On this episode of the “Cocktail College” podcast, host Tim McKirdy is joined by Jon Adler, beverage director of Shinji’s and NoDa in NYC, to talk about pre-batching cocktails and how it lends itself to good service. The two discuss how the practice gives bartenders more time to focus on customer interaction and the performance element of cocktail making. Tune in for more.

Listen Online

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Listen on Spotify

Check Out the Conversation Here

Tim McKirdy: You’ve been asking for them. Here we are. We’re back with another “techniques” episode here at “Cocktail College” and we’re joined in the studio by Jon Adler. Jon, welcome. Thanks for joining us.

Jon Adler: Thanks for having me.

T: Real pleasure to have you in today. We’ve been chatting about this off-air beforehand. We’re tentatively calling this bar theater but I imagine this episode is going to get into a ton of different topics, a ton of different subjects that I think are super interesting, especially for people maybe running bar programs or are interested in how different bar programs work. This episode was inspired by an experience I had recently at your bar, the bar you run, Shinji’s, which really blew me away. Before I hint at any of what that looked like, can you just give us the background of Shinji’s and what your approach to service has been so far, and maybe how that’s evolved over the time since you’ve been open?

J: Absolutely. I’m the beverage director for both Shinji’s and NoDa. NoDa is an eight-seat omakase that used to be located on 28th Street but moved to our current location on 20th Street and back of where our cocktail bar at Shinji’s is. Shinji’s is named after a man named Shinji Nohara, who is also known as the Tokyo fixer. He opened the doors to culinary experiences in Japan that wouldn’t be available to non-Japanese residents. He was responsible for introducing the chef of NoDa to our partners, and we thought it was most apt to name the bar after him. Shinji’s is an 18-seat cocktail bar. 8 seats around a curved marble counter and then we have three booths that can accommodate up to 10 people.

T: This is very much like the smaller cocktail bar almost, it’s not an omakase-style, like a bar version of that because you have the menu and guests there order their drinks off the menu. Again, this comes back to this theater theme or not, there is an interactive aspect to the service. Actually, I’ll lay it out. Listeners of this show know full well that I’m a big Martini fan. You have, it’s actually a Vesper, right?

J: Yes.

T: When I do see a Vesper on the menu, though, I’m always intrigued to try that too. I remember asking for that when we sat down and you came over with this trolley, you’re making it tableside, which is something we’ve seen and discussed at the other bars too. Mason Premier, their Martini’s incredible. This, you come over with the cart and then you pull out the liquid nitrogen at some point, you’re chilling the glass down, then there’s this element when you’re ready to pour the prepared cocktail, you throw the liquid nitrogen at the wall, I don’t know, I was just blown away by it. What I enjoyed most, of course, is the fact that when I took that drink, I wasn’t just like, “Oh well, that looked amazing,” but then the cocktail, the Vesper. I’m like, this is a bloody amazing Vesper. From the first minute to the end, incredible experience. Keen to hear where that kind of interactive element, again, with the liquid nitrogen and everything going on. Where did that develop from? What was the inspiration for that?

J: Everything surrounding the cocktail program itself, first and foremost, the drinks have to be delicious. Whether it looks pretty or not really is superfluous to the fact that we really want to make our cocktails dynamic in the way that they taste as well as the thought and the technique behind them. When I went to develop all the cocktails, it was my mission to develop a technique behind every drink that was novel that no one had ever seen before. At the same time, not every guest is looking for that. Not every guest wants to know exactly how everything is made. They’re just there for a great time with a great drink and great company. We had to keep that in mind. The other thing was, if you are not sitting at a bar, most of the time, you’re just getting a drink served to you on a tray. We wanted to make sure that you had the same exact experience if you’re sitting at a table as at the bar, and that’s why we brought up the cart. Every single drink, we can make in the same exact way tableside as we do at the bar. In terms of the liquid nitrogen, it was never her intention for that to be a show stopping moment. The bar is very, very small. We have very little freezer space, and because of that we knew that the only way to get the glass cold, especially tableside, was using liquid nitrogen. We used to throw it around the bar a lot and you get a lot of TikTok, people coming in and people asking, “Oh, I want that smoke drink.” Since then we’ve stopped throwing it as much. We also found out that we save about $500 a week by not throwing it as well.

