Since the times of ancient Roman and Greek civilization, bartenders have been surprising and delighting people with their unique boozy creations. Today, they still work diligently every night from behind the bar to provide us with something tasty that keeps our palates satisfied.

That’s why each year on Dec. 3, we celebrate them and their dedication to the craft of mixology with National Bartender Day. Ironically in sync with the end of Prohibition (Dec. 5!), it’s a day to recognize the contributions of skilled bartenders all around the country.

So, in honor of National Bartender Day, let’s get to know some of the talent behind the bar — and raise a glass to them with some of these seriously delicious Johnnie Walker cocktail recipes that they have crafted.

Sherz Aletaha, New York City

Aletaha stumbled into the world of bartending unknowing that it would become a lifelong passion, but tells VinePair that “all of a sudden my eyes were opened to this whole world that I didn’t know existed.” Since then, she has worked for some of the most beautiful bars in New York City, and continues to make expert drinks from behind the counter at multiple spots around the city. When she’s not behind the bar, Aletaha has a whole other life as an actor and has performed at some of the most recognized theaters in the country.

The Joonam

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 ounces Johnnie Walker Black Label
  • 1/4 ounce orange liqueur
  • 1/2 ounce honey tea syrup*
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce pomegranate juice
  • 2 dashes orange bitters

Directions

  1. Add all the ingredients into a shaker over ice and give it a hearty shake.
  2. Strain and serve over fresh ice in a rocks glass with pomegranate seeds as a garnish.
  3. Top with a dash of aromatic bitters.

*For the Honey Tea Syrup:

  1. Mix together a 2:1 ratio of honey to hot water in a small pot or heat-proof container.
  2. Then, add a tea bag (preferably a cardamom flavored tea bag) and steep until to taste.

 

William Tsui, San Francisco

The inspiration for Tsui’s expert bartending comes from time spent early in his career at a Japanese hotel, which he says really opened his eyes to the Japanese bartending method of focusing on technique and guest interaction. After working his way up in the San Francisco bar scene, Tsui worked as the bar director of a 2-Michelin Star establishment, which gave him the access he needed to “hone in on my recipes and push the envelope of flavors through culinary techniques.” His advice for aspiring bartenders is to pick an “end game” and move your way toward it. Tsui’s dream was to own his own establishment, which he now does in Oakland.

Gilded Blinker

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce Johnnie Walker Black Label
  • 1 ounce rectified ruby red grapefruit juice*
  • 1/5 ounce amaro
  • 1/3 ounce Pink Lady apple syrup*
  • 1 dash aromatic bitters

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients to a mixing glass over ice, and stir to chill.
  2. Pour over fresh block ice into a rocks glass.
  3. Garnish with skewered, fanned apple slices.

*For Rectified Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice

  1. Combine 4 1/4 cups of fresh ruby red grapefruit juice to 2/5 ounce of malic acid, 2/5 ounce of citric acid, and 6 dashes of aromatic bitters.

*For Pink Lady Apple Syrup

  1. Slowly combine 5 1/4 cups of freshly pressed apple juice to 2 2/3 cups of sugar. Sprinkle ascorbic acid between each round of pressed juice to ensure the juice does not oxidize.

 

Jake Simpson, Washington, D.C.

After graduating high school, Simpson was taking a break from university in Italy where he ended up working behind the bar for four months without a night off. He wasn’t making good money; he had just fallen in love with bartending. When he got back to Manchester, in northern England, Simpson continued to tend bar until he made his way over to the U.S. and continued to work on his craft. Simpson says he still feels thrilled and nervous every time he heads into work as a bar manager in D.C., even after all these years. Simpson says that even more interesting than the mixology itself are his patrons: “Every day there’s somebody new who will teach you something that you didn’t know.” he says. “I mean, your guests just blow your mind every day basically.”

Lapsang Rob Roy

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce Johnnie Walker Black Label
  • ⅓ ounce apple brandy
  • 1/5 ounce Lapsang sweet vermouth*
  • 2 dashes aromatic bitters
  • 2 dashes orange bitters

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients into a mixing glass over ice, and stir to chill.
  2. Strain and serve over fresh ice in a coupe glass with a thyme sprig as a garnish.

*For the Lapsang Sweet Vermouth

  1. Add 2 teaspoons of Lapsang tea grounds to a container of vermouth for approximately two hours, and then double strain.

 

Tiffanie Barriere, Austin, Texas

Barriere, also known as the Drinking Coach, first started mixing up drinks at home with her friends and family on the weekends. She believes her ability to multitask and listen were what helped her excel at her craft, and the dedication she has had to reading about spirits and the experience traveling to their countries of origin didn’t hurt, either. Now, Barriere loves to create inventive drinks inspired by the seasons, and her own mood as well as others. “Once I gain a mood, i.e., calm, sophisticated, celebratory, light, or bright, I begin to hit the flavor wheel and pay attention to seasonal ingredients and balance,” she says.

River Oaks

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce Johnnie Walker Black Label
  • 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice
  • 1 bar spoon pepper jam
  • Fresh thyme
  • Apple slice

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients into a cobbler shaker with ice and shake until well chilled.
  2. Strain shaken contents into a rocks glass with fresh crushed ice.
  3. Garnish with a fresh sprig of thyme and an apple slice.

 

Sammi Katz, New York City

Katz first learned how to bartend out of necessity — earning some money on the side while she auditioned for acting roles after college. She gained her introductory knowledge from a bartending course, but says that anyone interested shouldn’t be afraid to pick a talented bartender’s brain during a night out (as long as you tip them well after, of course). Though she’s now a skilled cocktail artist, she still counts the social aspects of bartending as her favorite, and loves sharing her love and passion about spirits and cocktails with people “in a fun, accessible way,” she says. “This is going to sound super cheesy, but my favorite drinks to make are the ones that people really want to drink. I love introducing someone to a new favorite classic cocktail that they can order at any cocktail bar — it gives them a little more confidence next time they go out, with a delicious drink to boot!”

Peerless Kinsman

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 ounces Johnnie Walker Black Label
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce ginger syrup*
  • 1/4 ounce caraway liqueur
  • Top with rum

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a shaker with just a pinch of crushed ice. Shake well.
  2. Strain into a double Old Fashioned glass with fresh crushed ice.
  3. Top with a splash of club soda. Float 1/4 ounce of rum on top.
  4. Garnish with a dehydrated lemon wheel.

*For the Ginger Syrup:

  1. Juice approximately five 1-inch cubes of fresh ginger to yield 4 ounces, then fine-strain.
  2. Combine the juice with 1 cup of Demerara sugar in a saucepan over low heat.
  3. Stir until sugar fully dissolves.

This article is sponsored by Johnnie Walker.