Bottlerocker of the Month: Nicholas Jarrett

Nicholas Jarrett, seen here behind the stick at Dram, describes himself as "an itinerant full-time bartender and sometime miscreant" based out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

“Sleep? That bed is a coffin, and those are winding sheets. I do not sleep, I die.”–Captain Ahab, Moby Dick

Craft bartenders are often split into two camps: those who forge innovative methods in drink-making, such as molecular mixology, and those who consider themselves classicists, spending many hours tooling with historical recipes. Williamsburg’s Nicholas Jarrett is happily ensconced in the latter, and it comes as no surprise that he studied the classics, along with psychology and studio art, at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania.

He left his studies to work behind various Philly bars, from corporate hotels  and independent restaurants to cocktail bars and illicit speakeasies, before breaking into the NYC cocktail scene. Philadelphia has enjoyed a burgeoning cocktail scene, spearheaded by the now-shuttered APO (originally Apothecary Lounge), of which Nick has been a key figure. Following stints at the Banker’s Club and La Bourse at the Hotel Sofitel, he was head bartender during APO’s  first year of operation, and until this past August, he was “resident curmudgeon and rabble-rouser” at the Franklin Mortgage & Investment Company in Rittenhouse Square.

Over the past two years, thanks solely to friends he first encountered by chance at the Old Absinthe House in New Orleans during Tales of the Cocktail in 2008, he has spent an increasing amount of time in NYC: first at Counter Organic in the East Village, followed by a tour of duty in the trenches at Pranna in Murray Hill. These days, he’s settled in behind the sticks at Flatiron Lounge in Manhattan, Clover Club in Cobble Hill and at Dram in Williamsburg. He can also be found covering the occasional shift at Bushwick Country Club.

He has studied under Gary Regan, is certified BAR-Ready thanks to the crew at Beverage Alcohol Resource, has done his time with the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, and has been thrown out of at least one bar in New Orleans each July for the past four years.

As much as he enjoys the classics, Nick doesn’t take himself too seriously. His ambition is to one day work in a dive bar–that he owns.

“The Dizzy Dozen” (The Same 12 Questions We Always Ask)

Q: What is the first thing you drink after you wake up?

A: Coffee. Strong and black. Iced in the summer, hot in the winter.

Q: What is the first thing you drink after a hard day’s work?

A: Depending on the evening, a Boilermaker, Campari on the rocks with a splash of soda, or a Punt e Mes on the rocks with a twist.

Q: What is the most delicious ingredient in your liquor cabinet?

A: Plymouth Navy Strength, or Angostura bitters.

Q: If you could sit at the bar between any two people (alive or deceased), who would they be?

A: I going to run fictional here and say Captain Ahab and Pierce Inverarity.

Q: Three favorite NYC bars:

  • Mayahuel for that michelada, the smoked tomato salsa, the bar staff, and the damn tequila (oh so much tequila).
  • Mars Bar because it has zero pretensions, makes no apologies, and offers more than one kind of bruise for the cruising.
  • And Bushwick Country Club because between the backyard, the characters, the activities, and the overheard conversations, a gent really couldn’t ask for a better bar a couple hundred feet from his front door.

Q: Three favorite non-alcoholic hangouts:

  • Second Stop Cafe, where the coffee is good (god bless Stumptown), the staff is rockstar, and the atmosphere is perfect. Plus the Norma Jean with avocado is my jam.
  • Outdoors in lovely weather, which for me (being a lazy man) preferably means navy strength negronis out of a plastic book on shell ice in paper cups in McCarren Park with a good book.
  • Lastly, museums. I love the Cloisters, the Met, and the Museum of Natural History.

Q: Average night’s sleep:

A: Very little.

Q: What is your favorite place to shop for your bar?

A: Cocktail Kingdom. I respect the folks who take a more culinary bent and cruise the green markets, spice shops, or culinary tech tradeshows, and I enjoy tasting what they’re working on, but I like my cocktails lean, minimal, and classically rooted. Give me a good set of tools, quality ice, bitters, spirits, the basic fresh juices, and a couple of standard syrups, and I’m in my element. So Greg’s little shop is my sort of place exactly.

