us as a society.

 

SM:

So. . . all about all, about the money, not necessarily about the kind of ethical impact it had on the United States.

 

ST:

Well, you know, I don't know how, uh, you know, we're, again, very lucky to have so much technology on our side. I don't know how they were doing polls or, or tracking, you know, the events or tracking things that are going on, but surely they also could see that like, wow, if we were to decriminalize this again, uh, we would have less criminals, uh, we'd have less need for, you know, people getting murdered, you know, over, over, you know, elicit whiskey or what have you. Um, you know, so I think, uh, on a more social level, there's that angle, right? Uh, on the economics level, uh, I'm sure there was a pinch to the wallet of the United States of America, uh, that they, that they realized, you know, pretty quickly. Uh, and then, uh, you had to step back and say to yourself, well, look at all this crime,that's happening. Look at all these mob bosses that are out there, look at all these people who are getting gunned down in the streets over these kinds of things. If we just repeal this notion and make it legal again, a lot of that'll just kind of vanish and it did.

 

SM:

Okay. Well, I think, I mean, keeping President Roosevelt out of this list would seem, seem wrong since he brought the drinks back. Let's, let's think about what he, as he was signing, as you said, you had a drink in his hand, let's think what cocktail we would give to President Roosevelt as a thank you for bringing us back to the world of cocktails.

 

ST:

I mean, I think I halfway mentioned it there. I said, I said, uh, I think he had a martini in his hand, or at least there's some press photos that looked like that, you know. But I think I would up the ante and move him into the world of a Gibson, you know, uh. . .

 

SM:

Oh, yes.

 

ST:

. . . a nice wet Gibson is one of my favorite, uh, cocktails. Um, in fact, by my logo on my website, there's, there's a little Gibson hidden inside the logo. You can see it if you take a look. Um, uh, and I like wet, uh, which means I drink mine 50-50. So a great London Dry Gin with some Dry Vermouth, uh, no bitters in a Gibson. I know that's a little bit counterintuitive for me. Um, cause I'm known as the bitter guy, uh, and then, uh, a delicious cocktail onion. You know, something a little bit crunchy and, and briny and uh, you know, it's still, even though it's at 50-50, it's still a stiff drink. Um, and it's refined. It's clear, you know, it's, it's clear like, like water. I think that's what that seems very presidential to me.

 

SM:

That sounds like a f. . . actually sounds like, I want what now, even though it's, it's about half past 11 in the morning.

 

BREAK MUSIC

 

SM:

Hi everybody, this is Simon Majumdar, the creator and host of the Eat My Globe food history podcast. Now, those of you have been listening to the podcast since we began almost two years ago – nearly 50 episodes so far – will know that we have never sought out sponsorship for the podcast. It’s very much been a labor of love. However, along the way, a large number of people have approached us suggesting they would like to support the podcast. And so, we have opened up a page on Patreon dot com to allow those of you who listen regularly to do just that. Any support we will get will allow us to purchase research materials, buy ingredients for recipes, and maybe, when we can, get out and about to bring you some very special in-the-field reporting. But, and this is really important. This is not just a one-way street. For varying levels of membership of our Patreon club, there will be access to fantastic Eat My Globe swag, including that incredible chopping board so many of you have written to me about, recipes based on the historical periods about which we chat each week, video shout outs, signed pictures, and even along the way, some very special episodes just for members. So, if you’ve enjoyed the episodes of Eat My Globe you’ve listened to so far, and would like us to make many more into the future, do head over to www dot Patreon dot com slash Eat My Globe and consider taking out a membership. Any support will be much appreciated. Remember, that’s www dot Patreon dot com slash Eat My Globe. So thank you very much, and keep listening.

 

 

Well so far, great suggestions. I'm having real fun with this. Well, I hope you are too. This is, this is really great. So let's, let's go on. . . and I'm not, I'm probably not going to argue with too many of yours, your suggestions as I did with Mr. Brown. I gave him a few arguments about some of them, but let's go on to number three because this, if, if, uh. . .

 

Let's see if we've got the list of the same order, but number three was someone who I kind of knew a little bit about primarily because, um, one of the things he created was, is used in so many drinks and it's something that I have at home, but I didn't realize just how wide his kind of purview was outside of this one. So that's a bit of a mystery for everyone. So why don't you tell us who we're talking about?

 

ST:

Yeah. Um, I think on my list anyway, I have number three it's, uh, Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert aka Dr. Siegert and he is the creator of Angostura Bitters. Angostura is the one that you'd seen on every bar, your entire life with the oversized paper label and the bright yellow cap. Um, it's been their signature since the beginning. Um, and you know, the very definition of the cocktail. . . uh, the first time we saw it in print was in, uh, the balance and Colombian repository of 1806, a a newspaper, and it listed it as, a cocktail is a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters. And I always point out a couple of things about that spirits of any kind. You know, a lot of people fight tooth and nail that it's a rye whiskey cocktail. Um, but it's, there's evidence out there to, uh, uh, represent that it was probably first made with Holland's Gin or Genever.

 

SM:

Uh-huh.

