Industry pays tribute to legend Gary ‘Gaz’ Regan

Millie Milliken

Millie Milliken

18 November 2019

This weekend, the industry awoke to the tragic news that one of its brightest stars, Gary ‘Gaz’ Regan had passed away. Announcing his sudden death on 15 November 2019, his wife took to social media to let his thousands of followers and friends know of his passing: ‘This is Amy, Gaz’s wife. I’m sorry to let you know that Gaz passed away yesterday from complications from his recent bout of cancer. Details about a memorial service will be forthcoming.’

Regan managed to do the seemingly undoable: befriend thousands of members of the bar industry around the world

Born in Lancashire, England, Regan ‘hightailed’ to the States in his early 20s where his bartending career began. He worked the bar at numerous NYC haunts (The North Star Pub, Rathbones and more recently The Dead Rabbit, to name a few) and made his mark on the wider industry through his writing, including his first book, The Bartenders’ Bible (1991), his regular column, The Cocktailian, in The San Francisco Chronicle (2001-2014) and The Joy of Mixology (2003). He also spent an inordinate amount of his time with his younger peers, hosting his regular Cocktails in the Country workshops and training bartenders from some of the world’s most esteemed bars.

The outpouring of tributes in the aftermath of his death has been, unsurprisingly, in full flow. Unsurprising because Regan managed to do the seemingly undoable: befriend thousands of members of the bar industry around the world.

And so, in response to the outpouring, Imbibe decided to ask some of these friends to send a tribute to the legend. What we received was a reminder of his generosity of spirit – personally as much as professionally – a nod to the charm and warmth he exuded towards everyone he met, and an example of just how impactful the legacy Regan leaves behind really is. 

We will be raising a finger-stirred Negroni in his memory.

Hannah Lanfear, former bartender and founder of The Mixing Class: 

‘One of the things I most admired about Gary was that he would tirelessly lift others up: he celebrated the contributions and talent of others with his writing, and helped to propel the careers of so many of us through his books and articles. 

‘How he could maintain real friendships with thousands of bartenders around the world I’ll never know, but do so he did, and he left an indelible mark on us all. The way he saw the world embodied true hospitality; he taught us how to lift up our chin and keep going even when we are three deep and in the weeds. Here’s to you Gary, you were a truly smashing chap and we will all miss you very dearly indeed.’

Julian de Feral, bartender-turned-consultant:

‘Gary gave me strength in my conviction and fuelled my pursuit of challenging bar-lore and encouraging bartenders that I train... to look beyond the stick; to broaden focus on life and not just bartending… We all want to be served by someone we love; someone we feel comfortable with; someone we would share a drink with and make time for; someone that has the capacity to listen but also talk. The kind of person that might… literally smell the roses.

The hero that inspired me to suggest to the hundreds of future generations of bartenders... that they reassess their values, take a step back from the stick

Julian de Feral

‘And this is what made Gary, Gary. The hero that inspired me to suggest to the hundreds of future generations of bartenders... that they reassess their values, take a step back from the stick (both literally and physically)... a message that several generations later, I suppose, has a part to play in the more recent focus on wellness and mental health. 

‘Gary was ahead of his time, but I imagine would not be quick to admit it. He was irrevocably humble, and genuinely took time to speak to anybody, no matter their background. He was one of the rare gems that practised what he preached, although perhaps preaching is too strong a word: he gently suggested, coaxed and even teased. 

‘Although he had so much knowledge and experience in the industry, he learnt how to let go and not be bogged down in unnecessary detail, openly admitting when he... had perhaps got it wrong or simply didn't know the answer. This is particularly important for me… with age and experience [I] have taken his advice to heart, and continue to try and relay it to young bartenders around the world. 

How he could maintain real friendships with thousands of bartenders around the world I’ll never know, but do so he did

Hannah Lanfear

‘On the occasion that we did speak or the rare occasions we saw each other in the flesh we rarely talked about drinks. Life was so much more important, and I - being extremely presumptuous as I have not spoken to him for a while, less about his health - believe that an extremely spiritual soul will be resting safely in the knowledge that his self pervades and, like a wrinkly finger in a Negroni, there is a bit of Gary Regan in us all.’

Jeffrey Morgenthaler, award-winning bartender, bar owner and author: 

‘Gary was and always will be the type of person I strive to be: someone who contributes, selflessly, all that he has learned from this life to the rest of the world. It is a model that’s now ingrained in me thanks to him.’ 

Ago Perrone, director of mixology at The Connaught bar:

‘Gary Regan has been one of the turning points in my career, thanks to his approach to mixology and his attentive love to stay with people and share experiences. Myself and many other bartenders from my generation can be very proud to be part of the modern art of mixing cocktails movement and [we are] eager to keep Gary’s legacy alive for many more generations. Straight up with style...and don’t forget the smile.’

Erick Castro, host of Bartender at Large:

‘Gary was a man like no other I’ve ever met. He had a great love for not only cocktails but also the people who made them. His influence on my career, particularly in my early days can never be measured. Through his beautiful spirit, writings and philosophy his memory will live on forever.’

Lauren Mote, Diageo Reserve Global Cocktailian: 

‘As a young, Canadian bartender watching from the sidelines (as many of us did 10+ years ago), the opportunity to make a drink and be “judged” by someone like Gaz was not only a career highlight… but a formative moment on how bartenders accept criticism. Gary’s “judgment” turned out to be a friendly chat about hospitality, drinks and music. 

Gary was and always will be the type of person I strive to be

Jeffrey Morgenthaler

‘In 2015, I was honoured to return to the stage, and make Gaz another drink - this time in South Africa. Over the last 10 years, the once “Hi, how are you” connection at Tales I had with Gaz grew into a friendship that, today, is shared by thousands of bartenders. He was a true mentor and a true godfather of our industry. I’ll not only raise a glass, but stick a nice, clean finger in my Negroni in tribute (maybe even inspire others to do the same to their own drinks). 

‘Sending lots of love and condolences to Gary’s wife Amy, his family, friends and of course our industry. Thanks for making each day witty, happy and hilarious. Also, Gary was the first one to use 'Cocktailian' in his writings, a word I am ever more honoured to use today in my professional title. Thank you for everything.’

If you would like to share your memories of Gaz with the Imbibe team, email millie@imbibe.com

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