Restaurant Rockstars Episode 331
How to Elevate Your Bar Business
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If your operation sells alcohol, you know that hour by hour bar business and profit often far exceeds that of food.
But it’s not just about bar profit. You want your bar menu to offer your guests the same excitement as your food menu.
I was traveling to Seattle a few weeks back and met a master mixologist who absolutely captured his guest’s attention with his curated and custom crafted cocktails.
In this episode of the Restaurant Rockstars Podcast, I’m speaking with Andy Rodriguez who has a true passion for sharing his knowledge of all thing’s spirits, bar business and the fine points of mixology.
Listen as Andy shares:
- The benefits and “how to” of creating a specialty cocktail list for your bar business.
- Great ideas and training available on YouTube.
- How pairing beverages with food selections adds bar profit.
- Cocktails that are trending now
- Simple cocktail infusions and steeping
- Delivering flair and showmanship behind the bar
If you’re interested in jazzing up your bar business with specialty cocktails and flair, Andy can help you.
Reach out to him on Instagram then go out and ROCK your Restaurant!
Connect with our guest:
What I thought was really fun and cool, was recognizing what glassware goes best with, like the cocktail. And I think maybe that’s like, kind of what caught my eye and maybe like really start to pay attention because the cocktail doesn’t look good and has certain glassware or it’s like, it doesn’t really shine. It doesn’t really appeal as well as you would like it to.
Hey there and welcome back to the podcast. So glad you’re here. You know, I was in Seattle a couple of weeks back on business, and I went into this restaurant with my business partner, and I met a bartender there but bartender does not do him justice. He is actually a professional mixologist. And we had such a great time. And, you know, the cocktails were curated based on him asking us questions about what we liked and what our tastes were. And they were spectacular in presentation and flavor profile. And I suddenly realized, you know, this is a guest that I have to introduce on the podcast because there is so much opportunity. If you have a bar, it is so profitable and curating a specialty cocktail list is a huge competitive advantage. So I’d like to introduce Mr. Andy Rodriguez, professional mixologist in this week’s episode, so stay tuned. Thanks also to the sponsors this week Whirks, Smithfield Culinary, popmenu and Zinch. Now on with the episode,
you’re tuned in to the restaurant rockstars podcast powerful ideas to rock your restaurant. Here’s your host, Roger Beaudoin.
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Hey, welcome back. This is the restaurant rockstars podcast. Andy, thank you welcome to the show. How you doing?
I’m doing well. Thank you so much for having me, Roger.
Fantastic. Well, you know, you are like the bar guru. And I would consider you to be the master mixologist and there’s so much importance and and just to creativity and everything that goes into a strong beverage program. And you’re like totally at the heart of that. So I think it’s so appropriate to our audience. Because right now, you know, creating and curating a beautiful cocktail list, not just having a bar, but really putting all this amazing stuff forward is so important. And that’s what you do. So I know we’re gonna get all into that.
Most definitely. Especially with creating cocktails, I can see us having a lengthy conversation about that. It’s always fun to the process of doing that than what
so it’s always interesting to our audience. And to myself how people get into this hospitality business, everyone’s got their backstory and how it first struck them either at a young age or as a young person or even later in life, it comes to at different times. Why don’t you tell us your story?
Well, I think I think cocktails have always been somewhat associated, I think like, growing up, you know, your parents always have their their cocktail of choice when it’s dinnertime, right? My, in my family was in Manhattan. So a very simple classic cocktail. And so I learned a lot of that. And that’s probably, to be honest, probably one of the first cocktails I learned because it’s the family cocktail of joys during dinner. But I think I think the passion really built through just overall interest, you know, you get a little bit of like, oh, okay, it’s a drink here, drink there. But then it turns into something different if you’re mixing a few different flavors. And I think I didn’t really fully appreciate that for a while. But finally, like, once I actually got into the hospitality industry through New York and seeing more detail, like on how cocktails were created, how they came out looking and how guests received them, was even more like, kind of an awakening moment. And so it kind of, kind of, I don’t know how to really put it into words, it’s hard to to really describe how you like, get into it. You know,
what’s interesting is you move to New York City. And I’m kind of curious, because as I understand you grew up in Cheyenne, Wyoming. So what brought you to New York for the first because that’s quite a move. Right? And were you young at that time? Like how young were you when you moved from Wyoming?
So I mean, from Wyoming, I actually moved from Wyoming to Seattle, Washington, when I was 14. Okay. And, yeah, first to Seattle. And then that’s just because I had a lot of my mom’s side of the family over here in Washington. Gotcha. And for New York, it was like more of, okay, I’m just turned 21, I was a little over 20 was already visiting my family in Ohio, and just kind of like, I’ve been wanting to go to New York. And I’ve been saying it for like the past couple years. And then all of a sudden, let’s just go to New York, let’s just book a Greyhound, and go to New York, find an Airbnb, and then we’ll figure out rent from there. Yeah. Thankfully, I had the support of my, my both my father and my mother back here in Washington saying, I mean, might as well just go for it,
like chase your dream. Yeah,
exactly. So and I wanted to go there for a couple different reasons. I was pursuing modeling at the time. So I was like, You know what, let’s try this. Try my, you know, try my luck in New York. I mean, New York can be a very tough, tough market, but it’s a lively city. And I’m sure there’s plenty of other things to do while I’m there. moved there and figured, hey, I mean, hospitality is the best way to do it. So I went to New York got a job at a couple different places, and and now we’re here, but rent ended up catching up. So I moved back here to Washington. So
So I think you were a barback. Right, a barback and a server? And so did you get much exposure behind the bars a bar back other than just in a support role? I mean, did you do anything besides, hey, fill the ice and, you know, move us, you know, bring us a couple of cases of bar bottles and all that, you know, that’s a typical barback thing.