Q: Where do you find inspiration?

A: I look for inspiration in my ingredients and my methodology. Sometimes, something is begging to get used. So I put it to use. That use is determined by whatever methodology I’m refining at that point.

Q: If you woke up on a desert island, what bottle would you hope to have wash ashore?

A: Tough. It’s a desert island. I wouldn’t be unhappy if a nice bottle of sherry, calvados, or aquavit washed ashore. I also wouldn’t shed any tears if a couple of cases of Fernet Branca appeared.

Q: Do you have any bar-related good luck charms?

A: Funnily enough, although I’m a fairly superstitious person, no. I do bring my own tools to work, but that’s more of a familiarity, speed, and consistency issue.

Q: Do you have a nickname for yourself when you’ve had too many?

A: A hot mess?

Nick prepares a bevy of classic cocktails at Dram.

Nick Jarrett's Daiquiri: 2 oz. El Dorado 3 year, 1 oz. lime juice, 3/4 oz. simple syrup, shaken with block ice.

 

Bottlerocker of the Week: Nicolas de Soto

 

Nicolas de Soto, bartender at Dram and Painkiller, is leaving NYC for London later this month.

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” — Saint Augustine

For as long as the craft of bartending has been a viable career, the opportunity to travel has been one of its biggest perks. We know that Jerry Thomas, father of the American cocktail, spent time in San Francisco, New Orleans, and Chicago, in addition to New York, and that Harry Craddock found refuge at London’s Savoy Hotel during Prohibition. And few books have been as influential to today’s bartenders as Charles H. Baker’s Jigger, Beaker, and Glass: Drinking Around the World, which chronicles the author’s favorite drinks sampled on every continent. Bartenders travel not just for the exotic romance, but to add new techniques and nuances to their repertoire, not to mention new flavors and recipes.

Parisian Nicolas de Soto, bartender at Dram and Painkiller in New York for the past six months, is following the tradition of the traveling bon vivant, and will soon be leaving us for London later this month. Nico has made quite an impression on the cocktail community here, not just due to his disarming accent, but also for his poise behind the stick, undoubtedly polished over the years at several bars around the world. He first got into bartending in Paris in 2005 at a high-volume bar not known for its cocktails before moving on to a bar where he learned the Parisian “classics” at the time: Blue Lagoon, pina colada, mojito, caipirinha, etc.

In 2007, he moved to Australia, where he had lived previously, and delved into more serious cocktails in Melbourne. After a year he returned to Paris, working in China Club, a serious cocktail bar in Bastille, and then he managed the bar at Mama Shelter (a Philippe Starck-designed boutique hotel) before joining Paris’ most respected cocktail bars, the Experimental Cocktail Club and Curio Parlor.

Before moving to NYC and utilizing his connections to get the job at Dram, Nico traveled through Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Cuba, Guatemala, and Mexico before flying to Vancouver for the Winter Games where he worked as a guest bartender. Other than bartending, tennis, and cinema, Nico’s passion is, you guessed it–travel. He says of the 51 countries he’s visited, his favorites are Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Argentina, Indonesia, Bolivia, Peru, French Polynesia, and Singapore; while his favorite cities are Paris, NYC, Vancouver, Melbourne, Sydney, London, Berlin, Singapore, and Barcelona.

“The Dizzy Dozen” (The Same 12 Questions We Always Ask)

Q: What is the first thing you drink after you wake up?

A: A strong black coffee, followed by a protein shake.

Q: What is the first thing you drink after a hard day’s work?

A: Either a whole glass of fresh grapefruit juice or a well made fresh daiquiri (2 oz. Chairman’s Reserve rum, 3/4 oz. fresh-squeezed lime, 1/2 oz. cane syrup). I don’t like beer, sadly.

Q: What is the most delicious ingredient in your liquor cabinet?

