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OscarV

Bartender Wisdom

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OscarV

Here is an article from Esquire magazine.

It is an interview with Joy Perrine who has been dubbed Best Bartender by Louisville Magazine.

Unlike other things I've read about today's hip "mixologist" MS Perrine has a historical view on cocktails and a no non-sense style of mixin' them up.

Her takes on bourbon are very interesting, here's the article.

(cut-copy-paste)

Bartender Wisdom: 'I Am the Bad Girl of Bourbon'

2/14/2011

Five decades of bartending — twenty-three at Equus Restaurant and Jack's Lounge in Louisville, Kentucky — gives a girl a certain perspective on the business, and Joy Perrine is not one to suffer fools lightly on either side of the bar. Named best bartender by Louisville Magazine, Perrine is co-author, with food writer Susan Reigler, of The Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book, so there's not much she doesn't know about the old-fashioned and new styles of theAmerican spirit that went from a slow fade to a fine sweet burn over the past decade.

ESQUIRE:How do the new young bartenders differ from your generation's?

JOY PERRINE:I started bartending in the 1960s when there were very few female bartenders. It was groundbreaking to be a woman working behind the bar. Now, we represent more than 50 percent of the industry, but back then the only women working in bars were cocktail waitresses, or their families owned the bars. It wasn't women-friendly, but I was very lucky to work with the old-time guys who started their careers at the end of Prohibition.

ESQ:So you weren't hired to wear a tank top and flirt with the customers?

JP:No, it wasn't sexy to be a bartender like it is today, and you certainly didn't call yourself a "mixologist." You were just a gal behind the bar who was slinging drinks and trying out recipes to make the whiskey taste better. I loved those tough old guys because they taught me how to make all the classics.

ESQ: Do they cut too many corners today?

JP:The old-timers taught me how to do it right: Don't use cheap vermouth, and use fresh juice, not bar mix. I grew up in the business when you made everything from scratch, but then that terrible period in America happened when the food industry went to hell and everything was pre-made and pre-mixed. But over the last twenty years, the food revolution came along and it has rolled over to the bar. The bartenders now have fresh, new ingredients to play with and to create these amazing drinks. It is so much fun being a bartender these days. I love to research and tinker with recipes. I think bartenders are developing cutting-edge beverage programs that match what the chefs are doing in the kitchen.

ESQ:What are the six drinks every bartender should know how to make?

JP:I would actually like to give you seven: Manhattan, mint julep, whiskey sour, margarita, daiquiri, martini, and rum punch. It just baffles as to why people screw up a good cocktail like a daiquiri or margarita using pre-made mix. I may be an old dog, but I am a big one. And what is the saying? If you can't run with the big dogs, stay on the porch. I want to say to these guys who are still using pre-made stuff in cocktails: I have been making drinks longer than you have been breathing and you can't call yourself a bartender still using that junk.

ESQ:How important is it to be fast?

JP:It makes me crazy to have to wait twenty minutes for someone to make a cocktail. You don't have to have fifteen ingredients to produce an innovative drink. Some people just go to extremes. I want to tell them to read the book Three Bottle Bar, which was printed at the end of Prohibition. It is amazing, the amount of drinks this guy made with just scotch, white wine, and gin.

ESQ:Is it criminal to mix premium bourbon with other ingredients?

JP:I am the bad girl of bourbon. The good ol' boys cringe with some of the things I do with bourbon. I like to create bourbon cocktails for people who say they don't like bourbon. Trust me; I can make a bourbon cocktail that will put a smile on your face. Just like you wouldn't make steak tartare out of hamburger, you shouldn't use cheap bourbon when you are making a cocktail. I love a good steak tartare. Plus, it goes great with bourbon.

ESQ:What brands do you use for different mixed bourbon cocktails and why?

JP: Different blends have different flavor profiles. It depends on the drink, as to which bourbon I use. Some of my regular go-to bourbons include Woodford Reserve, Wild Turkey, 1979, Bulleit, Jim Beam, Buffalo Trace, Four Roses, Old Fitzgerald Prime, Maker's 46, Basil Hayden, and Old Forester. I am looking for a specific flavor profile such as heavy, light, sweet, or spicy when I make a drink. Basil Hayden is lighter bourbon so it is great in a whiskey sour. Bulleit is heavier and darker bourbon, so it makes the perfect bourbon Bloody Mary.

ESQ:What's the recipe for a perfect mint julep?

JP:You have to use spearmint and not peppermint, sugar, water, crushed ice, and good bourbon. Combine the sugar and water and muddle with the mint. Add the crushed ice and pour over the bourbon. Stir well and add a sprig of mint.

ESQ:Where did the idea of using a silver cup for a julep start?

JP:Glass as we know it today wasn't very common in the 1700s. Most of the drinking vesicles in colonial times were pewter, ceramic, and wood. Silver was used for the upper class so that is my guess as to why it became a tradition.

ESQ:How many types of bourbon do you carry at Jack's?

JP:We offer more than 55 types of bourbons.

ESQ:How much difference is there in bourbon proofs?

JP:Proofs can vary greatly from batch to batch. Many bourbons start around 86 proof but you can go all the way up to 120-plus, such as a Booker's.

ESQ:Are you suspicious of bourbon distilleries that come up with a new "small batch" every year?

JP:No, because distilleries have product stored that they need to use. It is a way of keeping the brand fresh. The consumer really wants to learn the difference between profiles.

ESQ:How do you feel about vintage-dating bourbons?

JP:It can be hard to pinpoint an exact year that the bourbon goes from the barrel to the bottle. Aging can differ due to the elements of nature and also the distiller. For example, a four-year-old can be superb and a ten-year-old not very good. It really depends on a lot of variables. Most bourbons are rectified, meaning different barrels are blended to come up with a specific flavor profile. The only bourbons not blended are the ones that say "single barrel."