 

ST:

Um, and, uh, but, but any co. . . any spirits, uh, sugar, which at the time was probably lump sugar, water is always going to be water, and bitters. No cocktail is complete without bitters. And what are bitters? Well, frankly, they're already, um, alcohol's the three components to bitters. Alcohol is always the base. Then there's a bittering agent, surprise, surprise. And then the top notes are the flavor of that particular bitter. So Angostura is an alcohol-based bitters. Uh, it is, um, gentian is, uh, is the bittering agent in there. Um, and then it's, uh, flavored with cinnamon and cardamom, uh, and a couple of dashes, uh, will change your cocktail forever. And I think that he's so important, obviously in my life as a, as a guy who runs a bar that's globally known for, uh, bitters. Um, you know, we, we try and make sure that every cocktail we serve has at least a tincture or a potable or both.

 

Uh, and I think that that's. . . . The impact that he had on, on cocktails is incredible. And the fact that he stood the test of time. Um, bitters would be known as, you know, snake oil. You'd see these peripatetic vendors rolling into town with their wagon and setting up shop and doing their song and dance about how they're tonic or elixir would cure everything from, you know, liver spots, baldness, uh, erectile dysfunction, you know, uh, cancer, uh, you know, cures it all, right? You've seen many of these things depicted in movies and in books. And there were real people who did this. Um, and they got away with it for quite some time, uh, until again, a government intervention, right? The, the FDA was formed. Food and Drug Administration. And they came along and they said, you don't have to stop making this. Um, but you have to stop claiming these things unless you can prove that it's true. And of course, that just meant most of them disappeared.

 

Now, the lucky thing for, uh, Angostura bitters at Seigert is that he never put anything. . . . Um, he never made any medical claims about his product. He just said, they're delicious, which is subjective, and the FDA allows that, right? Uh, and they are. Um, so he stood the test of time. One of the few that, that kind of made it through. So when you crack open any classic cocktail book, uh, and it says bitters, uh, often times it doesn't even refer to which, um, because there were so few, um, it's almost always referring to Angostura. So when we talk again about food and drink, I think of Angostura bitters as salt. You know. . .

 

SM:

Ah. That’s a great way of putting it.

 

ST:

You know, I can't be, uh, anywhere in a kitchen without salt, so I can't be anywhere at a bar without Angostura. That's the, sort of, that's the rock upon which I built my church.

 

SM:

Tell me a little bit about his background then. I know very little about him, although, as with you, you know, Angostura bitters has a permanent place on my kind of spirits kind of table at home where I make my cocktails, or even at quite frankly, if I just have tonic water, I'll put some Angostura. Or the very first cocktail – for want of a better word – that I ever had was actually a pink gin, a classic pink gin, which was gin with bitters in it.

ST:

Yeah.

 

SM:

Which was, which is the cl. . . . So, so it's been in my life since I first started drinking spirits. But I know very little about him and I'm sure most people listening will even know where he's from or what kind of period he was, uh, you know, preparing the first Angostura bitters. Practically, just give us a little bit of history.

 

ST:
I don't know a great, great deal about him myself, which, uh, you know, it was a little bit embarrassing because I, again, I've built so much of my life around his works, um, or at least where he spring-boarded other things into, you know. Um, there was a time, in America anyway, where you were down to honestly, two bitters that you can find, right? Angostura and Peychaud's. Um, Peychaud’s created by a guy named Antoine Amédée Peychaud, uh, at a New Orleans coffee house, uh, sorry, at the Sazerac coffee house in New Orleans. Uh, those bitters are integral to the cocktail. He created the Sazerac, which we all know as. . . well, maybe not all know, but it, but it is the first written cocktail recipe, right? Someone found. . .

 

SM:

My wife’s favorite cocktail. In fact, if you look her up on Instagram, she's @sazyrock . . .

 

ST:

[Laughter]

 

SM:

. . . because it's her favorite cocktail of all.

 

ST:

I love it.

 

Um, so, uh he's, he was a doctor. I don't know what of. Um, and he was, you know, think in his time period, many people did many things until they kind of hit that thing that, that was the right thing for them. Um, he created Angostura bitters in a town that was, uh, called Angostura, even though it has no Angostura bark in it. People get that confused all the time. It's bittered with gentian and not Angostura bark. But at the town that he created in was Angostura. So he named it after the town. And I think the most unique thing about, um, well, not the most unique, a very unique thing about the story is he had, uh, two sons and when he was taking his bitters to a, uh, you know, like a fair, which, which people did all the time back in those days, you know, you look at any bottle that has any kind of history to it as these little medals and medallions, because they're, they're touring around to all the fairs and getting, you know, voted on and, uh, you know, popular choice or, uh, you know, expert's choice or whatever.

 

Um, but he was taking it to be sort of critiqued, I guess, is the word I'm looking for. Uh, and his, he sent his two sons about packaging. Uh, and one son went off to procure the bottles and one son went off to have the labels made. Uh, and they didn't talk to each other in between.

 

SM:

[Laughter]

 

ST:

And that's why you see this oversized paper label. The label is literally almost two times too big to be on the bottle. Um, but they were stuck and had no, no time to redo. So they slapped it on there and went with it. And this became their signature look, which has been, uh, you, uh, hijacked by numerous brands since then either in, or out of this business. You know, I think, I always think of the, um, you know, Worcestershire sauce bottle with that paper label that wraps too high, you know, that's, that’s. . .

 

SM:

Yes.

 

ST:

. . . how I think they sort of stole that from them. Um, so, you know, it's like an accident that became their, their almost their entire marketing plan, you know.