Yeah. And initially, not so much fish because I was still under 21. I mean, so for liability reasons. They didn’t want me to handle too many spirits, at least free pouring or doing anything along those lines. But there were a select few bartenders that would regularly that I would regularly work with. They’d be like, hey, actually help out to other people here. So get here and their experience not really, as much as some might want rid of the beginning. But for like catering, it was at least from the events that we hosted. It felt like there was such a big rush to where, like, you know, you when you go into a nightclub, and you and you’re trying to order a drink from the bar there. Yeah, that’s what I felt like a majority of the catering events that I worked. Were there that club type of scene? Yeah. Even though it was just like, family members, and we’re wedding recital, wedding reception or whatever it was, right. Most of the people are zooming in and kind of going all all in. So it was like, Okay, make a few two step drinks, rum and coke, vodka, soda. Easy stuff, not really anything elevated. But yeah, most of my most of my work was more support staff in that moment with little bits here and there, helping guests when it’s those busy moments. And it wasn’t it wasn’t more until at the Greek restaurant that I worked at I actually started paying attention to more of the cocktails that the bartender there had put out. And it’s been so long, I couldn’t, I couldn’t even give you a name or anything along those lines. But he, he paid attention to everything. You know, he had his little tongs and everything that he would put like certain garnishes on with cocktails. And so you pay attention to those certain details, and made sure what I thought was important. Or what I thought was really fun and cool, was recognizing what glassware goes best with, like the cocktail. And I think maybe that’s like, kind of what caught my eye and made me like really start to pay attention because the cocktail doesn’t look good and has certain glassware or it’s like, it doesn’t really shine. Right? It doesn’t really appeal as well as you would like it to your wine at unsolo. Cup.
Yeah, you’re definitely touching it something super, super, super important. It’s like the choice of glassware accentuates the drink. It also brings out maybe the nuances, the flavors, similar with wine, right? There’s a certain type of wine glass that goes with white or red and obviously, red wine glasses, big and bold was to let all the you know the
flavors tapered at the front too. So you can get a nice nose. Yeah, to wear white wine. It’s wide open, because there’s not really much of a nose for white wine.
Yeah, so exactly, you know, similar experience. So you obviously have so much more experienced behind the bar, I was a bartender for a very short period of time, it was probably maybe a year. And you know, it was at a private country club. And I was taught just like you said the one step drinks. So if I made, you know, a Singapore Sling or a Bacardi cocktail that was elevated, you know? Exactly, exactly, and the members, right, it’s like the guys would come in for lunch off the golf course. And the drink of choice was something they called a skull Buster, which was three shots of Burnett’s English gin with one little onion popped in it. And then we’d have two of those things. And then they go hit the course, again, it was like the thing, right. And then on weekends, there were there were weddings that were obviously put, it was a big wedding place. And now it’s all about speed. It’s not about style or flair, it’s just pump them out as fast as you can, because there’s a line, three bartenders in a row and you’re just cranking out drinks. So yes, that is, you know, appropriate in certain situations. But what’s really important, like you’re talking about as the craftsmanship and the flair and the proper glassware and, and just curating something. So let’s talk about your passion, and how that really developed and how you taught yourself all the stuff that you know now, and then we’ll get into some of your other experiences at restaurants. But let’s talk about how you develop the craft personally.
Well, like you just said, like those simple one, two drinks, you know, started off there. I mean, that was obvious there as well with like families. That’s kind of a small experience, too. Because you know, your grandma’s drink, right? You got three fingers with a splash a diet. Yeah. And then you go from there, right, there you go. Yeah. And from there, and once I started, like really like, playing around with that, then I stepped it up to I really took it more as like a step by step. So like one like one steps, everything was neat or a shot. To step we got to some type of mixer. Let’s go to a three step. We’ve got a Negroni maybe an old fashioned and I really that’s what I kind of did is I would buy this bottles of like mixers or additives and grab what I was drinking at the moment. So I was drinking whiskey and a lot of like cognacs when I first started like actually drinking because I prefer my dark spirits over anything. And then I started kind of just doing different cocktails. You know, okay, I got a bowl of already a I’ve got a Manhattan got. If you if you want it for wanting to get like a little more culinary with it. We start into like the endzone ease or like the winter endzone is where you muddle a little grape in there. It just gives you like this kind of sweet acidic flavor with everything else. And I just started just grabbing different ingredients and started from there like paper playing. Like that’s one of my favorite cocktails. I think like that’s a very popular modern cocktail too. I
can’t say I’ve ever heard of it, what’s in it?
And it’s gonna be bourbon, Apple, some bitters. And then you put like an immoral in there. Either like an immoral like a moral no Nino, or if you’re looking for like a little more of a bite like amaro Montenegro is really nice. Or if you’re just like just depending on how you like it. You can sell a different amaro in there, but amaro Montenegro is one of mine just because it gives a little more like that bitey kind of bitter flavor that I enjoy. Yeah. And then you do a little bit of lemon juice and give it a shake and serve it up. Done. You know, it’s like a Perfect balance with a little bit of sweeter like bourbon. So I’ll use like Buffalo Trace or something along those lines, right? Just because it’s a sweeter, not so much of a pungent bourbon. And then I’ll put all the other bitter, bitter sweet, all that together. And it puts together like once you shake it and the bitters and the lemon juice, they put a nice froth on it. So you get a lot of that lemon, herbal zest right on the nose as soon as you like sip a cocktail. So it’s just a fun cocktail. That requires a couple more ingredients.
