The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2015

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134  /  the tasting panel  /  november 2015 Robert Millican's career in the world of bar and restaurant hospitality had an inauspicious beginning, in which he would use his fake ID to sneak into a local dive bar in Tuscon, AZ when he was 18 years old. "The owner made a deal with me," Millican laughs as he recounts the story. "He told me he would train me as a bartender at the bar if I stopped coming in to drink." After years spent learning the ropes, tasting wines and passing his CSW, while working at Bohanan's in San Antonio, Millican had the privilege of working with Sasha Petraske, the master mixologist of NYC cocktail bar Milk & Honey, who had been hired as a consultant at the property. "He taught me technique, how to craft cocktails, train other people and use quality products," Millican reminisced. (Petraske passed away earlier this year.) Millican took what he learned to several other bar and restaurants, eventually helping to open Firehouse Lounge, a cocktail speakeasy hidden behind a bookcase in a hostel. "I was actually just applying for a job there," Millican admits. "But after the interview I went home that night and wrote up a business plan, took it back to the owners and they made me a managing partner." While he is still a partner there, he left his position as Head Bartender to help open the New Italian dining spot Juliet Ristorante, where he now works as Beverage Director. Millican designs his cocktail menus with dialogue with the consumer at the forefront. "I want to make the menu accessible to someone who may not know a lot about cocktails, so I might include some well-known drinks on the menu. I want that cocktail to be so well done that they come back and ask for something a little different, something a little more innovative." Although he has worked with plenty of spirits in his time, Millican's future is filled with wine. "I'm really happy where I am, but maybe someday I'd love to get my Level II Sommelier Certification and move to Chile, and produce wine there." TAKING INVENTORY WITH . . . Meeting all the quality, beautiful human beings in this business that share hospital- ity, food and beverage passion. Jason Kosmas (owner of NYC bar Employees Only). Sitting at a bar having a mezcal while the patron besides you talks up the concept that you just helped to create, and the bartender just looks at you and gives a wink. Pinot Noir. Damn it, it's just freakin' good. That moment at work when things are pop- ping, and your whole body starts to tingle because you are killing it! People using the phrase "This is my take on . . ." It is either a classic or a new cocktail with new ingredients. Distributers that don't listen to what you want but still try and force a product on you. Bless those people. They are just doing their job and I hate it. Yelp. Snobby bartenders that have been behind the stick for two years. Thanks bro, get back at me when you hit 15 years. You give us all a bad name. THE "5" LIST ROBERT MILLICAN'S TOP FIVE FAVES ROBERT MILLICAN'S TOP FIVE PET PEEVES ROBERT MILLICAN BEVERAGE DIRECTOR, JULIET RISTORANTE, AUSTIN, TX by Jesse Hom-Dawson PHOTO COURTESY OF ROBERT MILLICAN People's perception that being a beverage profes- sional is not a "real" or "serious" job. Don't get me wrong, it's the most fun job ever, but I still worked very hard on studying, training and getting certifications. My decisions com- pletely affect the bottom line of the business and I take that very seriously.

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