T: I love that anecdote, especially for this show in so many different ways because it touches upon a lot of different things that we consider and we talk about with guests. The first of which actually we’ve never explored, but we explore at VinePair a lot in our editorial meetings and stuff, which is like the influence of a platform, particularly something like TikTok, right? How has TikTok changed the game? Whereby before it was Instagram and before it was like drinks looking incredible. There was a style of cocktail photography that was developed over time by a few different people, and we all go for that. It was like the photo was enough, but now it’s the video. What was that experience like? Just maybe the TikTok crowd, because I would imagine, and I don’t want to make you say it, but I would imagine it’s like you have people that are starting to come to get the video rather than to care about what’s in the glass.

J: Yes. The second you start pouring liquid nitrogen in the glass, the phones come out, everyone starts videotaping you. It was interesting because you never think as a bartender, like how you’re supposed to look when you’re making the drinks. You’re just trying to make the drinks to spec. You’re trying to get them out as fast as you can, but now with this involved, you also have to imagine how you’re going to look in this video that’s going to be shared with other people that want to then come to your bar because they saw this video.

T: The other aspect of the story just — now pouring the liquid nitrogen back into the safe thermos-looking vessel that you pour it from or whatever, just realizing that that will save you. What? 500 bucks a week or whatever? That’s crazy. It’s the other aspect I want to speak about here, which is what are the practical considerations for your bar program, for something that is, again, interactive, and a unique experience for guests.

J: From a financial perspective, if you have the know-with-all, it is incredibly beneficial financially, so everything is weighed out to spec. All of our recipes are weighed out by the gram. Some of the cocktails have even 20 recipes that go into them. We have separate recipes, and then they get batched together and then vacuum seal-bagged and 700-milliliter bags. Then those are stored at either room, fridge, or freezer-temp, depending on the drink in order to calculate inventory and stuff. It’s super easy. You just count the bags and you already have that recipe out. I already know my margins on all of that. I know what my best-selling drinks are, and I know that I’m hitting those financial benchmarks that I need to. Then, from a practical standpoint, in terms of service, if you run out of a bottle, all you have to do is grab a bag, cut the corner open and funnel it back in, and you’re ready to go. All of that just lends to expediency on the back end. When it comes time to do this Vesper, it literally takes me 10 seconds to make the drink. I have more time to actually talk to you about the story behind the drink. If you want to know all the techniques behind it, I can talk about it as well. Then again, if you’re just there for the video, I can take my time making sure you get a beautiful video. It can be whatever anyone wants it to be in terms of the experience.

T: That’s amazing. Just to give us maybe a little bit more context, I love the explanation there in terms of the backpacking stuff and why that’s useful for you as a bar operator, bar director. Can you maybe give us in real terms, what that looks like for that Vesper cocktail itself, like what those different components look like for that particular drink? You don’t need to share any secret recipes or whatever, but all of the different components that will come together for that Vesper.