Hey, Walter, Walter.
Come on up, dawg. Hey, Walter. Awesome. He wants to say hello. So he’s exactly cool. No he’s (dog) totally welcome on the podcast. Yeah, keep,
you can hang on, you can
But I pick up, pick up a couple bottles like that, because that’s three, four ingredients right off the bat. And that’s how I kind of started building my little bar shelf to really play around with those adaptive ingredients. And I think that’s really how I started to like, evolve it. I think the next year I started playing more with different different types of that and it’s not just like a morose or Vermouths or anything along those lines, but like aperitifs. So like there’s a fun, there’s a fun brand that I think actually just recently went out of business, I think, but their their name was Haas. And they’re like a local California APA TIF company that will use botanicals from their farm. And they would just pick out these different things they had like a nice rose a spritz type of it, it was just nice low ABV that really worked if you were trying to make like a spritz type cocktail, but then have like a different base. So I started playing around with like some rums or some like, I did throw a vermouth with a like a lemon stitch there like one of them in stitches aperitifs to kind of brighten it up. So it turns like a sweet vermouth into like a slightly more like little a tip of flavor. Do you have that you said that herbal illness, but then it turns a little bit more floral and kind of sweet. So it was, it’s fun to kind of play around with those different flavors. And I’ve really kind of, from my personal palate I’ve played, I like to try to contrast flavors. And just keep them like savory, bitter, and then you have like a touch of sweetness at the end. Or, if it is sweet, at the first you’re gonna have like a very bitter ending in the back of your throat. That’s just how I like the drink the cocktails because I want whenever I’m enjoying a cocktail, no matter what I’m eating, I want it to have some type of either complement or contrast to the dish. And I feel I feel like that’s just more the flavor aspect of it. You know,
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So that’s a big part of what you do now because you’d like to pair food with a proper cocktail and curate an experience for a guest and there’s so much value to that that is that is part of what we would call an amazing dining experience when someone is so knowledgeable that they not only recommend a food item, whether that be an appetizer, an entree or dessert, but then they pair it with something that literally complements it and someone tastes that after they got a recommendation they decided to try the recommendation and then when they love it, you just you just created a guest for life you build value into their experience and that’s true hospitality you know.
I mean it loves doing it’s honestly my favorite thing and it’s I don’t think that’s a feeling that I will ever not fully enjoy. Yeah, whenever I hear a guest say and a comment Wow, great recommendation. Wow, great drink, you know, and I and I’m honest with a lot of people I tell them I say hey like Be honest with me I’m you know if you if you don’t like it for whatever reason, I don’t know and I can’t fix it if I if you don’t tell me. So be straightforward. I think we You know, I think we could all manage and be fine with it.
Well, you know, that was my experience. I’m gonna let the audience know now that I met you literally, in Bellevue, Washington when I was eating there just a couple of weeks ago, and, you know, my business partner, and I walked into your restaurant, because he knows you personally. And he’s like, Hey, we gotta go meet these great guy, Andy, and he’s a mixologist, and blah, blah, blah, and I had no preconceived notions, and then we sat down, and then you immediately like, irregardless of who I was with, it’s like, you treated us like, we were the most important people in the place, even though you’re treating everyone at your bar. That way, you’re treating everyone like they were a regular or local. But then you were literally making drink choices, saying, what, you know, what do you like, and then you go, and then I took pictures of it. And I’m like, wow, these two cocktails look amazing. Like, you don’t even want to take a sip of it before you pull out your phone and take a picture of it. Because exactly what’s special, you know, and you gave us this amazing experience. And that’s really what it’s all about. So thank you for doing that. And I’m really glad. Now I want to share this passion that you have with our audience. And I want to talk about, you know, the importance of a beverage program and the importance of curating maybe specialty cocktails, not just having a bar, if you have a bar and doing those one step drinks, taking it a notch up, or even 10 notches up and really delivering an experience, because that’s, that’s really what it’s all about.
It’s so good. No, it’s okay, Roger.
