Episode 089 - I'm Just Here for the Drinks

I'm Just Here for the Drinks Sother Teague.jpg

What’s shakin, cocktail fans?

Welcome back to another episode of The Modern Bar Cart Podcast!

This time around, we’ve got a little book review episode for ya, and we decided to put this one together for a couple reasons. First, we’ve been throwin a lot of interview content your way recently, so a change of pace is always good, and second, this is the time of year that we always kind of pop our heads out of our winter burrows and start searching around for inspiration to jolt us out of our routines, so we wanted to give all our listeners the chance to do the same.

The book we’re featuring in this episode I’m Just Here for the Drinks by New York barman Sother Teague. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @creativedrunk.

Events & Discount Codes

Taste Like A Pro

First off, we’ll be hosting a really cool event in collaboration with our friends over at Tenth Ward Distilling in Frederick, MD. The event is called Taste Like a Pro, and this is a really rare opportunity to taste through a unique portfolio of spirits and learn how to articulate all those interesting flavor notes you experience.

The event will take place in the brand new Tenth Ward Barrel Room at 7pm on Thursday, March 28th, and for just $35, you’ll receive a handcrafted welcome cocktail, a complimentary copy of The Essential Tasting Journal for Spirits & Cocktails, a Glencairn Glass with an etched Tenth Ward logo, and a curated tasting of Tenth Ward's innovative spirits as Eric Kozlik leads you on a journey through the biology, psychology, and poetry of flavor. Links to the Facebook event and the Eventbrite ticket page in the show notes.

We piloted this event with the Bottle Club over at Tenth Ward last month, and we got rave reviews, so we decided to open it up to the public. If you’re in the area, we highly recommend you try and attend, and if you’re a distiller or a bar owner and you’d like to customize this kind of event for your establishment, all you gotta do is holler at us via email or social media.

Cocktological Evenings: Spring Sessions

We just got an email from our friend Dennis Sendros, who runs an event series called Cocktological Evenings here in DC, and he wanted me to pass along a sweet discount code to all our podcast listeners for two upcoming evenings in March and April. And basically what Cocktological evenings is is a supper club for cocktails. You show up to a place called Exiles Bar, which is on U Street, and you have an intimate 3-course cocktail service for no more than six guests. Each evening is completely unique, and Dennis guides you through the flight, offering history, recipes, and personalized service.

So, if you think you might be interested in their upcoming gin or whiskey nights, head over to the show notes page and follow the link to the Eventbrite page where you can sign up. At checkout, enter the coupon code “Modern,” and receive $10 off your ticket just for being a podcast listener! Not too shabby.

Featured Cocktail: The Hanky Panky

This week’s featured cocktail is a bitter one, in homage to Sother Teague, who’s the author of a great little book called I’m Just Here for the Drinks. Sother runs a really cool bar called Amor Y Amargo in Manhattan, which, literally translated, means “Love and Bitters.”

Accordingly, our featured cocktail is the Hanky Panky. This drink is referred to by Sother as “essentially a sweet gin martini bolstered with a few dashes of the bitter and herbal elixir Fernet Branca.” To make it, you’ll need:

  • 1.5 oz gin

  • 1.5 oz sweet vermouth

  • .25oz of Fernet Branca

Some recipes, including the one in Sother’s book, give you that last measurement in dashes, but I figured most of us home bartenders haven’t taken the trouble to transfer our Fernet into a dasher bottle, so a quarter ounce is a decent approximation.

Combine all your boozy and spiritous ingredients and stir em up in a mixing glass with ice for about 20 seconds until it’s well chilled and diluted. Strain into a nice coupe glass, or a nick and nora glass, and then garnish with an expressed and discarded orange peel.

The Hanky Panky was invented by Ada Coleman back in the early 1900s, when she was the head bartender at the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel in London. This was a time when you didn’t see many female bartenders AT ALL, let alone female head bartenders, so I think it’s safe to say that this is a special drink invented by a special lady who helped pave the way for all the amazing female mixologists who are doing great things behind the bar today.

So, now that you’ve got yourself a cocktail, let’s turn our attention to Sother Teague’s awesome book, I’m Just Here for the Drinks.

About Sother Teague

First off, let’s learn about the author.

Sother Teague Introduction.jpg

Sother Teague is what I’d refer to as a polymath in the cocktail space. In his past lives, he’s worked the night shift at a Waffle House, he’s been the technical chef for Alton Brown’s Good Eats, he’s been an instructor at the New England Culinary Institute, and before he opened up his own bars, he was on the opening team for Dave Arnold’s New York bar, Booker and Dax. And as if that’s not enough, he runs two bars IN ADDITION TO Amor y Amargo, and he hosts The Speakeasy, which is a weekly spirits and bartending radio show, alongside fellow New York barman Damon Boelte. Oh yeah, and he was voted “Mixologist of the Year” in 2017 by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.