 

SM:

I love that story and I hadn't heard that before. The two ahead. . . two brothers at odds. I love those little stories from food history that come together almost by accident.

 

Tell people, tell people, uh, who are listening. . .

 

ST:

Yeah.

 

SM:

. . . what kind of cocktails you would see, and obviously we'll come to one, you know, you'll choose your cocktail for Johann at the end of this little section, but tell them about how you would use it in cocktails, what you do, give them some examples of cocktails they could ask for, you know, when, you know, they can go back into bars and help hopefully support the industry again.

 

ST:

Oh yeah, of course. I mean, certainly obvious choices are the Old Fashioned, which we just spoke of. And, and I think maybe I would encourage your audience to not be, um, fearful of the Old Fashioned. It is a delightful drink and it's so manipulable, uh, can be made, uh, you know, very customed to your taste. Uh, very bespoke, uh, um, cocktails are, are easily done with Old Fashioned. Because again, if we look back at the definition, it's only four components, water will always remain water, so we can kind of leave that one out, but we've got your spirit. So choose your spirit. If you're not a whiskey drinker, then try some, try an Old Fashioned with gin, um, you know, uh, or tequila.

 

Um, uh, bitters. Well, back in the day, you only had a few choices. Now, as I mentioned, I have over 500. Name a flavor. I've got a bitters. I guarantee it. Like, I can do it.

 

Uh, and if you've got a compound flavor, if I don't have a compound flavor of those bitters, I bet I have both those flavors and I can make them. That's what makes [inaudible] is. Um, so you can, you know, ultimate choice on bitters.

 

And then sugar I've mentioned earlier that at that time it was just lump sugar. But don't forget we can sweeten with any number of things. You know, a maple syrup, uh, honey, um, uh, pomegranate molasses, grenadine, um, you know, anything that's a sweetening agent is your sugar in an Old Fashioned.

 

So suddenly you go from this place of what sounds like rye whiskey, Angostura bitters, white sugar and water, boom, to, uh, kind of an unlimited choice of what we can do here. And then if you say to yourself, well, now I'm going to split my sugar between, I dunno, grenadine and ginger syrup. Now I'm going to split my base between tequila and white rum. Now I'm going to, uh, add in, uh, mole and an orange bitters. So two different bitters. Now the math gets incalculable, right? So the Old Fashioned is where you want to go when you want to do bitters. I always say the only way to misuse bitters is to miss using bitters. Um, and, and going back to my salt analogy, you know, uh, if, if, if every, if every bottle on the back bar behind me or wherever I am, uh, is the components of soup, then all those tincture bottles or my seasoning and I don't eat on season soup, I'm not going to drink an unseasoned drink.

 

SM:

I love that. I love that description. Oh, okay, so then coming back to choosing a cocktail for Johann, uh, Mr. Siegert or Dr. Siegert, uh, w w what would you choose before we move on to number four?

 

ST:

Yeah, I mean, I think it's, it's hands down. It's an Old Fashioned, um, you know, it's, it is the drink that, that is, is defined with his product, uh, involved, or at least, you know, in his category involved without bitters you're drinking, uh, what's known as a sling. You said, uh, you know, if you, if you just have a cocktail with sh. . . you know, sugar and no bitters and splash of water, that's, that's considered a sling. So pre the definition of the cocktail, people were drinking sling.

 

SM:

What would you, what would you put, would you go down the classic route with a rye whiskey and, uh, or would you put something, or would you do something?

 

ST:

I am . . . I'm very known for enjoying rye whiskey.

 

SM:

[Laughter]

 

ST:

Um, my, my favorite rye whiskey is, uh, Old Overholt, the longest continuously produced dry whiskey in the world. Uh, and a couple of years ago, uh, I spent, um, I spent more-than-a-years-in-New-York-City-rent on a case of this stuff. . .

 

SM:

[Laughter]

 

ST:

. . . because it was . . . from 1909. I bought it an auction.

 

SM:

Wow.

 

ST:

Um, we we've since drank it all and it was delicious.

 

SM:

[Laughter]

 

ST:

Um, so yeah, if I'm going to have an Old Fashioned it's probably going to be rye. Uh, but also, you know, I would encourage your listener, um, to branch out based on some factors. Um, and again, I have such close ties and we all do, we all eat and, and, and most of us drink. Um, I drink like I eat. I drink, uh, you know, or I think there's four pieces to the puzzle for me. I drink first to the season, you know, um, second to, uh, the atmosphere, third to the occasion and fourth, well, every day.

 

SM:

[Laughter]

 

ST:

Um, and, and that, that would mean like, you know, if there's three feet of snow on the ground, I'm probably not going to have a Mojito, right? Wrong season. But if I'm at, there's a bar here in Brooklyn called Miss Favelas, it's a Brazilian dance bar, and it's great. I'm at Miss Favelas and there's three feet of snow on the ground, and we're dancing, I'm probably still gonna have a Mojito cause that's the thing to do there. That's the atmosphere. The occasion, personally, I'm not huge on drinking Champagne, but I certainly take my share of it on New Year's Eve. That's the occasion for Champagne, right? Uh, and then of course I drink every day, at least a little bit. [Laughter] So a drink like you need is what I think is right.

 

SM:

Great description. Well, that's again, no argument here. I'm glad to learn more about him. Next time I pick up that bottle with the oversized label. . .

 

ST:

[Laughter]

 

SM:

. . . I shall think about the two sons and, uh. . .

