Episode 081 - Paul MacDonald
What’s shakin, cocktail fans?
Happy New Year, and welcome to this 2019 kick-off episode of The Modern Bar Cart Podcast!
We’ve got some great stuff coming in the next few months, and this week’s interview is right at the head of the pack. Our guest is Philadelphia-based bartender Paul MacDonald, who is currently behind the stick at a wonderful establishment called Friday Saturday Sunday, right on historic Rittenhouse Square.
In this fascinating interview with Paul some of the things we discuss include:
How Paul approaches hospitality situations with different types of customers. He walks us through some of the questions and decision paths that he follows to create an excellent cocktail experience that’s personalized to each customer who walks in the door.
Which house-made ingredients are his go-to flavors for wowing guests and creating drinks that disrupt that traditional linear flavor experience we’ve come to expect. We’ll explain what we mean by a “linear” flavor experience during the interview.
The way Paul develops new cocktails, and how he turned to the Fibonacci Sequence as a new and unexpected paradigm for creating drinks.
A few tips for taking your cocktail instagram game to the next level
Deep thoughts on everything from Martinis to bar interior decorating
And much, much more
You can find Paul on his incredible Instagram account (@express_and_discard), and you can locate Friday Saturday Sunday (@friday.saturday.sunday) by scrolling down and checking out our interactive map.
Featured Cocktail Ingredient: Laird’s Applejack
This week’s featured cocktail ingredient is Laird’s Applejack, which is an American apple brandy produced in New Jersey. We talk a little bit about this really interesting spirit during the lightning round. But we wanted to feature it here for a couple reasons:
First, it’s dark, mellow flavor profile fits really well with this time of year when we’re all kinda hunkered down waiting for spring to show up.
And second, it’s a really interesting historical spirit. Back when cocktails first became popular, there were a lot more fruit brandies being produced here in the United States, and so I think Laird’s Applejack is a great way to get back to our agricultural roots as a cocktail nation.
Now, if you’re first starting out with a bottle of Applejack, we’d recommend swapping it out for Whiskey or Brandy in your favorite classic cocktails. That means that Old Fashioneds, Manhattans, Sidecars, Sazeracs, Vieux Carres, Juleps, and Brambles are all on the table, along with all the others we forgot to mention.
The Jack Rose Cocktail
Perhaps the most famous Applejack cocktail is called The Jack Rose. To make this drink, you’ll need:
2 oz. applejack
¾ oz. grenadine
¾ oz. lemon juice
Combine all these ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Shake well, and strain into a stemmed cocktail glass with an optional apple slice or brandied cherry garnish.
The first main takeaway from this interview is that you should grab a drink at Friday Saturday Sunday next time you’re in downtown Philadelphia. Here’s a helpful interactive map that shows exactly where you need to go.
Tips for Curating a Memorable Cocktail Experience
Paul strongly believes that the most important quality of an excellent bar program is its flexibility. It’s extremely important to be able to customize the drink experience to each patron who walks ini the door, but that’s sometimes easier said than done. Here are some questions that Paul asks to help him dial in on the perfect drink experience for each customer.
Where are you in your day? Is this your first drink? Have you had a couple already? Is this the final drink of the night? All of these situations call for different cocktails.
Have you eaten? If this customer plans to eat, then a food/drink pairing might be in order. Likewise, you can put this input through the Aperitivo/Digestivo/Nightcap filter often referenced with different cordials and amari.
When to go off-menu - Some patrons really know what they like, and some regulars may be more inclined to let the bartender experiment and sell off-menu drinks. You need to really listen to the customer to learn when to stick to the menu and when it’s okay to play.
Cocktail Challenge: The Fibonacci Sequence
One of the highlights of this interview is when Paul walks us through how he used the Fibonacci sequence to create cocktails that disrupt the traditional “linear” flavor experience we’ve come to know from most classic cocktails.
The fibonacci sequence is responsible for many shapes and forms in the natural world, the best-known of which is the spiral, which follows the golden ratio (derived from the fibonacci sequence).
This sequence is: 1 : 1 : 2 : 3 : 5 : 8 : 13 : 21 : 34 (etc.) - adding the last two numbers of the sequence reveals the next number. Paul applies these ratios to ingredient measures. For example, he may construct a cocktail with 1/4 oz + 1/4 oz + 1/2 oz + 3/4 oz + 1 1/4 oz (3 oz total) of different boozy ingredients. As you can see, this gets complicated pretty fast, and not everything works out the way you want it to - but that’s the challenge!
We hope you’ll tag us on Instagram and Facebook if you try your hand at cracking the code and developing your own delicious Fibonacci sequence cocktail!
2:1 Martini with Boodle’s gin and Dolin dry vermouth.
If You Were a Cocktail Ingredient, What Would You Be?
Laird’s Bonded Applejack. I use it to make a great custom cocktail called “The Conquest of Gaul,” which also includes Laphroiag 10 Year, Benedictine, and honey syrup.
Influential Cocktail Books
Books that focus on types of ingredients are excellent. They really give you the resources to start experimenting.
Imbibe! - David Wondrich
Bitters - Brad Thomas Parsons
Amaro - Brad Thomas Parsons
Sherry - Talia Baiocchi
Mezcal - Emma Janzen
Advice for Developing Original Cocktails at Home
Taste as many different types of ingredients as you can. Get to know the way that their made and the way that they unfold on your palate. Then get to know how they taste together. It comes down to knowing your ingredients.
Thirsty for more awesome cocktails by Paul? Here are a few of the incredible drinks that have been on the menu at Friday Saturday Sunday.