The Tasting Panel magazine

March 2017

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42  /  the tasting panel  /  march 2017 ON OUR PANEL G reat bartenders redefine multi- tasking. They can take the busi- est of evenings and make it look effortless, while still making their guests feel like they're the only ones in the bar. Tyler Hudgens did just that nightly as the head bartender at Washington, D.C.'s renowned Columbia Room. Now the Bar Director for the Michelin one-star restaurant The Dabney, Tyler is multi- tasking at an even higher level, juggling bartender training and competitions around the country, while, along with Chef Jeremiah Langhorne, scouring the Mid Atlantic for ingredients for her farm-to-glass bar program. Bob Bath: What is your daily interaction with Chef? Tyler Hudgens: Sometimes I'm tasting him on cocktails—we're of the phi- losophy that more palates are always better—and sometimes he's helping me use culinary techniques to make our house syrups, tinctures and cordials. We believe in cross-pollination on the menus and like to work with similar ingredients to keep everything unified. Where are some of your favorite places to go foraging? We like to go to The Farm at Sunnyside, in Washington, Virginia. They have heaps of land that's largely been given back to nature with just gentle tending. The farmers are kind enough to let us wander freely. We get a lot of mountain mint and bee balm, along with a couple of different types of sorrel and the occasional sweet woodruff, all of which we use behind the bar. They have a gorgeous forsythia bush we take cuttings from when it's in bloom; we use the branches of bright yellow flowers as decor in the restaurant. I've also been known to put a sheet down on abandoned land and shake an apple or mulberry tree. How do you view competitions, from a competitor point of view and from a judge point of view? Competitions are a great way to make a name for yourself in the industry and to build relationships with both brands and with other bartenders from around the nation. I think they're a great learning experience for the competitor; maybe you learn a new technique from your contemporaries, and you always leave with new friends. From the point of view of a judge, I think of competitions as an oppor- tunity to meet new bartenders and to hopefully help elevate them, either by encouraging them, teaching them or introducing them to new people and or brands. Judging competitions affords me the opportunity to witness a really interesting cross-section of what's hap- pening in cocktails and spirits, and how different people in different markets utilize them in unique ways. What frustrates / inspires you about beverage lists you've developed or ones that you see around the country? There are a lot of really strong bar menus out there right now. People are paying attention to balance across the board more than I've seen in the past—balance re: spirits, flavor profiles, glassware, colors, techniques, gar- nishes, families of drinks, etc. I like that people are thinking about presen- tation in unique ways. I like that they're thoughtful. I find it frustrating when a list obvi- ously reflects the ego of the beverage director, and seems to be more focused on showing-off than giving a guest a good range of drinks from which to choose. I also find it alienating when a menu lists ingredients so unfamiliar that even I don't know what they are, or when menus are hundreds of drinks large—I wonder how that bar can mise fresh ingredients for over 100 cocktails a week, and then I wonder about the freshness of said ingredients. Making It Look Effortless AN INTERVIEW WITH D.C. MIXOLOGIST TYLER HUDGENS by Bob Bath, MS

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