I’m tripping over my words here. So let’s talk about some of your restaurant experiences. After you moved from, say New York like you, you left New York. And then you went back to Seattle, you mentioned you had family there. And then you went to work for a large chain of restaurants, but one individual restaurant, I think it’s called Joey, Was that your first experience back in Seattle? Or do you work somewhere else first,
I worked somewhere else. First, I actually had Kent when I came back from New York. As I mentioned, rented started catching up. And so like I said, move back to Washington, because it was the safer bet. Yeah. And I took a break from the hospitality industry and ended up actually working at kind of a car dealership, actually locally here in Seattle. And I just did that, because I needed to find something quick, easy. That way, it’s jumping from one state to another, and I have a decent transition. Yeah, and I don’t, I don’t have, I don’t have to wait for the hiring dates and all that I ended up going a little bit longer in a car dealership than I wanted. But I was still doing some bartending on the side and still like playing around with spirits and different cocktails at home, making them for friends family, even doing like if somebody was if a family member was having like a like a small little wine event or something like that. And bar 10 for them were do create certain cocktails off of whatever they have around the Manhattan. Sure. So I mean, it took me a minute, but then I decided, like, you know, I’m kind of tired of my commute. I know that there’s a restaurant right down the street from where I’m living, why don’t I, you know, go apply. It’s, I think it’s about time to get back into it, I think it’d be a lot easier. At the time to I was even getting into real estate for a little bit. And so I was like, this would be a good opportunity for me to network in a way. If I have time, I can communicate with my guests in a certain way. It was a lot busier at this, Joey than I anticipated it to be. So it wasn’t the best place for networking. Because it’s like, who wants to say, Hey, how’s it going to talk about real estate? Wait, I’ll be right back. You know, gotcha. So there wasn’t the best, but it did turn into more of like focusing on the cocktails. And that’s where I got to have more fun with that play a little bit more with the inventory that they had there. And they had a little more access to certain things. Or at least readily available things for like syrups and, or like batch making things than I would as an individual, at least, you know, price wise. So I mean, it was fun to be able to mix in with a different type of spirits or learn different things from guests that would come in from there, because I didn’t really get as much of an opportunity to talk to guests about their drinks and certain experiences when I was in New York, because I mean, I’d talk to the guests but I really never spoke with the guests or entertained with the guests. So this was probably my my first one on one more personal experience with the guests. I guess. I was informed more
when I when I stopped in the Castillo. I mean, we walked around the downtown An area Bellevue Washington I had never been in again, I had no idea what to expect. But it was very cosmopolitan, you know, lots of skyscrapers really up to the minute buildings, lots of new buildings going up really dynamic, vibrant restaurant scene all centered around this downtown area. And we went to several places after Castillo. And you know, it just struck me as a very upscale, sophisticated place where, you know, the guests have an expectation of hospitality and looking for something more, and whether you have a restaurant in small town America and the biggest cities in the world, it’s like, it’s not just delivering food and drink, it’s delivering an experience, you know, and, and that’s clearly what we got, no matter where we went, it was like, you could, you could tell that training was very, very important, and that the people were professionals wherever we went, whether that was their lifetime career, or was a stop on somewhere else. Clearly, the guest experience came first. And everyone was treated like a very important person, no matter where we went. And that was certainly the case where we saw. But yeah, it’s like that was so important. So we talked a little bit about you doing private events and stuff. And now you’ve got your own home bar set up and you experiment down there and you have friends over and you like you do your thing for friends and family down in the in the home bar even sent me some video of that, which is, which is really, really cool. And some photos which I’m going to share with the audience of some of your cocktails. Have you sort of built this database of your own concoctions that you’ve created now, that sort of list of recipes and all that too?
I have yeah, I’ve got a few just like random just classics or twists off of classic cocktails that I’ve served the guests that they’ve either enjoyed or I’ve enjoyed. By I mean, the video of my home bar kind of shows what my home homes shelf looks like. But there’s a there’s something I didn’t end up showing you might but my fridge is basically the entire door of my fridge is filled with like syrups and my vermouth that are open and all of that. So it looks like it’s truly a full on bar. Definitely. Yeah, I’m gonna say yeah.
So it’s so interesting, because the liquor industry is so highly competitive. And there’s so many lockers. And there are so many spirits of all kinds. And, you know, every when I owned restaurants, it’s like the reps would come in the door all the time trying to get you to try this product and bring it in and all this kind of stuff. And some liquors are really super hot and popular. And they just fly off the shelf and people, you know, there’s a buzz about them. And then other stuff will just sit there, you know, and you don’t need everything, but it’s a real science and almost an art to figure out what you absolutely need. And as for a while there, the big trend was like flavored vodkas, and you could get any flavor from vanilla raspberry to cinnamon to this, the next thing and that’s sort of trendy anymore, right?
Is it? No, no, not so much. I mean, you still have, you still have a lot of guests that will ask for flavored vodka shots or just like flavored make someone say like foo free drinks? I think I think we can, I think it’s gotten a little bit different to where people know that they can achieve a good flavor with a syrup rather than a flavored vodka. Just because I mean, great on absolut, I feel like absolute flavors are great, or there’s even a few other small smaller brands that have like good flavors to them. But like it also gives away a certain flavor that doesn’t do well with any other cocktails or with other ingredients and gives a different type of flavor profile. So I think at least from what I’ve noticed what I’ve seen within at least the Bellevue community syrups are so easy to modify, you can make a simple syrup, that’s an easy one to one ratio of sugar and water, right. And you can throw a vanilla bean in there and there’s vanilla syrup. You can throw some tea bags, if you have like a like a chamomile tea, you can throw a couple of tea bags in simple syrup. And then there’s a chamomile infused simple syrup. And so there’s a lot of things you can do with infusions and there’s even really cool ways of just rapid infusion to the liquors themselves. Or you don’t even really need to play with that. I think a lot of people want to see those infusions. I know behind the bar I’m currently at we have a couple of different infusions as well as within our syrups as well and two of our spirits and some sometimes some of our guests Yes, like making those together and like what’s that? Like? Oh, this is actually Our cocktail.
So that’s part of the showmanship, too, because you can display something behind the bar guests can watch you making these things. It’s intriguing to watch. People want to try something new. Right? So it’s like a marketing thing to in addition to delivering a really cool product. So in terms of infusions, is it all just fruit? Or is it fruit and spices? Like what are some of the different infusions that you can do?
I mean, it’s, I think, the more the more classic ones that you would see or like the older stock crumbs that you people would make, or just like the simple more fruity, juicy muddled flavors. I’d say more and more, you’re seeing a lot more like culinary cocktails, to where they’re actually like working with the kitchen and using ingredients that the kitchen is already using. So like, if you if you like a pretty popular cocktail. That was it was come up was called like a yellow number two, which is like mezcal, a little yellow, chartreuse, yellow bell pepper juice. And it’s basically like a build of a margarita, with a little bit of like some twists, right? And the yellow pepper juiced already act sweet. So you, because that’s what the yellow pepper is. It’s like the sweetest you can get out of the pepper if I recall, right? Yeah, so blend that down. It’s already naturally sweet, but it’s also very vegetal. So then it works with a mezcal, which is nice, and, you know, smoky and earthy. And so as long as you can to kind of accomplish that, like those flavors to combine, then it works. But I’m seeing a lot more and more culinary stuff for sure.