It’s easy to get out of breath just thinking about how much work this guy does every day, but somehow he also managed to put out a book. And yes, you may have heard rumors about this...he wrote most of it on his phone.

About The Book

I’m Just Here for the Drinks came out in late 2018 with great acclaim, and it immediately became one of the bestselling cocktail books on Amazon.com.

The first thing we noticed about this book is that the format is a little different than most cocktail books out there. Generally (and we say this knowing that you could list LOTS of exceptions), generally cocktail books fall into one of a few categories.

  • You’ve got your technique books, like Dave Arnold’s Liquid Intelligence, Jeffrey Morganthaler’s The Bar Book, and Peter Meehan’s Bartender Manual.

  • You’ve got your History-driven Books like Imbibe! And Punch by David Wondrich, And a Bottle of Rum by Wayne Curtis, and pretty much everything from Philip Greene.

  • You’ve got your encyclopedic reads with occasional recipes, like Amy Stewart’s The Drunken Botanist.

  • You’ve got your ingredient-focused books that zoom in on one spirit and really dive deep (like Brad Thomas Parsons’ Amaro), and then you’ve got your recipe-focused books that offer drinks for a specific crowd, theme, or purpose (like Maggie Hoffman’s One Bottle Cocktails or Shanna Farrell’s Bay Area Cocktails).

What’s cool about this book’s setup is that it’s ostensibly organized by spirit, with a bunch of recipes to go along with each base ingredient. He dispatches quickly with vodka, as many bartenders are wont to do, and then proceeds to cover Gin, Whiskey, Brandy, Tequila and Mezcal, Rum, Amaro, and Mixed Libations.

If you’re looking at the table of contents, that’s it. That’s the book. But as you read through, there’s a lot more good stuff waiting around every corner.

One set of strategic elements that crop up at various intervals throughout the book are the technical passages about everything from ice to, distillation, to how to feel out a bar, to how James Bond ruined the Martini. These little sections give the reader a nice little break if they’ve just finished 20 page on a spirit like whiskey or gin - almost like a palate cleanser between tastings.

Other Features

The other really stand-out aspects of this book are the beautiful photography on almost every recipe page and the cocktail submissions from guest bartenders like Gaz Regan and Washington, DC’s own Derek Brown.

And the effect that all this has is almost like a cabinet of curiosities. Everywhere you turn, there’s something interesting to look at, and even though it’s highly curated, you don’t get any stuffiness or rigidity that turns you off from the content.

Sother sometimes talks about how he likes to design his bars in this way, with lots of little Knick-Knacks to look at on the walls, or behind the bar, or even etched into the bartop. And that approach shows through brilliantly in this book.

Here are some other things we find useful or interesting about I’m Just Here for the Drinks, in no particular order:

  • The “classic cocktail” badge next to classic cocktail recipes. This helps you get a sense of when and why these drinks came about, and what their role is in the cocktail canon. It also helps you distinguish them from the custom jobs by Sother and all his guest bartenders.

  • The very “definition-focused” section in the introduction, where a lot of time is given to explaining what is meant by terms like “a dash” or “double strained.” This makes the book approachable even to folks who are new to cocktails.

  • The ingredient spotlights that highlight some of the most interesting and useful bottles you can have behind your bar.

  • The homemade recipe section in the back, where the author shares his Manhattan Glazed Rib tips and his Martini Pickles recipe, among others.

  • And the little “Sother Says” boxes, where the author provides metacommentary, tips, and tricks to help squeeze a little more joy out of every recipe.

So far we’ve mostly talked about the structural stuff I like about this book. But there’s one final attribute that I think sets it apart as being really special, and that quality is the sense of humor and lightness with which it’s written.

Sother is a really down-to-earth and gregarious guy when you hear him interviewing guests on The Speakeasy, which is part of my personal weekly podcast diet, and a lot of that comes through in the way this book is written. He’s got no qualms telling you why he doesn’t think vodka should be in cocktails. He’s real about hangovers. And he’s not shy about saying he fucking loves gin. The entire books is peppered with little one-liners like: Come visit me at work. Tell me I sent you. And he even makes a cocktail called the Sharpie Mustache, served in a flask with a mustache on it. Come on - this guy knows how to have a good time, and that demeanor makes it an easy, but still very nutritious read.

From our bookshelf to yours, we highly recommend I’m Just Here for the Drinks. It’s a great read, and a really useful font of inspiration when you’re looking to add a bit of flair to your tried and true favorites.

Creative Commons Attributions

Let's Start at the Beginning by Lee Rosevere is licensed under a Attribution License.  
And So Then by Lee Rosevere is licensed under a Attribution License.
Everywhere by Lee Rosevere is licensed under a Attribution License.