 

ST:

Yeah.

 

ST:

. . . and go and use it. And it's one of those. It is one of those products that we kind of almost take for granted. And that's what this episode is about. Looking at people who we might not know have had such an importance, but bitters definitely have.

 

Now I'm so excited about your fourth choices. So you can. . .

 

ST:

Yeah.

 

SM:

. . . you stretch the rules a little, but I've given. . . . I'm letting it go because these people are so together that they're always mentioned together. So I think they're kind of one unit. And I think. . . . So tell people who they are. And for me, they're just, they sum up almost the cocktail world or certain, a certain aspect of the cocktail world.

 

ST:

Yeah. I chose these two, um, again, mainly for one of them, but I definitely chose it for both, uh, in how they sort of, right after Prohibition ended in 1934, they kind of re normalized and romanticized being able to be out and about and have cocktails and do it in a way that's cheeky and fun and, uh, you know, classy without being, um, you know, over the top or, or, or, you know, drunken basically. Although they do get a little bit drunk. It's Myrna Loy and William Powell who starred in the “Thin Man” movies as Nick and Nora. And we've all heard the term Nick and Nora because a glass was named after them.

 

SM:

To me, I, I went back, you know, I love, first of all, I love all their movies. I love that particular kind of element. They're very stylish. They're very, the movies are a little challenging now because they have a, an African-American house-maid. It was very much of its period. So from that point of view, they could be a little challenging. But in terms of their talk about alcohol, they made it fun again. And to tell. . . tell people a little, a bit about them, and maybe if you've got some of the lines, I know I've got, uh, you know, I've got some of the lines, but they, they brought such fun and made cocktails seem bright and happy and lively rather than something that you drank in a dark room.

 

ST:

Oh, for sure. And now that, that is overwhelmingly visible in even the opening scenes of the first movie, you know, the, what you just said bright right there. This is 1934, or the movie came out 33. This was when Prohibition ended. You can, the space that they're in is big white walls, big white curtains, white chandeliers, everything is bright. And I think that's on purpose. I think they really wanted to showcase that we've moved out of the darkness and into the light. Um, and it was, uh, you know, William Powell played Nick, uh, who is a retired private investigator kind of guy, detective, um, married to, uh, Nora, Myrna Loy. And she was, uh, something of a debutante, I think she's maybe a bit wealthy and maybe he was a little bit, uh, coattailing his early retirement on her, uh, wealth. Um, and, you know, he gets kind of pulled back into the business and, and picks up a case.

 

And she's sort of, I don't know if bored is the right word, bored housewife, but she's like, well, I'm going to do this with you. So they kind of team up and, and crack the case as it were, but all throughout the movie, you see them in situations in bars and at home where they're drinking. Um, I'd like to also point out though drinking was different than, um, in volume consumption. Uh, if you look all throughout the movie, uh, and the glass that they're named for – the Nick and Nora – um, that glass shape anyway, um, they're small, they're really small. Um, you know, uh, I would say they're a third of the size of what we would consider a cocktail today. Um, so, you know, it's a drink, there's a scene, certainly where, where, uh, uh, Nora shows up to the bar and, and looks directly at the bartender and points at her husband and says, uh, how many has he had? And the bartender says six. And she goes, well, line me up with six. Um, but they're tiny, right? So we're talking, maybe that's two and a half cocktails, but she's going to try and catch up to her husband, you know.

 

SM:

Perhaps you could describe, describe the glass for me. Just in case people don't know what a Nick and Nora glass is, um, for people listening.

 

ST:

Yeah. It's a dainty, thin, uh, stemmed glass that, uh, in the movies anyway, you can see that that glass probably held four ounces of liquid total. Um, and you'd of course, leave a, what's going to wash line. You wouldn't fill it all the way to the top. We, in the, in my business, we say a full drink isn’t generous, it's sloppy.

 

SM:

[Laughter]

 

ST:

Um, so you want to leave, leave a little headspace up there. So you're looking at a three ounce cocktail in the Nick and Nora glass, uh, from that time. Now they hover around five ounces, but you still leave a generous wash line. It’s a beautiful glass. Uh, but it's kind of, um, a U shaped bowl. It kind of looks like a tiny, I guess, Bordeaux glass, but not quite as tall, uh, sided, um, you know. And any place you go, um, you know, in the current climate of craft cocktails, that's serving a, a drinking enough glass, they're probably serving either a coupe, uh, or Nick and Nora. Uh, we don't, I think the craft cocktail set is they don't really gotten to the V-shaped martini glass. So this is your alternative model.

 

 

SM:

I, I, no, I absolutely love them. And when you go and watch the films, I think two of my favorite lines, well, one is when he's, um, uh, someone says to Nora is, you know, is Nick working on a case? And she goes, yes, a case of whiskey go and help him. And I just think that's just like the best line.

 

[Laughter]

 

ST:

[Laughter]

 

SM:

And, and the other one is, I'd love to know what you think about this as a mixologist. There's one scene where he's at the bar and he's, he's shaking a cocktail, and he's talking about the dances that it should be shaken too. So I'd love to know.

 

ST:

Yeah. You think that if it takes that big shaker away from the bartender and says, that's not how you shake a drink. Uh, you shake a, a Manhattan to the two-step; a martini to the Foxtrot. I don't remember I'm making it up, but yes, I remember that scene.

