In the shaker: A bartender's schtick

Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller ask if the schticks of some of our best-loved bartenders were for more than pure entertainment

Everyone has a schtick, a special talent or area of interest that creates a point of difference. Actors, musicians, performers of all sorts, and yes, even bartenders all have a schtick of some form or another. The Cuban Roll was the schtick that made Miguel Boadas and his daughter Maria Dolores Boadas of Barcelona’s Boadas rock stars of the bar. The revival of the flamed twist lit up Dale DeGroff ’s repertoire when he presided at Manhattan’s elegance-plus Rainbow Room. Three-ingredient concoctions partly made the illustrious careers of London masters Harry Craddock, Dick Bradsell and Brian Silva.

What we're drinking

The Japanese are rightfully proud of their whiskies. And not surprisingly a deluge of new and previously unrecognised ones are coming out of the woodwork. In addition to outstanding Suntory, Yamazaki, Hibiki, and Nikka whiskies, we found ourselves taking a Mount Fuji tribute from Kirin that, in a blind taste, had us thinking of Zacapa 23. The Eigashima Distillery continues to produce superb limited editions, identifiable by their identical Boston bottles. The Mars Komagatake series from the Shinshu Mars distillery, including annual blends for Whisky Expo Japan, held some surprising breaks from classic style. In all, a successful drinking mission that we can’t wait to repeat. If you’re heading there, don’t miss High Five and Star Bar in Ginza, Tokyo.

A schtick not only creates a point of difference. A technique or a particular creative process doesn’t just makes your work stand out, it makes creativity possible when you’re slammed on a Saturday night and a customer asks you to make something different. When the weather is bleak and dreary, our favourite pastime is perusing our library of cocktail books. We recently pulled out our 1888 edition of Harry Johnson’s New and Improved Bartender’s Manual and sat down with a snifter of cognac on the sofa to reminisce through his collection of concoctions.

Famed for creating tall drinks such as the Morning Glory Fizz and more than a few dozen variations on the gin Martini, Harry also seemed to have a schtick we had never noticed before. He liked to take a base spirit and possibly a modifier, then add a dash here and a dash there of bitters, liqueurs, syrups. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. How simple is that?

We fondly remember one of Harry’s dash-here, dash-there wonders – the Irish Cocktail – because we featured it eight years ago in a Jameson Cult Cocktail Club video. The motion of tipping a dasher bottle in one hand and alternating with a dasher bottle in the other over the mixing glass, then stirring the mixture until cold and straining it into the glass in less than a minute. It was visually sensual. That could be a schtick worth reviving.

Harry’s repertoire took him from the beauty of the Irish Cocktail made with Irish whiskey to the Olivette Cocktail devised for Plymouth Gin lovers. He occasionally combined a base spirit with a vermouth modifier before performing his dash-here, dash-there feat. The Trilby Cocktail was an example that married Scotch whisky with Italian vermouth while the Montana Cocktail intertwined brandy and dry vermouth. Those rows of bitters bottles that you proudly display on your rack, can you imagine choreographing magic with more of them than one at a time? We can. Give it a try.

IRISH COCKTAIL

Adapted from Harry Johnson’s New and Improved Bartender’s Manual, 1888

Glass: Cocktail
Garnish: Olive
Method: Stir over ice, strain and garnish. Squeeze a lemon peel over the top and serve.
50ml Irish whiskey
2-3 dashes absinthe
1 dash maraschino
1 dash curaçao
2 dashes aromatic bitters (Angostura or Boker’s)

MORNING COCKTAIL

Adapted from Harry Johnson’s New and Improved Bartender’s Manual, 1888

Glass: Cocktail
Garnish: Fresh cherry
Method: Stir over ice, strain and garnish. Squeeze a lemon peel over the top and serve.
25ml cognac
25ml vermouth
2 dashes absinthe
1 dash maraschino
1 dash curaçao
3-4 dashes aromatic bitters (Angostura or Boker’s)

VERMOUTH COCKTAIL

Adapted from Harry Johnson’s New and Improved Bartender’s Manual, 1888
Glass: Cocktail
Garnish: Fresh cherry
Method: Stir over ice, strain and garnish. Squeeze a lemon peel over the top and serve.
50ml vermouth
4-5 dashes gomme syrup
3-4 dashes aromatic bitters (Angostura or Boker’s)
2 dashes maraschino

This feature was orignally published on the 2020 Spring issue of Imbibe Magazine.

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