Welcome to the first edition of Between Two Bar Stools, where we interview bartenders we admire in the hopes of extracting some of their wisdom and secrets. This week we bring you an interview with Patrick AKA Mac who has been bartending at Old Glory for years. He has taught me many things over the years about bartending, and impressing him is my modus operandi when I serve him a cocktail. He taught me one of my favorite drink making tips: the herb smack! This is where you take a handful of herbs (let’s say basil) and hold them in the palm of your hand. You then take your other hand, and smack said herbs before putting them in your cocktail. It releases the herb’s oils. The first attempt is terrifying and gratifying. Every time after is exhilarating! Herb smack! Read on to discover one of Mac’s favorite cocktails which utilizes this method.
H&H: Where do you tend bar?
Mac: Old Glory in Georgetown, DC. Long a staple of Georgetown, Old Glory was established in 1991. OG is all about BBQ, bourbon, and beer. We have around 100 bourbons available and a bourbon club to boot. OG smokes all meat in house – we have three smokers in the kitchen – and we use a hickory pit to cook everything. No need for gas grills or any of that nonsense. By day, OG is a family style BBQ joint but at night – and especially on weekends – it transforms into “Club OG.” We have massive Halloween parties, rib eating contests, private three-course bourbon dinners, live music, trivia nights, and everything in between. In short, OG does it all.
H&H: What bartending tool do you find to be essential?
Mac: Tough question. If I had to choose one I would say a jigger. It’s essential for making
craft cocktails. But at home I have shakers, strainers, pouring spouts/speed pourers, a muddler, and they get used very often.
H &H: What is your number one bartender pet peeve?
Mac: Tougher question. Anyone who has worked in the service industry understands what I mean. There are so many things customers do on a regular basis that reeeeeally grinds our gears. This is why service industry folk are simultaneously the most patient and irritable people on the planet. If I may, I will choose two with the hope that people will read this and take mercy on our poor souls.
1. Repeatedly opening and closing a tab: If you’re at a bar and it’s super busy, think for a moment before you order. Say to yourself, “What is the likelihood that I will order second drink after my first?” If there is even the slightest chance that you will have a second beverage, leave your goddam tab open. If you get too drunk on a regular basis or are simply stupid and often forget to close your tab at the end of the night, well then perhaps you should take a good look at yourself and re-evaluate the situation. Maybe drink a little less? Set a reminder on your smart phone? Write a note on your hand? You have options here. But stop wasting our time, please. When it’s crazy busy, we need to be making as many drinks as possible, not swiping your card over and over again.
2. Destroying beautifully delicious whiskey: This one really gets me. At my bar, we have some of the best bourbons in the world. One costs $73 a shot (yes, its Pappy Van Winkle 23 yr). Really fine whiskey – whether it be bourbon, scotch, rye whiskey, Irish whiskey, or whatever – should be enjoyed in a glass, by itself, with maybe a cube or two or sometimes a drop of water to open up the flavor. Yes, there are some wonderful whiskey cocktails but when it comes to the really good stuff don’t mess with it. There was a gentleman who used to come to my bar and he would ask for Pappy 23 with rocks, club soda, and a lemon. I gave it to him the way he asked the first time. The second time I gave him the Pappy by itself with a side of rocks, soda, and lemon. I told him that if he wanted to destroy one of the best bourbons on the planet he could do it himself. I was no longer going to be a party to this tragedy. Sorry to sound like a horrible snob but it just makes me so sad.
H&H: What is your advice for people who are just starting their adventures in mixology?
Mac: Before answering this question, I feel the need to clarify something. I am not a mixologist. I am a bartender. In this world, there are people who can legitimately call themselves mixologists. Real mixologists make their own bitters, infuse thyme in blueberry vodka, know every last detail about every kind of spirit offered at their bar, and generally live and breathe this shit. The term “mixologist” is thrown around a little too much nowadays. It’s trendy and allows bars to charge too much for drinks. In DC, I can think of three people off the top of my head who I would truly consider to be mixologists and not one of them would ever want to be called a mixologist. They simply prefer to be called bartenders who make drinks well. But I digress. If you want to learn how to make yummy drinks stick with what you like and keep it simple. Don’t get too crazy. I feel that the best drinks – and food for that matter – are the best because of their elegant simplicity. Start with three, maybe four ingredients. Once you’ve mastered five or six really nice, straightforward cocktails, then you are allowed to get fancy and complicated. Here’s one for ya.
The Basil Limonada: Take a pint glass and fill it a third of the way up with ice. Add one shot of lemon-flavored rum. Take a couple of leaves of basil, slap em in your hands (opens up the flavor), and drop it in the glass. Fill the glass all the way up with ice, add a healthy splash of fresh sour mix, and shake that baby till hell and gone. Finish the drink with a squeeze of fresh lemon and a splash of club soda.
H&H: Duly noted. H&H will never miss use the world mixology again! Moving on, is there one bottle of alcohol that you always have on hand at home?
Mac: Old Bardstown 101. Partially because it’s readily available to me but mostly because it’s very drinkable, great for bourbon cocktails, strong, and relatively cheap. I’m literally about to grab a bottle after I finish writing this.
H&H: What is your go to cocktail right now?
Mac: This drink I partially made up called “The Five Year Affair.” A couple of ladies named it for me a while back. They declined to go into detail about why they gave it this name except to say that the drink was “soooo goooood.” Use your imagination. I say I partially created it because it is similar to another drink a friend of mine created. Summer is now gone so this drink isn’t quite seasonally appropriate but it’s pretty delightful. Take a high ball and put in a shot of gin (any kind will do but I like Hendricks the best). Next add a large dash/small splash of St. Germaine and some mint leaves. Fill the glass with ice, add a healthy splash of fresh sour mix, shake that thang, and enjoy!
Thank you to Mac for being the first bartender to be interviewed on Between Two Barstools. While I have enjoyed the Basil Limonada while tailgating a concert with you (oh we fancy huh), I’ve never had the pleasure of The Five Year Affair. But for your viewing pleasure, Melissa made one tonight! She said it was tasty!