Which Bartenders Do You Look Up To?

Posted on: Nov. 23, 2016 | | By: TOTC Staff

Earlier this week, we decided to share one copy of Sasha Petraske’s long-awaited tome, “Regarding Cocktails,” with one of our Instagram followers. In the spirit of Sasha’s indelible impact as a leader and a mentor, we asked readers to tell us about someone in the bartending world who inspires them, and why. We were overwhelmed with thoughtful, inspiring messages about the people who push their peers and proteges to do better. So, as many of us are reflecting this week on gratitude, we thought we’d share a handful of our favorite responses. (And PS: stay tuned for the actual winner of the book!)

Alex Day. His ingenuity and love for the craft is both inspiring and appreciated. Had the pleasure of experiencing his amazing cocktails at The Walker Inn, made and served personally by him. An extremely humble person!” – Sylvia Linares

“He’s not a bartender, but Brad Thomas Parsons has inspired me to expand my craft as a home bartender. His books Bitters and Amaro have inspired me to try new drinks, new ingredients, new recipes and to make things at home that I never thought I would make, like homemade bitters and Amaro.” – Homebartendr

Bobby Heugel is my inspiration as a businessman, and Dave Arnold for inspiring me to push the boundaries without fear of failure or being misunderstood.” – Joseph Davis

Frankie Solarik is the most creative and imaginative bartender that I have ever been privileged to have seen in action. Constantly pushing the boundaries in the cocktail world by never thinking inside the box. His creativity and imagination is ridiculous. I’ve never seen so many people use the word “wow” over and over again with each drink they ordered. In short the man doesn’t give you a drink, he gives you an experience”. – Jamie Cawley

“Just like what Sasha said to him and everyone, “Taste your Caipirinha. Nobody is that good.” Whenever I reached a warm glass in the fridge or see wastage during service, there’s always Tim Philips’ hairy facial expression and Bondi accent saying this in my head “Don’t do that, mate!!” You can’t possibly think that ugly/warm cocktail is ok to serve because somewhere in the world, Tim is making a perfectly-diluted-well-garnished-FRESH cocktail (twice a week maybe). There. My curse and blessing.” – Sky Huo

Erick Castro and his series, “Bartender at Large,” have inspired me beyond measure. At a time in my (still short) career when I had become obsessed with the mixology aspects of the job and forgotten that genuine hospitality is the most important trait to have as a bartender he reminded of that. When I was unable to work for personal reasons for a series of months, binge-watching “Bartender at Large” the way most do with “The Walking Dead” quenched my continuing thirst for knowledge and gave me so many new insights to take with me once I got back behind the stick. Throw in his (why didn’t I think of that) simple yet amazing modern classics, such as the piña verde and you’ve got a f**cking modern legend in my book.” – Will Krepop

The Fermented Alaskan. She is my friend. She’s not a professional bartender. We’re both cocktail enthusiasts. We are inspired by all the wonderful cocktails we see from the many talented bartenders on IG and try to create them at our own home. Today she is competing in the Bacardi Legacy competition in Seattle against many talented professional bartenders. I’m inspired by her for not only entering but advancing to this stage.” – Mike, mmydrinks

Ivy Mix is my biggest drink industry inspiration. Her creativity and originality is something beautiful and wonderful to behold, and she embodies everything I want to be as a bartender. An artist, but still down to earth. A savage with originality, but a strong base and understanding in the classics. She’s also one of the founders of Speed Rack, which to me is a perfect example of what we are capable of not just as bartenders, but as human beings in touch with the world and community around us. She has given us spectacular cocktails and examples of hospitality, as well as a beautiful organization that puts out of this world and under represented drink slingers in the spotlight, while raising awareness for something we’ve all come in contact with, whether personally or someone close to us. She is a paragon in the industry, a class of her own that we should all strive for while finding our own spot in the drink world. If I could be one hundredth as good as she is, I would be one hundred times the bartender I am now.” – @bearlytipsy

Marvin Allen at The Carousel Bar really illuminated the path for me. A great bartender is like a gracious host. I always make certain that any visit to New Orleans includes a spin at The Carousel and a drink or two when Mr. Marvin is holding court. He’s introduced me to now trendy but back then somewhat forgotten classics like the Vieux-Carre, Sazerac etc. and made the effort to show me how he puts the cocktail together. I’ll always leave with a new blueprint for my home repertoire.” – Steve Winner

“I would have to say my biggest inspiration has been Jamie Boudreau and the magic that he’s created at Canon Seattle. The thing that will smack anyone in the industry when it come to this man and this bar is it’s NUTS! This makes no business sense whatsoever, and that’s the rub. The focus is not about the money but the aspect of an incredible experience. How he thinks about it all and not just the drinks, but the atmosphere, serves, glassware, lightning, bar top and so on. He loves sharing his knowledge to make other people better from answering questions to doing “how to” videos on the Small Screen Network. Jamie and the out of this world team at Canon inspire me to think about the whole picture and to push the boundaries on what I think is possible, well at the same time making it all so much fun! Here’s to another great night and another great time!” – Nick Diamond

Kenta Goto! His cocktails are uniquely Japanese and he is a gracious host at his Bar Goto.” – Colleen M.

