Even though we work behind a bar stocked with liquor and beer, we rarely need to rely on ourselves for service or creativity when it comes to our drink choices. We spend our working hours catering to our customers and are served by other bartenders when we go out. Sure, we have the occasional bottle of wine or beer at home, but we certainly don’t have the same resources that we have at work. Now that we are in quarantine, we’ve found that we have to be self-sufficient. Are we experimenting with cocktails, sticking to beer, or even drinking at all? It may vary week to week, but I talked to some of my bartender friends to learn about their quarantine drink choices.
A lot of bartenders have been using this time to experiment, especially the cocktail professionals. Will Noland of Givers and Takers says, “it pays off to be a nerd with a lot of hobbies right now.” He’s been using his time to play around with different flavors and ingredients. When I spoke to him on the phone, he was on his roof drinking his take on an Old Fashioned. The drink includes 1½ oz of Whiskey, a touch of simple syrup and homemade hibiscus bitters using hibiscus, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ground ginger all steeped in vodka. I’ve tried some of Will’s cocktails before, so I can almost guarantee you it is as good as it sounds. If you are interested in making your homemade bitters of your own, Liquor.com has a great guide to follow.
Another bartender experimenting with syrups and bitters is Emilee Lord of Halyards Bar. Emilee, so far, has made a green tea and lavender syrup, saffron syrup, and a sage and pear puree that goes well with vodka and white wine. She’s even played with fat washes, making a triple stained bacon fat washed Rye with saffron syrup. She named it Dances and Drawings, so when her mother calls, and she isn’t lying, she is making a lot of Dances and Drawings. You can find the recipe for that down below.
Outside of the cocktail gurus in my life, it seemed like everyone else was drinking what they’re accustomed to. June Wine Bar in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, offers a vast repertoire of natural wines, and their bar manager Ashley Williams has been drinking precisely that during the quarantine. Outside of wine, I expected a lot of people to be drinking a combination of beer and shot, and I was not disappointed. Christian Clotter from Sea Witch has stuck to his usual High Life and Jameson Shot, and Tom Murawski from Buttermilk Bar is still drinking Corona and Powers on the rocks. Dave Sicherman, a bartender at Freddy’s Bar, bought three bottles of Paddy’s Irish Whiskey from his bar after it closed to enjoy during the quarantine. I’ve found myself buying Miller Lites because they’re my bar’s best seller. I can’t help but think some of us like having a little piece of our bar at home with us.
Then there are the bartenders that have used this time to stop drinking altogether. My coworker, Julien Levy, says that “not being in a bar has given [him] the opportunity to take the longest break from drinking [he’s] had in years.” George Gordon from The Double Windsor says that “aside from the occasional beer or two, maybe a wine, [he] hasn’t been drinking.” It’s interesting to see how people whose working lives revolve around a bar adapt when that bar has been taken away. I think the best way to sum it up comes from my bartender friend Audrey, who drank and continues to drink cheap champagne. She says she is “celebrating survival on a budget,” and that’s all we can do right now.
Dances and Drawings
- 2 oz Rye Fat Wash
- ¼ oz Saffron Infused Simple Syrup
- 4 Drops Bittermens Orchard Street Celery Shrub
- For the fat wash
- Cook bacon and save the leftover fat
- Combine with Rye and let sit
- Put in freezer until all fat solidifies
- Pour through 4 layers of cheesecloth.
- Strain twice through a mesh bar strainer
- For the Saffron Simple Syrup
- Bring water to a boil
- Add sugar and stir to combine
- Add two pinches of saffron near the end of the heating
- For the Cocktail