 

SM:

The martini is the waltz. So do you think as a mixologist that he. . . is there any, is there any credence to this or is it just good film?

 

ST:

Uh, it's kind of a thing. It toes the line between the two. Um, at the time the shakers that they used were what preceded, what we know as the cobbler shaker. And it's the one that looks like a kind of a, it almost looks like a, I don't know, sort of a coffee urn with a spout on it. . .

 

SM:

Yeah.

 

ST:

. . . a handle and a top. And inside the spout, there's a grate to keep the ice from going out. And that thing is large enough to make at least four, if not five drinks at a time. Um, you know, behind those bars with the guys, with the white coat tails on, uh, um, or the white waistcoats on. Um, so yeah, uh, he does grab it and he shakes it and the things that he is listing, some of them you're like, that's not a shaken cocktail. He definitely lists the Manhattan, as I recall. Um, but, uh, noted cocktail historian, Dave Wondrich, uh, points out that many cocktails were shaken, um, in the beginning. We sort of came along to stirring, um, you know, if they weren't shaking, they were what's called thrown, in the beginning. You know what throwing is?

 

SM:

Yes, yes, absolutely.

 

ST:

Yeah. It's where you take your. . .

 

SM:

Yeah, tell people at home.

 

ST:

Yeah, it's where you take your mixing vessel, um, and you pour your ice and cocktail, uh, from one to another, with some space in between, you know, get your hands as far apart as you can. Um, and this will chill, dilute, and slightly aerate your cocktail. So cocktails were thrown and cocktails were shaken at that time, I think, uh, more regularly than we think of it as today. And that just is a lot of personal preference. I know Dave's been on record before saying he, he kind of enjoys the Manhattan that's been shaken. Shaken for me, that's. . . they don't taste right to me, you’re aerating this thing. And I think of it like, um, a great experiment to do at home. It's pretty easy. It’s make yourself enough volume for two daiquiris. Um, make it right in the same tin so you can, you're not cheating yourself. You know, that it's the same juice. Split that into two vessels. Uh, shake one and stir the other, right? So now you just got rum, sugar and lime juice, a daiquiri, easy peasy. Um, shake one, stir the other. The shaken one will be delightful because it's got a little tiny bits of bubbles in there that are going to dance across your palate and not engage every single tastebud, right? And that's the point it's supposed to feel delicate and live and a little bit frothy almost. And it will be delightful.

 

The stirred one will be just as cold. It'll be just as diluted, but it won't have those air bubbles in there. So it's going to slide across all of your taste buds and engaging them all. And it's going to be, frankly, when you do this experiment side by side, that stirred one is accurate and tart because it doesn't have that, you know, a bit of bubble. And that's why, in fact, a typical shaken daiquiri is a relatively small drink. You want to drink it pretty quickly because once those bubbles are gone, we're back to that state. Right? So, so I think a Manhattan for me, when it's shaken, it tastes a little bit insipid. It loses a bit of its heft. Um, but you know, if someone sits it down in front of me, I'm probably not going to turn it down.

 

SM:

I, I always say to people, when I'm asked about the shaken or stirred about cocktails, I kind of have my own rule, which is, you know, if a drink is pry. . . is all alcohol – say, something like a martini – I tend to stir it. If it's got things that need to be kind of emulsified in it, then I tend to shake it because you get that effect that you're looking for. But the other answer I give to people, I go, it's your bloody cocktail. You have it any way you want.

 

ST:

Yep.

 

SM:

And that's the thing. . .

 

ST:

There you go.

 

SM:

We're in the hospitality business.

 

ST:

Yes.

 

SM:

Um, and a lot of people want to be very kind of precious about it. And one of the things I've found about most great cocktail makers that I know – and I'm very lucky that I hang out and I know Dave, and I know, you know, whether it's Nick Strangeway in London or Dick Bradsell, or, you know, back in those days or Jared Brown, who, in fact, taught me how to throw, you know, drinks, so he’s one of the throw masters – they're the most hospitable people. They're not. . . they’re precious about making the cocktail properly, but they're not precious about how they serve it. They want everyone at the bar to have a great time. And I always think that that's the key. When you meet younger bartenders sometimes, they're so precious. It's almost like you're insulting their craft if you ask for a drink. And I think that hospitality side is something you really see in Nick and Nora as well, don't you? That kind of what drinks were for. It's about having a good time.

 

ST:

Yeah. I mean, we talk about this a bit on my show. Um, what you're talking about, that sort of precious nature. And I, I understand that in the arc of the story, and I feel like a lot of our conversations today are about arcs. Um, the arc of the story is that bartending kind of had to go through that phase of holier than thou. We had to get to a place where we realized, okay, we can make a career of this. We can be serious about this. So suddenly it's, um, armed garters and, you know, uh, uh, handlebar mustaches and leather aprons, and, you know, uh, stomping our feet in a way to say, pay attention to me, I'm serious about this.

 

SM:

Yeah.

 

ST:

So we kind of had to go through that arc. And I think that, very luckily, we're past it now. Um, we can now go to work in our t-shirt and still serve you a very delicious crafted cocktail, but we don't have to be such [Bleep Sound] about it.