Matias Bernaoloa, my pal, and awesome Argentinean bartender. More than a mentor he is a good friend and he taught me not only to have style and to be a good team member but he showed me humbleness and respect being with me in some of the most critical moments of my life. He showed me the art of being a host and to not forget to have fun! Thanks Matias!” – Rodrigo Pascual Tubert

Jared Huk has been in the industry for years running menus of constant innovation. His passion for work is like none I’ve ever seen and you can’t walk out of his bar without a new love for cocktails. He is managing Hooch and Fellow in Townsville, Australia, which isn’t overly renowned for cocktails. However, through his tireless work ethics in creating new and exciting cocktails he is changing a whole district’s mindset on wonderful tipples and opening minds and mouths for some truly fantastic flavours.” – Kurt Steffens

Donnie Pratt, an Asheville, North Carolina native was a craft cocktail bartender at this hotel that was just opening up in town. I was a cocktail waitress and completely ignorant to what was then called “mixology.” I thought drinking was for getting drunk, never put too much thought into liquors, just bought whatever was cheap and mixed it with Coke. I worked there for a week before I realized I’d be fired if I didn’t clean up my act and learn about the drinks. He gave me a month-long introduction into whiskeys, sherries, gins and the like. I was immediately enthralled with the cocktail world. Fast forward, years later, I’m in San Francisco and fall head over heels for a shy boy I see in a grocery store. I gathered up the courage to invite him over and impressed him on the first date by whipping up a decent Bijou I still make him to this day. We’re engaged and I’ll be lucky if we can spend our lives together a little buzzed and I owe it all to a patient bartender in North Carolina.” – Kate de los Santos

Jillian Vose is the mixologist supreme and one of the most humble and genuine in the business. Her following speaks for her and her craft.” – @mkemike

Dale Degroff, his book and videos taught me customer service and how to be a bartender and not someone who just puts drinks in front of people.” – Zach McGowan

“Being the old man of the industry in San Francisco it is the young kids that inspire me. I love teaching and these kids are so eager to soak up everything. It is amazing that all these young bartenders turn to the old guard to learn and are bringing hospitality to a whole new level. The world of cocktails has never been better and these young kids like Daniel Parks and Ross Lewis are mixing up some of the best drinks in the world! My inspiration is the new guard that brings me so much joy!” – @fjakubka

“I wanted to give thanks to a very good friend and someone who has opened my eyes to the world of bartending. Richard at Root Bitters has not only taught me a lot, but has also showed me how to learn. We met by chance just over a year ago and I would not have been able to refine my craft the same way without his influence. We both have a lot to learn but I look forward to see what innovations we can come up with. Hopefully I can one day inspire someone the ways he has inspired me.” – Christian Johnson

“My inspiration comes from all the founding members of the USBG nationwide. I joined the USBG Las Vegas this year and what a whirlwind of education and fun it has been. The members of not only our Vegas chapter but also those in other states have been incredibly welcoming and have taken me under their wings. Having a group of likeminded individuals learning about something they love is my inspiration.” – Sarah Gage

“I work by myself in a tiny bar in Berlin. When it opened and I was hired as main bartender the great selection of spirits in the bar was really scary and my skills didn’t go past an appletini. I felt clueless for a while, embarrassed of my lack of knowledge. Slowly but surely, and with the help of many great books and websites, I started learning my way around the classics, paying the utmost respect to the spirits. But then I started to feel lonely. I would visit other bars and see young apprentices learning in one shift with their mentors what had taken me months. It has been a year and a half now, and there is still much to learn. I still feel lonely at the bar sometimes, but on Mondays, my day off, I put my feet up, open a beer and watch “Bartender at Large.” It is inspiring in a bigger, let’s say larger way. It helps me go beyond the tiny bar I work at, making me see the industry as a whole. And who knew, people have the same problems I do behind bigger bars! Brings me to tears with laughter with stories of other industry people, because often I can see that happening to me. It connects me to my world, so to say. The show gives me a pat in the back, and tells me “your efforts are not in vain, keep learning”. And I don’t feel so lonely anymore. Yeah, so I would have to say Erick Castro. Thank you, man!” – @fibrucerocks

“Definitely Alex Barbatsis. Down to earth. Personable. Excellent behind the stick. He knows his spirits, the classic drinks and the obscure drinks. He constantly creates new ones that are excellent, replicable and not gimmicky or over elaborate. He always takes the craft seriously, but like a great athlete, makes it look effortless and fun.” – @DistinguishedSpirits

Ryan Chetiyawardana. I was lucky enough to meet him in Melbourne this year for his White Lyan pop up series and I can honestly say he couldn’t have been a nicer more genuine guy. It really brought me back down to earth and made me remember it’s all about the experience in the end.” – @boswell90

Jack McGarry. An inspiration to watch over the past 5-6 years and all his achievements and accomplishments. But more so following his journey through this year in a life changing 8 months. A true inspiration.” – Mikey Smith

“No questions on this for me, it’s Jeffrey Morgenthaler. The fact that he has written one of the most comprehensive and user friendly technique-oriented books (which taught me most of what I know, with some hands on help from @gindependence), claimed America’s best bartender this year (among with many other accomplishments), and that he executes all his badassery without any hint of smugishness, arrogance or pretentiousness. He inspires me to maintain an attitude of learning and growth – no matter how much I know, or what I can do, there is always more to learn, and I want to share that attitude with everyone I teach! Thanks for being the bomb.com, Jeff!” – Chelsea Hughes

“My greatest inspiration comes from Erick Castro as well as Elliot Clark/Apartment Bartender. These two have inspired me to take chances and make leaps in my craft, along with every bartender, manager, guest and bar back I’ve spent time with. The experience has been humbling being introduced to so many cool spirits, drinks, techniques and people. The people behind the adventure are really the most memorable along the way.” – @letsbakwoods

“Currently, Dushan Zaric of Employees Only is the most inspiring to me. I recently had the immense honor of talking to him over the phone for an hour. He was in California about to pick his kids up from school, but told me to call him. I live in the middle of Missouri, and am set on opening up a bar in the next 4 years. His kindness in taking the time and his wisdom were life changing for me. He leads the industry so well!” – Bryan Arri

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