The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2018

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 81 of 124

november 2018  /  the tasting panel  /  81 You studied theatre in college. How did you land on hospitality? In 1987, I moved to New York to pursue a career in act- ing, and in 1990, I attended the National Shakespeare Conservatory. Like many aspiring actors, I started bartend- ing to pay the bills. In 2004, I decided to finish my college degree and say goodbye to the hospitality world. The restaurant I was working for at the time was failing, and I needed a job to get me over the hump so that I could finish up my final classes. That led me to what I thought would be my last bartending job at a brand-new restaurant called . . . Per Se. Suddenly, I found myself working at the hottest restaurant in the world. I was so inspired by Chef Thomas Keller's incredible attention to detail and his passion for food and drink that I stayed on to continue my culinary education. Journalists were clamoring to write about Per Se, so I was reluctantly thrust into the limelight, ironically receiving more press and publicity as a mixologist than I ever did as an actor! In an effort to justify my employment, I tried to be inno- vative and create cocktails worthy of the incredible food coming out of the kitchen. I discovered that I had a hidden talent, and the lessons in flavor profiling I learned at Per Se have led me to where I am today. Over the course of 25 years, you've worn many different hats—from president and founder of your own mixology consulting firm, Creative Cocktail Consultants, to award- winning author and educator. What would you say you enjoy the most? I have always enjoyed my role as an educator and sharing my passion with bartenders and aspiring mixologists. One of my favorite jobs was serving as the first-ever global brand ambassador for Tequila Don Julio. In that role, I helped establish the Diageo/United States Bartenders' Guild World Class competition, the most prestigious bartending competi- tion in the world, and had the pleasure of training thousands of bartenders in more than 40 countries. Part of the reason I accepted the position with SGWS was that it was a rare opportunity to build a legacy and share the gifts of knowl- edge given to me over the years. Tell us about your new book, Whiskey Cocktails. Whiskey Cocktails is a compilation of 60 classic cocktails and recipes made with quality whiskeys that span the globe. It's meant to be a fully functional coffee table book that has something for everyone, from the novice bartender to the master mixologist. On the cover of the book, the "e" in "whiskey" is given a different color because the word has two different spellings—"whiskey" and "whisky." I discuss the his- tory of how the spellings came to be and what it means today. You've designed successful cocktail programs for prestigious properties like the Plaza Hotel in New York and the Montage Beverly Hills, as well as for clients like Joël Robuchon, Geoffrey Zakarian, and Joseph Bastianich. What does that process look like? My company, Creative Cocktail Consultants, offered a number of cost-effective practical services, from spirits education and mixology training to garnish theory and menu creation. These are the exact same lessons we will be teaching at the Beverage Academy. Rather than traveling to numerous locations, we are now offering one location where F&B directors can come with their staffs for a three- to five-day comprehensive beverage-education and service- standards curriculum—or longer, depending on the needs of our clients. What cocktail trends do you see for the holiday season? There's going to be a lot of emphasis on hot cocktails. They tend to be sweeter and served in smaller portions, and by using less alcohol per cocktail, they're not only balanced for the guest's palate, but extremely cost-effective. What's your go-to drink? Sorghum whiskey is trending right now, and I'm one of the vanguards to reintroduce sorghum as a staple grain for whiskey production. It enjoyed brief popularity just prior to the Civil War but quickly disappeared because it was too expensive at the time. I recently released my own label, James FC Hyde Sorgho Whiskey, which far, far exceeded my high expectations. It's dry like a rye whiskey but finishes like an aged rhum agricole and is naturally gluten-free. This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity. Follow Southern Glazer's on Instagram @sgwinespirits. PHOTO COURTESY OF SGWS Van Flandern at a recent signing for his new book, Whiskey Cocktails.

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Tasting Panel magazine - November 2018