ESQ:How do you tell a regular customer he's had enough?

JP:Politely and discreetly, with a light touch. Also you might mention it to him or her the next time they're in and sober. Never try to reason with a drunk.

__________________

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MarkEdwards

Cool article.

Also, I'm reminded of the joke where a bartender deals with one obnoxious patron after another, courteously and without getting upset.

Another patron of the bar says, "My, I certainly have to say that you have a lot of patience!"

The bartender replies, "Shhh! I prefer to think of them as customers!" :rolleyes:

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CorvallisCracker

Great article Oscar. Thanks for posting.

Couple of things caught my eye.

Some of my regular go-to bourbons include...1979...

1979? Think maybe she said 1792 and the Esquire reporter got it wrong?

Most bourbons are rectified, meaning different barrels are blended to come up with a specific flavor profile.

So that's what that means!

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StraightNoChaser

Good read :grin: totally reinforces my philosophy that cocktails should always be made with fresh ingredients!

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OscarV

I wish there were bars in my area that even knew what a cocktail is.

If you are not ordering Bud Lt, Miller Lt or Coors Lt they cop an attitude.

I asked for a WT 101 on the rocks at a local watering hole once and the poor little red neck girl rolled her eyes and laughed and said, "Wild Turkey, that sounds like something my grandfather used to drink."

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imbibehour
I asked for a WT 101 on the rocks at a local watering hole once and the poor little red neck girl rolled her eyes and laughed and said, "Wild Turkey, that sounds like something my grandfather used to drink."

When I was getting into and learning about cocktails a few years ago, I mistakenly went into a bar in downtown DC that I "assumed" knew what they were doing.

I asked the bartender to make me a Bijou. The woman wasn't sure what that was so she went up to another older guy behind the bar and asked about a bjiou. The guy then just smirked and said "is that a small dog or something?" In the end they couldn't do it.

So I went to another place (Mayflower hotel) and asked the guy to make one and he said, I don't think I've made one of those but if you tell me what's in it I can do it. so I told him and he made his magic. Now that's a bar.

I really hate smart-alek comments from bartenders to customers, if they say dumb stuff to me I never go back.

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OscarV

I really hate smart-alek comments from bartenders to customers, if they say dumb stuff to me I never go back.

That's why I drink at home.

The good bars that I know of are to far from me, Ann Arbor, Detroit etc.

BTW, you ever go to The Alley in the Georgetown area of DC?

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imbibehour
That's why I drink at home.

The good bars that I know of are to far from me, Ann Arbor, Detroit etc.

BTW, you ever go to The Alley in the Georgetown area of DC?

I haven't been there, I don't spend a lot of time in Georgetown. I have heard that place is quite neat, I am overdue for seeing it

On a side note, there's some craft cocktail bars in the DC area that are also kind of neat, although they are a little difficult to get into.

And like you I drink and make my own drinks at home, it's more fun, cheaper, and I never have to wait :grin:

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bourbonv

Joy is a very unique person. If you have never visited her at Jack's then you should the next time you are in Louisville. Her cocktails are fantastic, but a conversation with her is even better. She is a fountian of knowledge.

Mike Veach

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cowdery

There's a bar here in downtown Chicago that I like. They don't have a great bourbon selection. They have Old Grand-Dad BIB so that's usually what I have. I like it because it's a real bar, where people go to drink, and the bartenders are pros. A pro won't necessarily know how to make every cocktail. What they know is how to engage and satisfy every customer.

Gary Regan once suggested that I go to the bar at the Ritz Carlton in New York, ask for a certain bartender, and have him make me a Blanton's Manhattan. The drink was sublime, but the bartender was a consummatete professional and I think that's what Gary intended me to enjoy, even more than the drink.

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Jwilly019
There's a bar here in downtown Chicago that I like. They don't have a great bourbon selection. They have Old Grand-Dad BIB so that's usually what I have. I like it because it's a real bar, where people go to drink, and the bartenders are pros. A pro won't necessarily know how to make every cocktail. What they know is how to engage and satisfy every customer.

If you don't mind me asking, what is the name of the bar? I'll be in Chicago this weekend and I'm looking for some interesting places to check out.

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NeoTexan

For Old School cocktails in Cleveland, try The Velvet Tango Room. They have a sign on the front door that says "If it takes a blender, we don't make it".

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OscarV
If you don't mind me asking, what is the name of the bar? I'll be in Chicago this weekend and I'm looking for some interesting places to check out.

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cowdery
If you don't mind me asking, what is the name of the bar? I'll be in Chicago this weekend and I'm looking for some interesting places to check out.

Miller's Pub, 134 S. Wabash Street. Decent restaurant too.

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Jwilly019
The place Chuck mentioned isn't Delilah's but it has just about any whiskey you want and great piped in music.

They even have a bottle of Old Rip Van Winkle 23yo open also it's just a few blocks away from Select Cut Steakhouse, you can't go wrong with either.

Thanks, Delilah's was on my radar from posts around SB. A friend and I already decided we had to check it out.

Miller's Pub, 134 S. Wabash Street. Decent restaurant too.

Thanks. Google Maps shows it's about a block from where I'll be staying, shouldn't be a problem to stop in sometime.

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jburlowski
I wish there were bars in my area that even knew what a cocktail is.

If you are not ordering Bud Lt, Miller Lt or Coors Lt they cop an attitude.

Hell, around here if you're not ordering a bucket of Bud Lt, Miller Lt or Coors Lt they cop an attitude

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