Sother Teague is a New York City bar legend. He wrote an entire book on the notes app of his iPhone, and got New Yorkers to care about amaro long before it was trendy. For those in the industry, Teague is a bar world OG, always happy to lend an ear or a nugget of sage advice.
Best known for his tenure at Amor y Amargo, a pint-sized temple to all things bitter and bracing in Manhattan’s East Village, Teague has since partnered in two new NYC watering holes, Blue Quarter and Windmill. He can be found, bespectacled in trademark red frames, at his original bar every Sunday, pouring drinks and brightening days.
Here, we take a deeper dive inside the psyche of the bartender with the world’s most dextrous thumbs in a rapid fire round of Lucky Sevens.
What’s your desert-island drink?
If you’d asked me this as little as six months ago I’d have said an Old Fashioned. But lately, I’m drawn to the Gibson. I take it in a 2 to 1 ratio of London dry gin and dry vermouth, no bitters, and a crispy briny onion. I prefer Old South brand pickled onions. I even have one hidden in my logo.
What’s the first drink you bought when you turned 21?
I didn’t drink until I was 22! But my first purchase of alcohol for myself was a Guinness stout. I was at an Irish bar in Chicago. My bartender was a guy named Padraig. He was a redhead from County Cork. He delivered a proper pour. I was fascinated by the intent and methodology. It was a memorable experience.
FMK (f*ck/marry/kill) three cocktails: Negroni, Margarita, Manhattan?
F*ck Negroni. Negronis have sex appeal. Marry Manhattan. Manhattans have staying power. Kill Margarita. Margaritas are alluring but can be crazy.
You’re on death row. What’s your final drink?
I have a deep love and appreciation for Cognac (part of the reason I partnered in at Windmill is our focus on French spirits). It has a way of making an otherwise ordinary day into something outstanding. I hope my last drink is special.
You can only drink at one bar for the rest of your life. What is it?
A bar where all the cocktails are balanced and measured. They’re served in the proper glass with impeccable ice. The music is a playlist of my favorites and the snacks are well suited to my taste as well as matched to the environment and drinks. There’s always a seat for me at the corner nearby friendly, well mannered patrons. A spot where the bar staff are all friends of mine. I refer to it as “church” because you can find me there every Sunday. Others call it Goto.
What’s the best and worst bottle on your shelf?
Best: I have one bottle of 1909 Old Overholt rye whiskey remaining from a case I purchased with my partner Max Green of Blue Quarter. It’s luxurious and rich with hints of peanut, peanut shell, and flinty pencil shavings. I’m not particularly saving it but haven’t found a reason to open it just yet.
Worst: Tequesta. There are still places in America with restrictive liquor laws. Ocracoke, one of the Outer Banks of North Carolina, can only serve wine and beer. So, there are companies that make wine-based liquor substitutes. This one is supposed to mimic a reposado tequila. It’s 17 percent ABV and I’d reserve it for only the most desperate of times. It was a gift (I hope it was a gag gift).
What cocktail will you never order again and why?
Vesper … not only because one can’t truly be made as one of the ingredients no longer exists, and not just because it’s the drink of a fictional character dreamt up by a man seated in front of a typewriter (not a bartender). But more because it simply makes no sense. In the most lay terms, gin is sort of flavored vodka. So, why would you effectively water down your gin by adding vodka to the mix? Again, Ian Fleming was not a bartender, he was a writer and it sounded good on paper.
I’m coming for the Brooklyn next…