 

SM:

[Laughter]

 

ST:

Um, but I think we had to be [Bleep Sound]. There was a period where we had to, we had to like stomp our feet and say, take us seriously. And now that you take us seriously, we can relax. Um, you know, now that we, we know that we're, we're not, uh, you know, just cannon fodder for your coming in and having a, you know, a drunken time in our, in our, in our space, you're, we're respected in some ways. So I feel like it's just an arc we had to go through. I'm glad it's over, honestly. I'm glad that we can be more focused on the task at hand, which isn't bad hospitality. Um, you know, in my book, I talk a lot about that. I paraphrase myself, but I say things like, um, we don't sell, uh, we don't sell the lighting that we keep at the right brightness for the time of day. We don't sell the music that we keep at the right volume for how many people are in the room. We don't sell the books, bitters and barware that line our shelves. And we don't sell our meticulously made and beautifully delivered cocktails. We sell hospitality and all the rest of that comes with it for free.

 

SM:

Absolutely. And I love, I love that description of it.

 

So let's think about, okay, we're making a drink for Nick and Nora, what would be the classic there. . . What would be their classic cocktail? Cause they. . . one that they could. . . I'm thinking a small cocktail. They could have a multiple times through the day?

 

ST:

I, you know, I'm gonna, I'm going to contest you on that one.

 

SM:

Okay.

 

ST:

I think that that, that's where your instinct goes right away. Uh, but I think these two need, uh, like a scorpion bowl.

 

SM:

Oh.

 

ST:

Um, they need something they can share. They need something that's a showstopper when it arrives. They need something that, that is a party, that is a good time because that's what they were.

 

SM:

Okay. That's brilliant that. You know what, I would never have thought of that, but I think it's a great idea. And I love, I love the fact that in this conversation, obviously we're going into a wider discussion, not just about the people, but about the spirits industry, its history, and obviously it's its future. And I think your, your final choice is, is one that probably fits in. . . . If I'd have seen a list than it had just been people from the drinks business, I would have expected to see this name anyway. So I'm thrilled that this person is there. So perhaps you could tell us who it is, and I've been lucky enough to have, you know, this person make drinks for me and to have drinks that he's created, he's created programs all over around the world. So please tell us who this last person is, and why he's so important.

 

ST:

I mean, I'm so fortunate that this guy was an inspiration for me. Um, you know, I had his books, uh, in my earlier days of being behind the bar, uh, that inspired me to, to make better drinks and to present them more beautifully. And the really fortunate part is in our business, unlike other businesses, it's still very easy to just pick up the line and call someone or Instagram, Facebook message them in some way and say, Hey, whatever you're doing, I'm interested in it, can we talk about it? You know, if I, if I were an accountant, I don't think I could dial up an account in San Francisco and say, Hey, I saw you were doing some thing with your numbers. Can you help me out? They'd be like, get outta here, man. Trade secrets or tenders are really open to one another.

 

So I got the chance to meet, uh, Dale DeGroff, that’s who we’re talking about. Um, and then now we're, we're close friends. I spend Thanksgivings at his house. Um, so I'm so fortunate that someone who was my idol is now my dear friend. So Dale DeGroff, I mean, it’s widely known throughout my, um, industry that he, he kind of kicked off what we know as the cocktail revolution. Um, especially at his days of the Rainbow Room, uh, under the, uh, you know, under Joe Baum’s roof there. Uh, Joe gave him some leeway and told him to create a classic cocktail list. And without even knowing what that meant at the time, he just said he wanted things to be classy. . .

 

SM:

[Laughter]

 

ST:

I think is probably the word he used instead of classic, um, and pointed Dale in some directions. And Dale, uh, just really took hold of those reins and rode that horses as far as best as he could. Um, and what that did is that, you know, you think of it as everything's incremental, you know, at that time, this was the early eighties at that time, you know, no bar didn't have sour mix, uh, probably on a, on a gun. You know, the thing that. . .

 

SM:

Yep.

 

ST:

. . . squirts it out right from their hand, basically. Um, but Dale was like, well, this is a fancy place. Can I squeeze lemon juice? Can I squeeze lime juice? Can I make grenadine? You know, I got a bottle, um, Rose's grenadine in his hand and nowhere on the bottle is the word pomegranate. That's what grenadine is made from. So can we make our own, you know, can we, so again, it seems so small to think that this guy did fresh juice like that we'd consider that sort of entry level in today's . . .

SM:

Yeah.

 

ST:

. . .climate. Um, but at that time it was revolutionary. And the fact that he stuck to his guns and he put out a cocktail list, which was also not a thing, you know, uh, you walked into even the nicest places in New York City or the world at that time and he didn't have a list, uh, to look at or peruse. You just sort of either knew the thing that you like to drink and bark that at your bartender, or you kind of left it up to them. Um, so like he put a lot of thought into things. He printed out a menu and handed it to every guest and he squeezed fresh juices. And we think like, that seems so small, but like, that was the turning point. And that's what got us to where we are today. And I think that, no, you know, I wrote this list backwards, the minute you said, come up with five. I was like, well, Dale. . .

 

SM:

[Laughter]

 

ST:

[Inaudible]

 

SM:

Yeah.

 

ST:

. . . boom, there's one. And there's a lots of other folks that I think, you know, could be on a list, but you gave me only five options. And I thought, there's just no way, you know, and you said living or dead and, you know, um, so far, all mine are dead. [Laughter] So this guy is alive.

 

SM:

Well, I'm really thrilled that you put it in there. Not, not least because you know, obviously his books have become absolutely kind of pivotal to anybody learning in the cocktail industry, whether it's at home they should own Dale DeGroff – his classic book is. . . remind me my, uh, uh. . .

