What Bartenders Want
When Simon Ford, Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric were starting the 86 Co., they canvassed bar friends across the country about what new products they’d like to see. “We thought they would want something exotic, but they wanted more choices in the well,” says Zaric.
Pooling their collective experience—Ford was a brand ambassador for Plymouth Gin, and Kosmas and Zaric founded the bars Employees Only and Macao Trading Co. in New York City—the trio went to work on a series of spirits that was focused on the professional.
As for the liquid inside, they also took a bartender’s perspective. While most distillers create spirits to be enjoyed on their own, the trio tailored their spirits to shine in mixed drinks. Working with different distillers, they developed their recipes by testing the base spirits repeatedly in each spirit’s most common cocktail guise. They reasoned that if their Tequila works in a Margarita, their rum in a Daiquiri, their gin in a Gimlet and their vodka on the rocks, then every other drink would fall into place. With their Cabeza Tequila, Caña Brava Rum, Fords Gin and Aylesbury Duck Vodka, that’s pretty much what happens.
What Bartenders Dream Of
For Portland barman Neil Kopplin, formerly of Clyde Common, the impetus to venture into spirits production was different. “As I approached my upper thirties, my legs, knees, ankles, back and waistline all started to betray me,” he says. “I knew I had to do something to keep working and not do any permanent damage to myself.”
Vermouth was his love—and a frustrating one, given that the general public considers it more mixer than stand-alone beverage. So he partnered up with Derek Einberger, winemaker at Patton Valley Vineyard in the nearby Willamette Valley. Their Imbue Bittersweet Vermouth is based on Oregon pinot gris wine and aged pinot gris brandy from Oregon distillery Clear Creek, as is the newer Petal and Thorn version—tinted pink from the inclusion of beets and based on semillon wine. They offer a more refreshing take on vermouth than European styles, with citrus and floral tones.
Working with master distiller Carlos Ruben Romero-Gamero in Peru, McDonnell introduced Campo de Encanto Pisco in 2008. The jump to the production side has completely changed his approach to drinks. Knowing the labor involved in production, he now prefers the more basic drinks that showcase the spirit. More importantly, he adds, it’s also taught him “to shut up and appreciate the strength of another’s craft.”
This story was featured in W&S October 2013.
This story appears in the print issue of October 2013.
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