Bobby G is a certified United States Bartenders’ Guild Master Mixologist and works as the master mixologist for Beam Suntory. He is an expert on all spirits categories and trains on histories, production, cocktail creation, menu development and mixology, from the basics to advanced mixology. He proudly serves as a national ambassador of the United States Bartenders’ Guild and is a member of the International Bartenders Association, The Worldwide Cocktail Club and the International Bar Flies.
Bobby sat down with our own ITM contributor, Ed Korry CHE, CSS, CWE – our resident expert in all things spirits and wine – for a quick interview.
Ed: What is your favorite cocktail to drink, and why?
Bobby G: I enjoy many types of cocktails but I would have to say my “go to” cocktail is what I call the BBG. It is bourbon (usually Knob Creek), ginger ale and a dash of bitters. Simple, easy drinking and very refreshing! I like the way the spice of the ginger ale melds seamlessly with the bourbon, and I believe that the bitters helps to accentuate the woods notes and bring more aromatics to the drink. Sometimes I even like a lemon twist for a bit of brightness.
Ed: What do you think are the most important characteristics of a great bartender?
Bobby G: Being a bartender has many levels of expertise that need to be a part of your daily routine. The most important is to be friendly! Be engaging with your guest. If you can’t get to them immediately, acknowledge them and let them know you will be with them soon. People just want to know that you know they are there. I often say that I can teach you techniques, recipes and service standards, and I hope that I can inspire the passion that is within us all, but I cannot teach work ethic or personality. Taking shortcuts is not something I teach. I believe that you need to know how to do everything properly, and then build on speed through repetition. Some of the best advice I ever got was “There is always time to do the right thing.”
Ed: What drives you crazy when observing a bartender in action?
Bobby G: When I see bartenders that are just lazy, and want to do something that involves a shortcut and say that’s good enough. I am not a fan of the mini tin; and while that is a personal choice, I believe it is a shortcut that cheats the consumer. The consumer wants to see their cocktail coming together in the mixing glass, then shaken with the tin (Boston Shaker) – something that you cannot do with two tins. More so than that, when I see a bartender use that mini tin as a strainer by putting the mini tin inside the larger tin, I just want to scream!
Ed: What are today’s cocktail trends?
Bobby G: While there is still talk of the classics coming back into vogue, today we are seeing the impact of premium and super premium spirits. This is not a trend. We used to say people are drinking less but are drinking better. Now we see that they are definitely are drinking better: Premium and super premium spirits are rising to an all-time high, while value brands are decreasing. The whiskey category is the fastest growing category. Distillers are creating new expressions of long standing brands; consumers are demanding single barrels and are seeking the different nuances found in barrels from different parts of the rick houses. Micro distilleries have popped up all across the nation. New ideas, new recipes and new products are being made at a fast pace. For the consumer, it is a great time to be able to enjoy all of these different spirits. The established and seasoned distillers are using their expertise and centuries of experience to bring new expressions to market while their established brands continue to grow. As bartenders, the need to have the knowledge of these brands is crucial to success, which makes my job more exciting that more people – bartenders, consumers and distributors – are seeking the knowledge I have to share about our brands and techniques for making great cocktails.
Ed: Can you give us some insight as to the bartending techniques and tools today versus 20 years ago?
Bobby G: While the tools have not changed much, there are more tools being used. A great example is the mixing glass. For most bartenders, a Boston Shaker was all we ever used. The home bartenders and hosts rarely had more than a three-piece shaker. Now we see Yari mixing glasses from Japan or recreations of those mixing glasses. My mentor, friend and industry giant, Tony Abu Ganim, has created his own line of bar tools (available at www.mondermixologist.com). They are as beautiful as they are functional for a home enthusiast and bar professionals. I am always preaching to bartenders to get and carry their own tools. I even go as far as telling bar managers and owners not to buy their bartender’s tools but to have them build their own kit. I buy most of the tools I need from www.barproducts.com and www.cocktailkingdom.com, and I can’t stress enough to buy the best quality of tools that you can afford. I get my muddlers from www.mistermojito.com, from my friend Dave Nepove, and I believe they are some of the best on the market. I also love to browse antique stores for tools and glassware. I am currently using a beautiful pressed glass mini pitcher from the 1950s as my mixing glass.
As far as techniques, bartenders are being inventive with cocktails and sometimes they invent new ways to make them. For me, I have been using a smoking gun for about five or six years now, and it is still the cocktail that draws the most attention. Some techniques that made a big splash are now fading, like molecular, which are used for special events and must have specialized tools and not everyone can do that.
A simple bar kit consisting of a Boston Shaker, Hawthorn, julep and fine mesh strainer, a bar spoon, muddler, vegetable peeler, citrus press and a quality knife and cutting board, is a great start and can handle most cocktails. These are all manual tools – add in a quality electric blender and there is not much you can’t do.