 

ST:

“The craft of the cocktail.”

 

SM:

“The vof the Cocktail” is his classic. . .

 

ST:

Yeah. Which, uh, is, um, uh, it's being rereleased, uh, updated, uh, I think this month actually.

 

SM:

Oh, wow. Well, I have to go and get a copy of it. And yeah. . .

 

ST:

I, I, I contributed a little bit to that one, but I think it's this month or September maybe. . .

 

SM:

Wonderful. Well, we'll have to make sure that we, you know, maybe one day we'll try and get Dale to come on and chat on, uh, Eat My Globe as well.

 

But the, the other thing is from. . .

 

ST:

He's so much ease. . . . He's so much better at talking than I am.

 

SM:

Oh no. I think trust me, I think this is going to be an incredibly popular episode. Um, one of the things I think about Dale is also his impact on kind of popular culture. We think about, you know, the “Cosmopolitan” and “Sex and the City.” We think about all of those impacts that he's had. And the fact that his name is known. . .  I've drunken cocktail bars around London, particularly where the entire program is put together based on Dale's drinks. Um, whether it's his, he did one of the things that I've been when he's been there is talking about the history of the martini and he's followed it all the way through from, you know, the kind of 50-50 through to some of the modern days and the, all the ways through. And that was a night that I barely remember, but I re. . ., I kind of remember. So again, I think as a, as a kind of finishing point for this part of the conversation, I can't think of anyone living. . .  who there are many, many important cocktail makers still around who I love, but I can't think of anyone who's had the universal impact on the cocktail industry that it wouldn't have. . . . I don't think anyone living now has had that impact, that it has that every bar I think owns its DNA in many ways to what Dale did at the Rainbow Room.

 

SM:

Oh, absolutely. Uh, you know, again, this is the spark point that lit all these fires. Um, and he is also, uh, hands down the most hospitable – we want to talk about our industry is hospitality. He is so charming and so likable, and he has through his time doing the job that he's done stood behind so many bars and spoken to so many human beings. He's got just the most in touch view of the human condition and so many wonderful stories to tell that he can just bring out on a moment's notice, um, to match the conversation that's going on. He's he is the embodiment of hospitality. I think he was that first. Um, that's just the way he is as a person, and then to be given the opportunity, uh, to create a cocktail program again, when there was no real such thing, uh, and to be given in such a high profile space, um, you know, it just launched it. You know, this isn't to say that at the same time, surely, there were other people who were working on things and they were thinking to themselves, why would I use this syrupy step up to go? And I can squeeze my own fresh juice, collective subconscious dictates that that surely was happening, but he was in the right place at the right time. And I think the bigger point is, has that personality to carry it off and do it with such aplomb and he’s just a charmer man. Man, this guy would charm you every time.

 

SM:

Fantastic. Great way, I think, to end that list.

 

But, uh, before we kind of let you go, and I know we've taken up a great amount of your time and I really appreciate it. It's been, it's been really, really fun. We always like to finish here before we go on to give everyone all your social media contacts and to remind them again, that they need to go out and buy a copy of “I'm Just Here for the Drinks,” which is a terrific, terrific book.

 

You were talking about the craft of the cocktail. I think everybody else should go out and buy your wonderful book. Um, but I always like to ask people questions, you know, at the end, some fun questions. And I'm going to, if you don't mind, we've got three fun questions. Okay.

 

So, and I'm going to change it slightly, obviously, because we're talking about the spirits industry. We're not talking about food as such, even though I know you are, you're a chef at heart as well.

 

So if you were a drink, what would it be?

 

ST:

Hmmm.

 

SM:

And I'm guessing it's, it's gonna be, it's be like me. I’m short and bitter. But. . . [Laughter]

 

ST:

Yeah, uh, I'm gonna, I'm gonna fall back on my, my standby, uh, Old Fashioned. I'm an Old Fashioned guy. And again, as I mentioned earlier, they're so malleable, they can be, you know, altered to match any situation, um, or any atmosphere. And the one unique thing is about the Old Fashioned, I think, is that with the exception of the twists of citrus that you might put on there, you don't have to do, you're not required. Um, everything about an Old Fashioned is shelf stable. So you can have a, an armament of things on hand at all times to make Old Fashioneds. All you need is some spirit, which are obviously shelf stable, some sort of sugar, which is a preservative so it's shelf stable, uh, and some bitters, which are spirit based as well. So I like the Old Fashioned for its malleability and it's, uh, it's always at the ready.

 

SM:

Wonderful. That is. Yeah. That's a great choice. And it's made me determined to go home and have a, an Old Fashioned tonight. Cause I haven't had one in a little while.

 

Now, if you could select any period in history and someone with whom to share a drink, when would it be and what would it be?

 

ST:

I am a, I'm a big fan of sort of the untamed West. Um, and I'm a big fan of the story of, uh, Wyatt Earp at the OK Corral. Um, so I think I would probably just like to stand, ‘cause they didn't have seats at the bar at that time. I'd stand at a bar in Tombstone, Arizona with Wyatt Earp and share a bottle of whiskey.

 

SM:

I Think that's a great idea. I love that idea.

 

ST:

I've, I've been to Tombstone, Arizona for vacation twice because I'm so enamored by that story.