J: Yes, totally. I never really care about giving out secrets. If people want to take the time to explore technique and replicate it, I’m cool with that. I’m always trying to develop technique on my own. If someone wants to use something, I’m all for it. For the Vesper which we call the Honey Penny, all the drinks, the easiest part really is making the drink and coming up with the recipe. The difficult part is figuring out the soul of the drink and the story behind it. The story behind this drink is that the Vesper was a cocktail that’s not created by a bartender but was created by Ian Fleming, who’s the author of all the James Bond novels. Moneypenny was James Bond’s secretary. Oh, sorry. Secretary, I guess, and there are lovely honey notes layered throughout the strings. We use two different types of gin. We use Nikka gin and then a gin called Sakurajima Komasa. It’s made from the smallest Seto mandarins on the planet. They grow on the side of a volcano called Sakurajima in Japan. Then we use Ketel One Vodka that we wash with beeswax. Then, this is the interesting part. Normally in a Vesper, you have a low alcohol aperitif, whether it’s Cocchi Americano or Lillet, which is an aromatized, grape-based aperitif, slightly sweetened and that’s usually low ABV, usually between 12 percent and 16 percent alcohol. We flipped the script on this. We subbed out some of the vodka at 40 percent ABV and made our own aperitif at that alcohol level. We use golden raisins, local honey flowers, and cinchona bark so it’s the same sweetness level as Lillet or Cocchi Americana would be but at 40 percent ABV. Then we saw the end for that low-ABV aperitif, a locally made mead, honey wine. It’s made from Enlightened Wines, it’s out in Brooklyn. That is bone-dry, no sugar whatsoever but at the same ABV as Lillet, and then we dilute it at 22 percent with water. Then, for all of our drinks we use a machine called an ultrasonic homogenizer. If you can imagine a glass of water. Water doesn’t evaporate on its own, it’s stable, doesn’t change states but as we all know alcohol evaporates over time, it’s an unstable molecule. When you apply ultrasonic waves to things, everything becomes unstable. It all blends together. It prevents phase separation. When normally you pre-batch cocktails, you have to shake up the bottle to make sure it mixes together, we don’t have that problem. Then when you go to freeze it because the water molecules and everything that’s not alcohol has become unstable, it will never freeze. We can keep that at negative 27 degrees Fahrenheit. Then it’ll just remain that temperature.

T: That’s amazing. Of those components, are you keeping each of them separate in the vac packs as you said and then you’re weighing them to a certain point so you know that it’s based like maybe two of this bag one of that bag. I know that’s an oversimplification. Is that what it looks like or is this Vesper something where you can bring all of those components together and have it bagged as one?

J: We basically have our parts of batches. Downstairs in our prep area, the separate components that are created so the components that are created for that housemade aperitif and the beeswax-wash vodka. Once we dip below our pours, we’ll make a batch of seven or eight bags, each bag will contain about seven to eight cocktails in it. Then, we’ll homogenize that batch together, back that up in separate 700-milliliter batches, and then store them in the freezer. That way, during service, all you have to do is go down to the freezer, grab the oldest bags, since we’re trying to do first in first out, and everything. Then once again, once it dips below that par — we have those separate components that we can blend together then later we’ll create those components. That way everything’s smooth in terms of a production schedule.

T: I know some folks right now might be listening and thinking, “Well, this is an episode about interactivity and the experience as a guest. This seems super technical and maybe a different techniques episode.” Listening to you describe that, which is actually, exactly, basically, the experience I had when having that Vesper for me, it’s like there’s a lot going on there. There’s a lot to explain. For people like myself who are interested. It’s amazing. I want to know it all. If you’re trying to explain that to me at the same time as deterring this ingredient, jiggering that ingredient, stirring, making sure you’re not over diluting, tasting, then suddenly, that’s just so much going on. This idea of being able to batch it but then making it tableside I don’t know, it makes so much sense to me that you have your consistency and you can tell the story, which is the story that you want to tell and you feel like it’s an important part of the drink in your service. Also, just one more thing in my eye, it was either this cocktail or a different cocktail part of that interactivity as well as like you have specially made bar coasters for it was that for the-

J: Every single drink has its own special coaster and then the pre-batch bottles also have their own specific labels. For this drink, we have that classic image of Bond shooting with the circle, with the blood coming down. That’s the label. Then the coaster itself is actually an image of Roger Moore smoking a cigarette, drinking a Martini.

