I was in Chicago and making not the most honest living, and when that well dried up I needed some way to pay for art supplies and crap, rent and food and things. A friend said, ‘I can get you a job bar-backing. Just tell them you’ve worked in a bar before. Really, a monkey could do this. It’s easy.’ So that was it. I started bar-backing and worked my way up, helped run a super-high volume bar, living the crazy bartender life that actually does exist is some places, and then that life got old. Getting home at 10 in the morning in a city that doesn’t even have strip clubs? If you get home at that hour, what the hell were you even doing? Then I talked my way into a cocktail seminar that I had no business being at. So I go buy books and start educating myself and within six months, I was ready to move. I threw a dart and ended up in New Orleans. That was in 2011.
I got a job at the Swizzle Stick Bar. Spent the next year frantically trying to make sure that I did know all the stuff I’d said I knew. After a while I looked up and realized, ‘I actually know what I’m doing now.’ I can put a cocktail menu together; I know the techniques and why they work. [Eventually] I ran the bar program at Apolline, having to think about liquor cost and brand and balancing out drinks on a menu. And the owner and I came up with Drink Fittings, where you’d come in and I’d interrogate you and figure out what your flavor profile was, and then create something off the cuff. You’d get to name the drink and then you could come back and order it anytime you wanted. For me, that was another lucky avenue into massive acceleration. I couldn’t be repetitive, couldn’t make just versions of Sazeracs every day.
I’ve broken every finger on each of my hands at least once, because I used to box and play basketball, so I don’t like holding bottles between my fingers. I have a torn ligament in this finger right now. So I have to be mindful of technique, and the way I pour is easy for me.
You learn by making mistakes. I’ve made enough mistakes at this job right now to know how to do it right. I’m 29 and I’ve only given a shit for four years now, I know, but I’m willing to put my four years of giving a shit up against anyone else’s four years and I can guarantee you that I’ve learned more than fucking anyone—I also had the most to learn, right?—but you can’t do this for a year and think your shit don’t stink because you literally haven’t spent enough time making enough mistakes to be as good as you think you are. You have to fuck up a lot. Luckily I’m good at that. It’s a good talent to have. It’s my secret super power.
I picked Quintron because if you pick a classic artist, you sort of have to make a classic drink, and I wanted to do something else. Also, I knew picking a name for it wouldn’t be hard. I considered Warlock, Wacky Wacko, Banana Beat, Swamp Noise and Drink Buddy. Drink Buddy could be a little depressing, because what if you’re alone and you get a Drink Buddy? That could be the most pathetic feeling ever. You’d have to make it look like a clown would drink it. ‘Oh, it’s actually really fun.’ Finally, I figured Spirit Hair was the way to go, and the garnish looks sort of like hair.
1 1/2 ounce Hum Botanical Spirit
1/4 ounce Clement Blue Canne Rhum Agricole
1 ounce fresh grapefruit juice
3/4 ounce Fruitlab Organic Orange Liqueur
21 drops (a.k.a. 3 dashes) Bittermens Burlesque Bitters
Splash of soda (about 1 ounce)
Fresh sprig of rosemary
Combine all ingredients but soda and rosemary, shake and strain into a rocks glass. Add soda, then ice, and garnish with rosemary.