How popular are people drinking things neat. Now, like there’s so many different types of liquors that are sipping spirits, you might say like dill is specifically, I don’t know if it’s per se the same for rums, you would obviously know best, but I mean, is that really popular? Still, I mean, not doing shots because you know, party kids go out to clubs, and people do shots, but I’m talking about appreciating the nuances of a spirit for what it is. And then comparing different tequilas. Try this one try that one can, you know do you develop sort of a palette for things where you can taste like wines very clearly, but like healers or vodkas, or any of the things that people sip? Does it take time to really figure out the nuances or is it evident?
It can, I think, at least for like my specific palate, I definitely noticed certain nuances about certain alcohols. And there definitely is like that market for like tequila and whiskey drinkers. I mean, they’re the probably two popular, like liquors of within the group of liquors that we can classify. And it’s, I think, tequila right now is ever more growing right now than whiskey. Which, which is good, honestly, and there’s a lot of good tequila is out there. But I think like, so like for how I do it, say, I if I’m trying want to try like a new and new Scotch with the world. As of lately, it’s been more rums and Sherry’s for me. But if I want to try something new, I want to do it, I want to grab one, one single shot and eat on ice on the side. And then if I don’t have it on me, which I’ll I’ll have like a little saline solution on me. So it’s like a little, little bit of salt water essentially, and a little dropper bottle that I can drop in there. Or if I don’t have that currently on me or bar doesn’t have any saline solution, I’ll just ask for some simple table salt. And all what I’ll do is I’ll drink it meat and just have a little sip, try it like that, try with all the alcohol and all the ethanol going in and everything and I get that full burn if there is a burn. Taste that I’ll add a little bit on on the ice. That that showdown try it shelled with a little dilution. And then what I’ll do is I’ll take this a little bit of salt or saline, and I’ll put it on both. And I’ll try on both that way. Now I can try to kind of follow that like the rule of tasting is like three sips before you wreck really say what you’re tasting, because each time each sip your palates getting a different no every time because you can’t process all the flavors at once, right? You’ve got to take that one sip, you’ve got to figure it out. So you know well that one’s got a little caramel a little whatever in there. Take your second sip and like oh, there’s a little more floral notes or whatever along those lines. That’s how I generally like to do it. Most most people don’t do it like that. I’m just a little over the top about it, unfortunately. Well, I wouldn’t say unfortunately but I’m a little more overtop than most people but I do see some people asking for two kilos and that would ask for like an extra and Yeah, whoa. Or just don’t Yeah, hold on the rocks. Or even just like a Rosado with a single Ice Cube. And then we’re not talking like a gentleman’s cube either more just like a single little ice cube just so it gets a little bit of dilution but not like, doesn’t want it to be too cold.
While you’re on that subject, those people that you know, are not terribly familiar with tequilas, can you give us the difference? Between reposado and Na Ho and Blanco tequila as in? It’s not just the color per se, is it part of the process? Is it the flavorings that go into it the distillation like what gives you the differences between those three types of tequila.
So the it’s a certain aging of the tequila itself. So de Blanc like blancos and if I remember right are basically straight out the still or up to like a year or two within the an aging still, or within like a barrel of some sort. But keeping it Blonko the reposado is going to be anywhere from like two to three years within a barrel depending on the depending on the tequila, you know, could be oak, it could be a rum, it could be a sherry cask that’s always actually fun to find something with a sherry gas personally, right? And then yeah, whole goes up from if I recall from like that five to seven years. So depending on where you’re going, you and then you’ll get more vanilla more okie kind of those carmelized notes from the wood. So similar to like how you would age whiskey and scotch and other bourbons. It’s along those same lines.
Gotcha. Okay, it’s all about the aging, which often determines price, right? And exclusivity and all these things. I mean, that’s all part of marketing we can do.
Yeah, they can because I know so for like tequila, tequila and whiskey, it definitely does. But then for rums, it depends on the cask and where it’s kind of from, because you could have a really nice 15 year old rum, but it’s the fraction of a price of what a Scotch or tequila would be. And it’s actually delicious, you know, and you’re like, I would buy that again and go into it. Right so that’s that’s the kind of the perk about rum is that they’re affordable. And tours, no matter what the aging is. I think there’s even like there’s a few like XL bottles that are like well, Miko bottles that are under under 150 bucks. Taurus, if you are looking for like, say, for example, the Don Julio 1942, right? It’s the most one of the more popular, fast going, everybody knows that two kilos. For a bottle of that you’re paying 180 At least. And it’s, you know, it’s all right, tequila, there are better tequilas, but it’s a good tequila, for the most part.
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Now, let’s talk about beverage programs for a bar out there that wants to elevate their program. And I would say there’s two ways to go. And you can probably add to this but the first step I think if I was starting a new restaurant or just up leveling my bar would be to create a specialty cocktail list. That would be the first thing and then you’ve already mentioned maybe the next Apple would be then starting to curate or pair things with the food. Can you give operators some specific advice on where they would start to, you know, put together a specialty cocktail list that might stand apart from someone else’s cocktail list, but isn’t too difficult to execute just to get your feet wet and moving into a program?