T: Again, just that idea of, if you’re in service, if you’re making this, if you’re picking up four or five different bottles making the drink, then the next thing is you need to get the right coaster, not just a coaster. Then that just adds another level. I can imagine that you just wouldn’t be able to hit that consistency and have the level of service that you want to have. It is, though, as I mentioned, a very technical approach to making cocktails. I was wondering if you could tell us today — actually, I’ll just highlight one other that’s amazing that I’m sure is a big seller for you guys. You have a Hot Toddy where when you drink it, the left side of the cocktail is cold and the right side is warm. Now I’m no physics, chemistry major, whatever. I don’t know how that works. My question to you is, what’s your background here? How did you get into this style of making drinks? I guess the final thing is how do you feel about that term that people use when they talk about, like, molecular?

J: Sure. My background is actually as a cook. I cooked for about 10 to 12 years at very high-level restaurants, some three Michelin-star restaurants as well. Then, for the last five years, I’ve been a beverage professional mainly as a sommelier. The whole time I was cooking and doing this, I was always interested in cocktails and I was always interested in learning new techniques, learning the science behind things. This is an amalgamation of all my experience. I don’t even really think of myself as a bartender, because if you put me behind the stick at Attaboy or someplace like that, I’d be terrible. I can really only do what I do here at Shinji’s. I think of myself more as a hospitality professional because I’m pretty well versed in all of those regards. I hate that word molecular. It’s really bad.

T: Fair play. I think it does a disservice. It also makes it sound like — again, I’m not sure if we mentioned this at the beginning of the show, but I think the operative word here is intention. You’re doing things with intent. You devise the intention. You have — again, this is a wishy-washy word, but like a philosophy. You have that intention that calling things molecular to me seems like it’s a gimmick and that’s very not the experience that you’re offering.

J: Yes, totally. You could totally say that people who develop spirits or even wine are technically molecular because they’re using finding agents that have words that most people don’t understand. I think when people don’t understand something, they like to pigeonhole it. If they don’t understand the science behind something in a cocktail or in food, they might call it molecular because it sounds sciencey. Once things become out there in the open and more people tend to understand it, then those words go away.

T: Again, noting that your intention was never to be where the bar throws liquid nitrogen at walls. I got to say, just for the record, again, I enjoyed it. I thought it was good. I can see, and I hear your experience of where that can lead in terms of the crowd you have in and whatnot. On the other hand here though, this takes the interactive level of service up to the next level, and then you might look at a bar that goes to the full extreme, the Aviary for example. Your style of cocktails is different to that, but you may be closer to that than an Attaboy as we used that example. Those bars are very few and far between even here in New York. I’ve been to a handful of others as well that go a lot further in that direction and don’t always succeed in doing so. Where do you feel like your bar program — where does it fit in the New York cocktail landscape? Is this a special occasion thing? Is this a monument thing where people go and they’re like, “I’ve seen that, I really want to try it?” Or is it something also where you have regulars like any other bar?

J: I think with any technique, for a bar, even a restaurant for that matter, there’s two categories within that. There’s the places that are doing things to say, “Look how impressive I am.” And then there’s places that are doing it to say, “How happy can I make you?” That’s always our intention. There is technique behind what we do, but at the end of the day, if you come to Shinji’s, we are very warm, we’re inviting, we’re fun, and depending on who’s in the room, it can be a completely different experience. We do have tons of regulars who just come in. They’re not even going to grab a cocktail. They might just even grab like glass of mezcal, glass of sake, bottle of wine, and they’re just there for the vibe but at the same time, we also have people who come to see the cocktails because they’re excited about it and they’ve heard it and they’ve seen the videos and all of that. It’s really incredible to see the diversity of people from all walks of life coming in. It is at a little bit of a higher price point, but that being said, most bars are these days.

