“I am the owner, general manager and head bartender here at Twelve Mile Limit. This is my bar. We’re somewhere between a fancy dive bar and a really dive-y cocktail lounge. Born and raised in Washington, I moved to New Orleans to do volunteer work after the hurricane; did a year with AmeriCorps and wound up in the service industry. I had done a little bartending in college and my first bartending job here was at Commander’s Palace and it helped me realize that the service industry in New Orleans can be a career, not just a placeholder. It was the first time I looked at restaurant work and saw it as more than something to do while looking for a better job.
I make the best cocktails. I went through a three-phase learning process. My parents were fancy cocktail drinkers—heavy social drinkers. We had yellow and green chartreuse in the liquor cabinet, and from the time I could reach it, they taught me to make mixed drinks the way they liked them. That was phase one. Then I went to bartending school and learned how to make Sex on the Beach and a lot of shooters. Commander’s is where it took off for me—how to do it right, but also do it fast.
Two things that don’t work for me: I don’t like the bartender attitude. There is an elevated sense of importance that comes with high-end bartending. A lot of the time, people take themselves much too seriously and that doesn’t work for me; it bothers people, it’s off-putting. Reluctance to create efficiencies doesn’t work for me either, like only making things to order. We do a lot of cocktail batching here. We’ll batch cocktails with all the bitters and syrups and the spirits and cordials, just leave out the fresh juices and anything effervescent. But everything else, we’ll mix together in advance. A lot of cocktail bars refuse to do that because they feel like watching the cocktail be constructed is part of the experience, but most people don’t particularly care about watching their cocktail be made from scratch. They would rather have their drink faster.
I was looking for an album that had the song ‘Here Come the girls’ on it. Great song! Ernie K-Doe was known for that and ‘Mother-in-Law.’ Those were his two big hits. But I found it on a compilation that was written, produced and recorded by Allen Toussaint. So much of what we think of as the New Orleans sound is just Allen Toussaint. Songs he wrote or produced or performed himself; the guy is a living legend. He, just by himself, has been part of the continuing relevance of New Orleans music. I’m just in awe of Allen Toussaint and his contributions.
This cocktail, originally, I was going to call it the Two-Saint Manhattan because it’s got two saints in it [Herbsaint, St. Germain] but that was too cheesy. But that’s where I started, with Herbsaint and the elderflower liqueur. It’s almost cheating making cocktails with St. Germain because it makes everything else taste great; it’s so easy.
One of the things that people don’t realize about mixology is that almost everything can taste good with almost everything else; it’s a matter of finding the right ratios. It took me a couple of tries to find the formula I wanted.
‘Night People’ is not one of Allen Toussaint’s better-known songs, but I’m a night person. I don’t usually get up before noon and then I’m up until three/four in the morning, because that’s my natural rhythm. I am one of the night people, just hanging out.”
- 1 1/2 ounce Templeton rye whiskey
- 3/4 ounce Noilly Prat sweet vermouth
- 3/4 ounce St. Germain elderflower liqueur
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
- 1/4 ounce Legendre Herbsaint
- Chill a small rocks glass and coat the inside with Herbsaint; discard excess.
- Stir remaining ingredients with ice and strain into glass.
- Express oil from lemon peel over glass and drop is as garnish.