What do you like to drink after a shift? Post-shift wind down for me often involves Cognac. Ill pour myself a Scaffa: a neat/room temperature cocktail of two parts Cognac, 1 part Amaro Nonino and 1 part Cocchi Rosa. I call it Just the Paperwork because thats all thats left to do to close the books on my day.
What is the all-time best dive bar jukebox song? Beast of Burden by The Rolling Stones. Its got a rhythm and message that encourages me to day drink in a dive bar. I need no fussing, I need no nursing
What drink should be banished and why? Drinks, like everything we consume really, are subjective. If there are people out there who like it, I say give it a seat in the pantheon. No judgment.
Name the first good drink you ever drank and where you had it. Without being overly romantic regarding the subject, Im pretty sure my first real cocktail I ever had was a 50/50 Gibson. I was interested in it as I was an aspiring chef at the time and the bar was making their own pickled onions. I remember the bartender stirring the drink and thinking that it was unusual, Id only seen drinks shaken. She also chilled the glass with ice water. I was immediately impressed with the techniques involved. And then, the drink, it was so crisp and bright. A hit of brine. I was hooked. This was at Zuni Cafe in San Francisco. I was a student at the California Culinary Academy.
What book on cocktails, spirits or food is your go-to resource? Whew, too many to cull:
Technique: Gary Regans Joy of Mixology
Theory: Dave Arnolds Liquid Intelligence
Food Science: Harold McGees On Food and Cooking
Whats your favorite bottle of booze that costs less than $25? Old Overholt Rye, the longest continually produced rye in America. Its a workhorse of a whiskey with a pleasant flavor of peanuts and peanut shells with a flinty mineral note to finish. Makes the perfect Old-Fashioned.
Whats your favorite bottle of booze that costs more than $100? Well, I purchased a case of Old Overholt from 1909 that was incredibly special but basically unobtainable. So, Ill go with Chartreuse VEP. Its herbal and slightly sweet, plus it packs a punch at 110-proof. I keep a small bottle in my shower. #ShowerTreuse Its a spa day every day.
Whats your favorite cocktail and food pairing? A Manhattan and BBQ ribs. In fact, in my forthcoming book, Im Just Here for the Drinks, I offer a recipe for Manhattan-glazed ribs. The glaze includes rye, sweet vermouth and Angostura Bitters.
Whats your favorite shot-and-a-beer combination? Bottled Lone Star, the National Beer of Texas, with a shot of the aforementioned Old Overholt. (I see a pattern.) Alternatively, as the summer is upon us, Ive been drinking Stiegl Radler Grapefruit Beer with Vida Mezcal to beat the heat.
What is the one tool that you always make sure to pack when youre traveling for business? My peeler. Its important as most people use a Y peeler and I do not. If Ive got the wrong peeler, theres often more blood and tears in my drinks than most prefer.
Interview has been condensed and edited.