T: That very much is true. It is an expensive period for cocktails in New York. I definitely put you guys on the higher end of where things are going there too, but that does in my mind, come into this place where we are right now, where it’s like, again, a three-Michelin-star restaurant, that’s an expensive meal, that’s where things have gone. That’s where things have gone in the culinary landscape where people are like — this has become something people are more interested in. Whether it’s food, wine, cocktails, people really are willing to spend more and it’s not just for the 1 percent too. You have folks that are like, “No, I will save up so that I can maybe go to a three-star restaurant once a year with my partner because it’s a special thing.” There’s a place for these things.

J: Absolutely. I don’t really care how much something costs as long as it’s delicious. I will go to a three- Michelin-star restaurant and I’ll get a really expensive bottle of wine because I know for a fact I’m going to have a really good time. That being said, I’m also going to go to a taco truck and get as many tacos as I can, not spend as much money, and know I’m going to have a really good time. Doesn’t matter what it is. As long as the establishment fulfills the promise of giving you an amazing experience, whether that’s cocktails, hospitality, food — even if you go to a concert or a sports game, you’re expecting a certain experience, and as long as that promise is fulfilled, people don’t feel like they’ve wasted their money.

T: You’ve worked in three-star restaurants before. I don’t know whether you want to share any of the names of them or whatnot, but that doesn’t really matter. My point that I want to make here is that, to go back to the Grand Oaks thing, maybe a restaurant like that doesn’t need to be someone’s go-to, i.e., they’re trying to be a regular there. Most of those ones you can’t because you can’t get in that often anyway, but even if that’s not something where you’re like, “I’m a regular at this restaurant,” that doesn’t mean there’s not a place for it and that doesn’t mean that people aren’t going there for special occasions or that it doesn’t have a place. Now, maybe there’s only five or six of those that can exist before there becomes too many for the demand, but I guess what I’m trying to say is like, there are all these different places where people fit in. Do you know what I mean?

J: Yes, totally.

T: From dive bar to super-high-end cocktail bar, and everything in between.

J: I guess, if you had to classify it, Shinji’s at its best is a place you can come for an incredible cocktail, for an incredible meal. All of our ingredients are the same ingredients we use at NoDa, so all of our fish is sourced four times a week from Japan, and also we have an incredible beverage list behind the cocktails. I think that Shinji’s is a unique opportunity for anyone visiting the city or living in the city on a Monday or a Sunday night to be able to come there, have top-quality sushi, an incredible cocktail, and then your friends are just sitting there having a beer. I don’t know anywhere else in the city that you can have that experience.

T: I think that’s a really wonderful offering, and like I said, I think there’s only a handful of places that, in a city like New York, are doing these things. However, we’ve seen Netflix’s “Drinks Masters” come out, and I’ll put my hand up here and say, I’ve seen a couple clips and whatnot. I should take the time to sit down and do a better job of watching the whole thing, but from what I’ve seen, this is a show that very much is about the visuals. We actually wrote an article about this on VinePair, talking about whether this might launch the first household-name bartender or not, but part of that show, what makes it appealing to me would be that these are very visually attractive technique-driven drinks, because if you make a Manhattan, people are tuning out soon. Do you know what I mean? Either it looks boring or people don’t really have the point of reference in the same way they do as a roasted chicken comes out the oven. We all know what that is. How much do you think a show like that might influence things, might be like? Actually, more guests are looking to try this experience, or more bartenders are inspired by seeing it and want to launch that program.

J: I think there’s certain aspects to programs like that that are always beneficial. Whether it’s good press or bad press, having more of a platform for this industry is a great thing. I think it was number one on Netflix for a week or two. The fact that many people are tuning in and excited about cocktails is nothing but amazing for bartenders out there. Some of the techniques that they show — I always have a pet peeve about people showing something like stratification as if it was something new even though it was invented over 20 years ago. The fact that people can talk about a Milk Punch or something like that and make it understandable to the average person who’s watching the show is really cool. That way, when they go into a bar and they see something like that, this is a Milk Punch, the bartenders didn’t necessarily have to explain that to people. It’s the same thing as back in Milk & Honey days when they were trying to explain what a Daiquiri was and not the frozen version of it. Now people come in, they ask for Daiquiris and they get what they were expecting. It’s just the evolution of educating the guest and broadening their repertoire of what they can understand.