Yeah, I’d say first thing is what’s, what’s your restaurants theme? You know, I think that’s the big part. If you have a cocktail list that makes no sense, or that doesn’t cater to the theme of your restaurant, sure, it makes it hard to connect with a guest and it doesn’t sound as you know, attractive to the guests when they’re drinking, you know. So it depends on their for example, the restaurant I’m at is a tapas restaurant. So I know that it’s going to be more Spaniard ingredients, more Spaniards preferred drier, more savory flavors, which works out for me, because that’s my flavor profile. But at the same time, I also have to realize that not everybody is me. So I need to make sure I adjust those flavors, too. They aren’t as dry or they have a little more sweetness towards it to where it can appeal to the mass, right. I mean, even for example, right now, we are updating into our spring summer menu, and I’m playing with squid ink. Right, so I’m incorporating squid ink within actual like simple.
It’s so interesting, unusual, but interesting.
It’s unusual, but it’s, it’s actually really good. And so what I ended up doing is I infused the squid ink within the simple syrup itself, to where it’ll be sweet and savory, because squinting, if you don’t know it provides that umami type of savory flavor can be a little it can be a little fishy if you have a little too much of it. But it coats everything and just turns it black. And so what I’ve done is a fused put a little squinting with simple syrup. Yeah. And I’ve basically made a rift on a Paloma, right. So I’m a little grapefruit juice, tequila, lime juice, and then top it off with either squirt, which is the way you should do it. Or sprite if you don’t have squirt. And what I did instead is I put Mezcal in there so it gives a little smoky earthiness. I’ve got the squid ink in there, the grapefruit juice and everything turns black and then a little Campari to bring out those grapefruit flavors. Because you’ve got for Campari, specifically, you have more grapefruit flavors than you do like orangey flavors, say like Apple is gonna be more sweeter, and you get more bitter orange, rather than bitter, tart grapefruit. You do that and it just all comes together, it comes out this beautiful kind of, like, hazy black, almost as if it was like a dark kind of cloud covered in front of you. Right? And, and from, from there. You take a sip, and you’re not really expecting this kind of refreshing, like fruity flavor. But you get a little bit of like this grapefruit, you get the bitterness from the Campari. And then, the way I like to describe it is it’s like it’s like a toasted. A, you know, you know, when you eat for breakfast, you cut a grapefruit in half. Yeah, yeah, you cut it in half, you toasted it and you sprinkle a little salt on top. And that’s, that’s how I describe it. A little smoked. Grapefruit for breakfast is probably the best way I would describe it.
Well, still, it’s okay, so the flavors sound amazing. That sounds like something I wish I tried when I was behind your bar. But then the color itself will like it’s gonna catch people’s attention. So now, it’s not just the flavors of the drink you’re making. It’s like you want to turn people on to new experiences. And anyone within eyesight of what you’re making sees this drink, and it looks so unlike anything I’ve seen before, and are most people and then instantly it’s what’s that? I want to try that, you know, so it almost sells itself. And I remember when I was a bartender, the old school stuff that kind of colored drinks was like grenadine and Blue Curacao. Right? Exactly. And you could turn something like, you know, Mediterranean blue, just by putting a splash of Curacao in there. But now there’s so many other things that people do. And that’s part of the flair. You remember, I’m sure you’ve seen this. Maybe you’re even young to remember it. But there was a Tom Cruise movie called cocktail a long time ago. It was like a movie, right? And it was all about that, you know, trick bartending or the like, you know, born shots behind the back in the end shaders and they’re throwing ice at each other and they’re mixing stuff up and it was all about the presentation and the flair. And I think Tom Cruise ended up owning his own bar at the end of that movie, right because it turned into a huge Which career for him?
Yeah, if I recall, that’s pretty accurate that he actually, he actually worked along with bartenders as well, and then ended up getting his own bar. So there’s, there’s been many times that I’ve had that reference to me. Oh, I’ve got a, I’ve got to do a freestyle of me shaking things up, like he would write and then, you know, do a little like, oh, here goes behind the back to show. Exactly. So can you remember that sometimes,
right. Do that stuff just to like, turn on the guests that yeah, like entertain them? Because it is entertainment. After all,
it is one of my more common things that I like to do when I’m when I’m actually like bartending. I actually will put the smaller tin, I’ll put ice in the large tin, but the smaller tin on top of it, put all of it like liquid in it, and then I’ll flip it, the smaller tin in while all liquids in there. Yeah, I mean, that’s just keeping, you know, typical force, right to keep the liquid in there. Yeah, but I’ll do that. And some guests just like we will be a little more like, oh, okay, got got it. And then I’ll just kind of do like a long like strain to where the liquid goes into the ice and give it a nice shake. And then there’s your cocktail. But occasionally, you’ll see me doing that I don’t do as much with this bar. But I used to at Joey, throw a lot more bottles around. Yeah, there was a we had a basic, basically a pyramid. Yeah. And on one side, there was a was the well, and then there’d be like other bottles that I would need to get to. So I would reach across the well because I’m, I was a lot taller and my long arms a lot longer. And I’d grab the top of the bottle, and I toss it up and over to me night. And so some guests at the bar top would see that and they’re like, wow, like there’d be frightened because they were afraid the bottle is gonna drop down and yeah, right out or control though. Yeah, I mean, there was only a couple of times it knocked a couple bottles off only a couple nothing was that time, most of the time it worked. Nine out of 10 times. So it was fun.
Let’s talk about the next step. Okay, so let’s just say Alright, the first step for a bartender or someone you know that owns a bar restaurant creates a specialty cocktail program. How difficult is it to start paring things with food? Like it takes some expertise doesn’t it? It’s it’s an experiment or you work with someone like yourself who’s an expert that can literally curate the list and help you work with a menu and okay, I want to pair so many cocktails with certain food items, and then present that as an experience to the guests. It’s a challenging thing, isn’t it? If you don’t really
fit is it especially if you’re not sure on like, what you’re like, what route you’re really wanting to go? Are you wanting cocktails that really pair well in like a contrasting way? Or are you wanting them to be something complimentary? To where like, if you help people would say white wine with fish.