A: Noah’s Mill 15-year-old bourbon. Just discovered it recently and I love it.

Q: If you could sit at the bar between any two people (alive or deceased), who would they be?

A: Sasha Petraske and Adriana Lima. No need to say why.

Q: Three favorite NYC bars:
Milk & Honey: Magic place, the Michael show. I haven’t seen Sam at work yet. It’s Sasha’s. It’s where everything started.
Death & Co: You’ll never be bored, amazing drinks, and some of the most talented bartenders on Earth. I always bring my friends and dates there.
• Dutch Kills

Q: Three favorite non-alcoholic hangouts:
• My rooftop: 360º view, two blocks from the East River in Williamsburg, the Manhattan skyline view is amazing.
McCarren Park: Tennis court and grass, what else?
• Paris of course — my friends, my family, my heart.

Q: Average night’s sleep:

A: From 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. usually. Eight hours is a good number.

Q: What is your favorite place to shop for your bar?

A: Cocktail Kingdom: Bar tools, books, great place.

Q: Where do you find inspiration?

A: Bartenders I work with, meet, and watch. Bars I visited. The countries I visit. I visited 51, worked in five, spent two years in Australia. People, no books — people.

Q: If you woke up on a desert island, what bottle would you hope to have wash ashore?

A: On a desert island, with the heat, damned a bottle of coconut water. On a cold island, send me a Zacapa 23-year-old.

Q: Do you have any bar-related good luck charms?

A: I had a blade that I carried around the world with me, but I lost it recently.

Q: Do you have a nickname for yourself when you’ve had too many?

A: Nico, that’s it.

A crusta calls for an elaborate citrus peel garnish.

Nicolas de Soto's "Tiki Crusta" at Dram: Pierre Ferrand cognac, Citadelle gin, lime juice, homemade orgeat, orgeat sugar, tiki bitters and orange peel garnish.

Nico’s going-away parties are at Painkiller this Wednesday night and at Dram on Sunday night. Bye Nico, you will be missed!

Elsewhere in the Liquiverse…

Creme Yvette Aviation at Dram in Williamsburg.

“Her early leaf’s a flower.”–Robert Frost

  • Creme Yvette sold out within its first 48 hours on the shelves at Astor Wine & Spirits. The historic berry and botanical liqueur is a lush modifier, as I recently experienced with an exquisite Aviation at new cocktail den Dram in Williamsburg — I’m not kidding when I say hints of blackberry, cassis, framboise, violet petals and orange peel made the gin sing on mountain high. Released as a limited early launch, the first full shipment will be coming from France at an as-yet-announced later date. If you are lucky enough to have tried it, please leave comments!
  • In addition to Dram, recent bar openings include Midtown retreats Empire Room, Hospitality Holding’s swanky cocktail lounge on the ground level of the Empire State Building, and La Biblioteca, a swanky tequila library at Zengo–although I’ve heard the latter is still waiting for their swanky liquor license.
  • It’s currently Tartan Week in NYC, which means there are kilted men on the loose and drams of single malt whisky everywhere you turn–in other words, this is kind of the best week ever. Be sure to check out the Tartan Day Parade, this Saturday April 10. I’ll have some recaps for you on this, trust…
  • Amateurs such as myself have a reason to break out the jiggers and shakers beyond entertaining ourselves by entering Louis 649’s “Anyone Can Be a Mixologist” contest. Running now through April 18, non-working bartenders are invited to submit recipes using sponsored base ingredients. The live throwdown between 10 semi-finalists is April 21, and the winner gets their drink on the spring cocktail menu, a subscription to Imbibe and a $100 bar tab at Louis — game on! Click here for the rules, newbie.
  • Oh, and you probably heard this already, but Julie Reiner and her partners at Clover Club have purchased the Tailor space and are planning something somewhat tropical.
  • Meanwhile, Allen & Delancey, at one point featuring a cocktail menu by Alex Day, quietly bit the dust.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden, April 4, 2010