“I’ve worked in the restaurant industry for the last 15 years. I kind of fibbed my way into my first bartending job, pretending I had a little more experience than I did. I lived all over the place, moved to New Orleans in 2002, and got my first job here at Broussard’s restaurant. I worked there until Katrina and then I moved to Ireland for a year and a half, worked in a Michelin-star restaurant over there and that’s where I really started bartending. And then I worked for Gordon Ramsey in Florida after that, bartending as well.
I like being able to create stuff and to interact with people. I always thought of being in the kitchen, but you don’t get the interaction there as much. I worked at Commander’s Palace for a while, and they asked me to bartend, but most of their bars are service bars—only one bar has interactions with customers—and that’s not why I wanted to bartend, not just make drinks. I want to talk to people.
Classic drinks like the Old Fashioned are popular again, because they’re good. You don’t need to mask the flavor of the alcohol. I like the classics for that reason, and the drink menu here reflects that. It might look boring to people, but this is a fine-dining restaurant—we don’t sell “crazy drinks” here, and it’s not as high volume as a place like SoBou, where I also worked before. Here, you have more time to talk to people. I’d rather make up a drink for somebody on the spot than put something on the menu that really was geared towards a couple of people.
I like the Old Fashioned. I like Negronis. I also like beer, Guinness, and I like Irish whiskey a lot. I’ll drink a million Miller Lights at a Saints game—I’m not a snob. And you need to stay hydrated.
I used to drink a lot of tequila, but doing shots of Patron Silver is not what I do anymore. I like the more aged tequilas and rums. The darker, the better for me. I really like this Smith & Cross Jamaican rum that’s navy strength, 55-percent alcohol. They call it navy strength because when the gunpowder got wet on the boat, the rum was strong enough to ignite it.
I tend towards boozier cocktails: whisky and bourbon, for sure. I don’t make that many cocktails at home, but one of my friends has built a tiki bar in his backyard, and it’s pretty well stocked, so I definitely get stuck back there. I can never keep a bar stocked at my house for some reason—and it’s not me who drinks it. Usually, it dwindles while I’m at work.
We get in new liqueurs all the time, so I try to challenge myself and make something. That’s what I’m doing today; we just got this in—Bayou Satsuma. I’m doing a take on the Ramos Gin Fizz, but with rum. Dr. John has a song called “Big Shot” and this is an homage to him, and also inspired by the New Orleans Big Shot soda, because the drink is made with orange—it tastes like a creamsicle. I add vanilla to it to make it creamier.
Dr. John is one of my favorite Louisiana artists. I see him all the time. All my friends work in the music industry, at Tipitina’s and House of Blues, so I get to hang out backstage. In the song, Dr. John talks about how he’s a big shot and how there’s never going to be anyone else like him, which is true. Now, I didn’t make this drink before; I just imagined it in my head, but I think it’s pretty good. Sing the song? No. [laughs] I don’t think you’d want me to do that.”
The Big Shot (for Dr. John)
3/4 ounce Mandarine Napoleon liqueur
1 1/2 ounces Bayou Satsuma rum liqueur
1 ounce orange juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1 drop vanilla extract
2 ounces heavy cream
1 egg white
1 1/2 ounces soda water
Shake together all ingredients except soda water. Add ice and shake vigorously until your arm hurts, or at least for 1 minute. Strain and pour over soda water in a Collins glass.