Okay, yeah, of course, similar,
similar to that type of deal. I like a red wine with fish personally, because I like that contrast. So what I like to do is I like to get together with a chef, and then either one or two other people. And I say what are some what are some popular items that we are selling right now? And what are some things that we can do to like really, kind of highlight that item word but towards the drink? And so for instance, like the art with our what we’re calling our Paloma negative is we have a squid in papaya. We have a squid ing calamari when theme bintang which is going to be Callum, salty, sauteed calamari within squinting and seafood broth with over coconut rice. That sounds like those savory we want to highlight and just have some squirting item, a savory type of note, right? So I’m using that as an example. That’s, that would be the best way. So what I’ll do is I’ll ask him, okay, are these items selling? Well, we like these we see a lot of these people, a lot of our guests actually posting like are squeezing on their Instagrams or wherever, right? So then we play around with it. Let’s test it, and then I’ll make one or two variations. We’ll have something on the side with like a little squid ink on there. And we’ll taste it. We’ll take a sip. We’ll eat some we’ll just kind of play around with it and see how it looks. How the cocktail not only looks next to the food, but also tastes likes to the food. Like if you I wouldn’t recommend dumping your food within your cocktail but I mean, we want to try to make it as close to that as possible. You know? So I think I would I would recommend for sure is good. Have two or three people that work within the same area or have the same type of responsibilities. Because also doing it by yourself allows it allows a lot more of kind of like a one sided opinion, or whatever detail, you want to you want to make sure everybody likes it that has different flavors than just you. So like for me, I know that the chef, the chef and I have very similar tastes palettes to where we like drier, more savory things. But I know a couple of our other management team members, they prefer the sweeter, the less, the less dry, and the less floral. But they like that fruity type of drinks, or those sweeter type of dishes, maybe even like spicy instead of savory. So working with them and having that contrast and in taste and flavor helps you work together to kind of meet into a nice middle ground.
Very cool. That’s awesome. So this is sort of a, you’ve been you’ve been a mixologist for quite some time. And I’m sure you’ve seen so many different trends come and go. So I’m curious how long trends generally last? And then what’s currently trending now like are people, you know what I mean? Like people jump on sort of the bandwagon and like, it’s cool to be drinking this for the moment, but then it shifts to something else. And that trend could go across the country, you know, like what’s trending and how long do these trends last? I mean, does anything really have legs and staying power? It’s always popular. Like you mentioned Manhattan’s that is the most classic of all, Frank Sinatra type cocktails, and people who order that today, but I wouldn’t say it’s trendy per se, right?
No, that’s like, that’s like a very classic, just, you want something very simple. You know what you’re gonna get? It’s straightforward. You know? I mean, even even if you if you don’t know the story to behind it, man, you know, Manhattan is simply the area code of Manhattan. So it’s 212. And oh, and that’s literally two ounces bourbon, one ounce remove two dashes of bitters. Done. You got your Manhattan. But as far as like other trends, I think it’s definitely it depends on where what area you’re in. So I’d say
different country have different trends.
Exactly. Yeah. Like here in Washington. I think I see more and more tequila and just like whiskey drinkers than anything. As well as like more wine drinkers. You want because Washington’s got a great wine scene right now? Well, has had a great wine scene in general. But I know in Portland, like there’s a big scene for Sherry down in Portland. Actually, there’s a pretty decent bar that has like over 120 Different Sherry’s down there. So I mean, it depends on like, where are you going? I think it really it really does depend on what you’re looking for and what area you’re in. But I’d say from what I’ve seen and just kind of read up on. Yeah, it’s still just that tequila, there’s tequila drinks are really kind of coming up. Fine. What is it? I think I read something that that tequila is becoming more of a preferred spirit than like vodka sodas, just because it’s less less calories in the long run of everything. or less sugar. And like, I’m not drinking to step drinks like that though, either. Sure. I actually can’t drink. I actually can’t drink tequila, too. I’m actually allergic
to bad for you. Because
I know, I know. Because there’s there’s great tequila there too. Right? Give it a give it a little taste.