 

SM:

[Laughter]

 

What, that's a great suggestion. Yeah. I, I, I think the idea of kind of drinking in the old West sounds. . .  always sounds fun. You want to be thrown out through those through the doors, into the street. . .

 

ST:

[Inaudible]

 

SM:

. . . absolute doors after having too many whiskeys with the piano plinking away in the background. I think that's perfect. I could just see it. I could just see you having that happen to you. And then the bartender turning back in, brushing his hands as they've thrown the kind of cartoon style into the street . . . .

 

ST:

“And stay out.”

 

SM:

“And don’t come back.”

 

And finally. . .

 

ST:

Yep.

 

SM:

. . . for this, before we let you go. What would you consider to be the most important invention in spirit history?

 

ST:

Uh, wow. Um, in spirit history, the most important. . .

 

SM:

Or the cocktail industry, or what would you. . .

 

ST:

Thing first that jumps to mind of course is the still. Without it, we were nothing. Um, so still jumps right out. But if we talk about cocktails and crafting them and making them on-site, I think, um, I I'm really well known for being, uh, I don't go anywhere without my bar spoon. Um, sounds silly, but you want a nice tight spiral. You want something that's well-balanced. You want a bowl that, uh, that you've measured. They don't make them standard, but if you get your spoon measure, how much of the bowl holds so that you know, what your measure is so that you can use that, um, to make cocktails with. Um, it's a great cracker of ice. Uh, it helps incorporate, uh, bubbly components like seltzer or, or, um, Champagne into cocktails. Like, uh, I can't, I can, I can get away without a shaker. I can get away, uh, without a strainer. I can't get away without a spoon.

 

SM:

That's. . .  Okay. Great answer again. Not one that I would have thought of. I would immediately, my mind goes to the shaker, goes to . . . . and I think that's a terrific answer.

 

And it'd be, and finally, finally, before we let you get back to your real life and go into making drinks with good people, um, tell us how people can find you. Let me just remind them your book – “I'm Just Here For the Drinks,” which is really, really terrific published in 2018. People should definitely go out and get that. But if they want to hear you talk and I'm sure people have been, you know, really kind of fascinated by today, where can they find you?

 

ST:

Um, my radio show is called, “The Speakeasy,” on Heritage Radio Network. You can find us on any podcast platform that you enjoy. Um, you'll see, uh, a little icon of my red glasses. That's the way you know, which one is mine. Um, again, you got nine years worth of shows to go catch up on. Uh, and we talked to all manner of people in our, our, the spirits business. Uh, so it's kind of an education in a way. Um, I'm CreativeDrunk on all media platforms, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etcetera. Um, you can follow along with the, you know, all the photos and hi-jinks that I get into on all those platforms. Uh, if you are looking at an interested in buying a copy of my book, I have signed copies available through Shaker and Spoon. Um, they're a cool company online that does a subscription cocktail box, but they also have a store that is not far from me, so I can get over there and, uh, always have signed books available through them. Uh, and if you want to get one personalized and signed by me, um, just reach out to me through Instagram or whatever, and we can figure that out too. I’m easy to get ahold of. I answer as many questions in, uh, uh, queries as I can. Um, I try not to leave them hanging. Um, so yeah, that's where you can find me.

 

SM:

Wonderful. Well, so then I have to tell you, this has been, you know, I knew we'd have a great conversation about the people, but I love the fact that we've gone off in different tangents. And we've talked about some of the history of the cocktail business as well. I'm sorry it took us so long to get this put together, but I think it was definitely worth the wait. So I want to thank you so much for coming on and being a guest on Eat My Globe. Thank you.

 

ST:

And super happy to be here. Thanks so much for having me.

 

SM:

Wonderful. Well, we'll let you go now and I shall speak to you soon, I hope anyway. And maybe one day we'll, we'll get that coordination and I'll come and be a guest on your radio show.

 

ST:

I'd love it.

 

SM:

Thanks mate. Take care.

 

ST:

You as well. See ya.

 

OUTRO MUSIC

 

SIMON:

Do make sure to check out the website associated with this podcast at www dot Eat My Globe dot com where we will be posting the transcripts from each episode, along with the references and resources we used putting the episodes together, in case you want to delve deeper into each subject. There is also a contact button, so please do let us know if there are any subjects that you would like us to cover.

 

And, if you like what you hear, please don’t forget to subscribe, recommend us to your family and friends and give us a good rating on your favorite podcast provider.

 

Thank you and goodbye from me, Simon Majumdar, we’ll speak to you soon on the next episode of EAT MY GLOBE: Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know About Food.

 

CREDITS

The EAT MY GLOBE Podcast is a production of “It’s Not Much But It’s Ours” and “Producer Girl Productions”

 

[pah-pah-pah-pah-pah sound]

 

and is created with the kind co-operation of the UCLA Department of History. We would especially like to thank Professor Carla Pestana, the Department Chair of the Department of History and Doctor Tawny Paul, Public History Initiative Director, for their notes on this episode. Also, a huge thank you to Sybil Villanueva for her help with the research and the preparations of the transcripts for this episode, which can be found on the website.

 

Published Date: November 30, 2020

Unknown-1.png
available-spotify.png
google_podcasts_badge_8x.png
iHeart.png

Copy for your favorite podcast app:

https://eatmyglobe.libsyn.com/rss

© 2018-2021 by It's Not Much But It's Ours