The Tasting Panel magazine

May 2017

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38  /  the tasting panel  /  may 2017 A dam Seger "found himself" quite some time ago. Pursuing a career path that included an undergraduate education at Cornell University, followed by a management position at the heralded Seelbach Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, Adam seemed destined for a career in hotel food and beverage management. It was then that he realized his true passion was bartending and its inherent connec- tion with food and natural botanicals, so he packed his bags and headed to Chicago, a town he still calls home. Stints at TRU in Chicago and the French Laundry in Napa Valley honed his culinary instincts, but it was his innovative bar program at Nacional 27 (also in Chicago) that showcased his prowess with food and cocktails and brought him national acclaim in 2005. Regarded as one of the found- ers of the craft cocktail movement in Chicago, you can currently find Adam "behind the stick" at The Tuck Room in Manhattan. A restless "spirit" at heart, Adam is co-founder of Hum Spirits, Balsam Spirits and Rare Botanical Bitters Co. and also handles the responsibilities of Corporate Sommelier/Mixologist for iPic Luxury Movie Theatres. How has the Chicago cocktail scene changed over the last ten years? You can't open a restaurant in Chicago and be taken seriously without a well- thought-out cocktail program. It is no longer an afterthought. Guests and the press expect it. Often your first taste at a restaurant is a pre-meal cocktail. Cocktail lists are getting more seasonal, and chefs are getting more involved with the cocktail program. What inspired you to follow the botanical route? My godmother owns a farm and is an avid gardener. I started at age seven, and it's been a lifelong adventure of continuous learning and love of botanicals. I realized early on that things you grow yourself taste better. In addition, I spent my summers as a child in the Black Hills of South Dakota, where I learned how to forage, make jam and differentiate between delicious and poisonous berries. What's the future for botanicals in cocktails? Cocktails are founded on botanicals. A cocktail, by definition, is made with a spirit, sugar and bitters, and bitters are basically a complex botanical tincture. Bartenders are rediscovering botanical- centric amari, aperitif wines and artisan vermouths as single ingredients which ultimately incorporates dozens of botanicals into a cocktail. How did your background at Cornell and as a sommelier affect your career as a bartender? I was a T.A. for the Cornell Hotel School's wine course for three and a half years, where I became enamored with wine. That passion for wine continued throughout my career as I developed the wine cellar at The Seelbach Hotel in Louisville and passed the Advanced Level exam of the Court of Master Sommeliers. Learning as a sommelier how to blind taste and evaluate wines and critique their bal- ance helps me with cocktails every day. What was it like developing the cocktail program for iPic? We are reinventing how people eat and drink at the movies. We celebrate "local" at all 15 locations with local craft beers, spirits and wines. We also have signature cocktail programs at each location, growing our own herbs in Boca Raton, juicing raw Florida sugarcane in North Miami Beach for Mojitos, sourcing from the Santa Monica Farmer's Market in Westwood and having a special "Liquid History'" rotating cocktail list at iPic Fulton Market in Manhattan's Seaport District. What is the real "Seelbach" cocktail? It's logical to assume that there was a Seelbach cocktail and that it would have been based on bourbon and bitters. Perhaps someday someone will uncover physical evidence. In the meantime, it is a complex and balanced tipple with a story as colorful as the great Gaz Regan, whom I first revealed my recipe to and the story behind the story 20 years later. BARTENDER Q&A WITH Adam Seger Adam Seger is Corporate Sommelier/ Mixologist for iPic Luxury Movie Theatres; Bartender at The Tuck Room in NYC; and co-founder of Hum Spirits, Balsam Spirits and Rare Botanical Bitters Co. CORPORATE SOMMELIER / MIXOLOGIST, IPIC LUXURY MOVIE THEATRES; BARTENDER, THE TUCK ROOM, NYC; CO-FOUNDER, HUM SPIRITS, BALSAM SPIRITS AND RARE BOTANICAL BITTERS CO. by Bob Bath, MS ON OUR PANEL PHOTO: TUAN BUI

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