Hey, let’s go back to Sherry for a second. Yeah. Sherry in my mind is again, one of those older classic drinks that may have been like an after drink type after dinner type drink, right? Like in the 50s maybe or the 60s and now it’s sort of made a resurgence and people are drinking it anytime. It’s not necessarily an after drink. I mean, I think the term used to be like AHPRA tea for did just deep and it’s like it was sort of a trend you would have dinner you might have wine with dinner or a cocktail dinner and then you would have sort of an after dinner drink. That was a series of different things you could have and exactly very a wine based thing like a porter is it different what is Sherry It’s
It is similar to a pore in a way it’s a fortified wine to where they take the the fermented product already that they’re going to turn into wine, and they do a second distillation. So they’ll, it makes it a lot lasts a lot longer. can bump up the ABV of it depending on what you’re doing and how long you’re making it. But yeah, people people aren’t is familiar with Sherry’s anymore? I mean, most people when you hear Sherry, you think cooking sherry. Yeah. So, yes, people. Yeah. And so like, that sort of thing. Exactly. And so when, I mean, there’s, there’s one, there’s like red wine vinegar, Sherry or something like that red cherry. And there’s all kinds of different cooking cherries. And so if you ever ask somebody like, Have you ever been sharing most people’s faces? Like, would you drink that like that? That’s disgusting. That’s not what you’re supposed to do. And then you go into a little bit more, and you’re like, No, no, no, from Spain, it’s got a little bit different. So I play with Sherry in a way to where if I’m drinking Sherry, I parrot throughout the whole meal. And I start off with my more drier, less, less sweet and less. Well, more floral type of sherry. So like a month in the year, a month. Yeah. Or a said that wrong. month and the month end. Nia,
there you go. That’s pretty nice. There
we go. That’s the right. That’s right, gotcha. And then we’re Orofino Sherry, which are typically like, it looks like white wines. And they’re more floral, but they’re extremely, like savory, and you get a lot of maritime flavor out of that. So it’s great for like, appetizers, if you’re eating olives, it’s if you’re eating even just like a little bit of cheese, it’s like the perfect little pairing with it right. And then you move into like your dry still in the dry selection, but have a little more age on him. So like on a month yado or a Oloroso sherry was have a little bit more barrel life in them. So they have a little more almond and nutty flavors. And those are great to have with like your, your savory meats. So like even like just pork, or if you get a little hormone, so like a little cured meat like that. So I try to I try to enjoy the sherry throughout the whole meal and make it more of a simple pairing rather than I’m going to enjoy my cocktail throughout my entire meal. So and then there are the places that so we offer a flight of of either for a flight of Vermouth or flight of sherry. And you know, depending on how you like it, and each either way is a good way. Because in Spain, you’re either drinking wine products such as like just regular red wine as we know it, you’re sharing or vermouth so that’s going to be a lot sweeter and a lot more bitter and herbal than most would be. And you can still have a lot of fun with those like dry Vermouths and sweet remotes in the same way that you can have it with your drier and sweeter Sherry’s so it’s there’s a lot to do with work you can bake cocktails like the like a chemical or rabbit hito or those are both red wine. It’s a red wine. And coke with a little bit of mint is a galley mogul. And which so you get that like bitterness from the red wine. And then you get the sweetness from the coke with a little refreshing mint. And so it’s a nice kind of combination of flavors, bitter, sweet, refreshing, right and then a row wikibot is fino sharing so the dry it one of the dryer, Sherry’s sprite mid, and you get this like to make this makes the maritime saltiness, umami flavor. Yeah, pears, so good with sweet Sprite. And a little bit of refreshing mid year like, this is just not what you would expect from something most people are most things to drink.
That’s amazing. You’ve shared so much of the creativity and the professionalism and your expertise and your passion for spirits and cocktails. You also do a little bit of consulting on the side, we’ll help other restaurants or bars develop certain programs. Can people reach out to you at Instagram? And how can they reach you? I’m gonna put it also into the show notes so that yeah, it’s interest that they can get in touch with you.
Yeah, so yeah, I mean, I definitely consult and then either, you know, menu creations or drink creations, and people can reach out to me through Instagram currently at Andrew underscore, a underscore Rodriguez. And you can just send me a DM and I can look it over and see what we’re working with and communicate further there. But I’m always excited to help out with people and see what we’re working with or seeing what they want to bring to their menu. I think that’s a fun experience. And it gets especially if your your menu is a little bit older. Gets your team it’s added to because you’re like, oh, cool new things that build a new loves. They have that passion allows them to build. So I’m definitely open for people to reach out for me there.
Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for sharing that knowledge, yes, and enthusiasm that you have for great cocktails. And again, I so enjoyed my experience meeting face to face. Haven’t you curate some really cool custom crafted cocktails for us? And that whole experience? So I’m glad we met and I had to share this because, yeah, I mean, it’s so it’s so important right now, not just to deliver amazing food, but to pair it with amazing beverages and just to deliver experiences. And that’s clearly what you’re into doing. So thanks for being with us.
Yeah, of course, it was my pleasure. Thanks for having me on, Roger.
Well, thanks to our audience for tuning in. Thank you to our sponsors. I hope everyone stays well. That was the restaurant rockstars podcast. We can’t wait to see you in the next episode. So please stay tuned. And thanks so much for joining us on the podcast, I count you as a new friend. And you introduced me to a whole world of bar and curating cocktails and all the specialty knowledge that goes with it. And I’m a fan. So thanks for being with us. Thanks also to our sponsors. And I wanted to tell our audience a little bit about the restaurant rockstars Academy, you know, the academy is for you if you’re starting your very first restaurant, or you just want to maximize your opportunities and the profits in an existing restaurant. It’s at a absolute value price monthly at $59 and includes a series of systems that will help you run a stronger, more profitable operation. So be free to check that out at restaurantrockstars.com. And I can’t wait to see you in the next episode.
People go to restaurants for lots of reasons for fun celebration for family for lifestyle. What the customer doesn’t know is the 1000s of details it takes to run a great restaurant. This is a high risk high failed business. It’s hard to find great staff. costs are rising and profits are disappearing. It’s a treacherous road and SMART operators need a professional guide. I’m Roger. I’ve started many highly successful high profit restaurants that I’ve now sold for millions of dollars. I’m passionate about helping other owners and managers not just succeed, but knock it out of the park. I created a game changing system and it’s filled with everything I’ve learned in over 20 years running super profitable super fun restaurants. Everything from creating high profit menu items and cost controls to staff training where your teams serve and sell to marketing hooks, money maximizing tips and efficiencies across your operation. What does this mean to you more money to invest in your restaurant to hire a management team time freedom and peace of mind. You don’t just want to run a restaurant. You want to dominate your competition and create a lasting legacy. Join the academy and I’ll show you how it’s done.
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