T: One of the things I’ve always chatted with folks about when we’ve been speaking about that show, I’m like, “It’s interesting because that style of making drinks works so well for TV,” I’ve always had the argument that like, “Yes, it works for TV, but I’m not sure this actually works that well for a bar.” Then here we are sitting, talking about — not exactly the same techniques but technique-driven bars can work, but you need to be very intentional about it and you need to have everything figured out as you’ve explained when you broke down your Vesper for us. I was wondering what are some of the most inventive cocktails or techniques that you’ve worked on that you might want to highlight otherwise like we spoke about that Vesper there, we spoke about the — this is probably not the official name, but the Hot and Cold Toddy that you have. What are some other ones that you want to highlight that you also think are worth it, not just for show?

J: Totally. To be honest, the coolest drink that we have right now hasn’t hit the menu right now. It’s off-menu, but in a few weeks, it will hit the menu. It’s a Ramos Gin Fizz that we can shake in 10 seconds.

T: Wow. Tell us about this.

J: I can put up eight of them in about five minutes at our bar.

T: No way. Are you able to give us some insight on how that works?

J: Totally. Anyone can actually do this as long as you have some liquid nitrogen. It takes a little bit of math. You basically have to calculate out the separate parts. You have to weigh out the gin component, the sugar component, and then calculate out the water content that would be in the egg white and the dilution from shaking. You mix all of that together and then you take that and add 5 percent-weight egg white powder and blend that until it’s completely mixed. You keep that cold in the fridge and then you take cream and put it in an ISI charger whipped cream canister and dispense that into liquid nitrogen. Then, you blend that up in a food processor, so it’s powdered. Weigh that into 30-gram portions, which equates to an ounce of cream, and then you keep that in the freezer. During service, all you have to do to make this Ramos is jigger out your citrus, jigger out your base. You put the frozen cream in your other tin, shake it together for 10 seconds, make sure your glass is cold, make sure that you have a pitcher with sparkling water. Pour it together, and you can get a two-inch head on the top.

T: No way. That sounds wild. I’ve got to come back and see that happen because — if ever there was a drink that was really ripe for applying new techniques. I know folks have also done stuff with Hamilton Beach blenders and the ISI gas things like you say. Wow. That sounds really incredible. You’ve partly answered my next question here because I think it’s very much true that if you wanted to, you could do that at home, but it does require some special ingredients or whatnot. A couple of tools. Nothing too crazy or expensive though. I was wondering if you had any other techniques that maybe our listeners who are at-home bartenders, maybe one — if you have a technique that you’re like, here’s a cool hack that’s amazing, that has fun results, but anyone can do it at home and doesn’t require too much, but maybe seems like you’re taking your cocktail game to the next level.

J: Totally. There are tons of really easy things you can do to make your cocktails taste better. What we do at our bar is we squeeze all of our citrus fresh to order. If you taste citrus juice that was squeezed just now versus citrus juice that was squeezed an hour ago, it tastes completely different. Then, the other thing is just seasoning your drinks. A lot of bartenders use saline solutions, 20 percent salt mixed in with water. We also tend to season ours with other acids. A lactic acid solution just to give it a different mouth feel. We’ll sub out a saline solution for white soy sauce or even shio koji just to give it that extra pop. Just playing around with different classics and adding those little tiny nuances will really make those drinks vibrant in a way that you wouldn’t have expected otherwise.

T: Are you a big proponent of weighing ingredients versus jiggering, going by weight, by volume?

J: I weigh out ingredients in the same proportion they would be jiggered because if you are messing around with a scale during a busy service, that’s not going to help at all. If you’re rematching something, definitely go and bust out that scale because it’s going to be way more consistent. I think it’s just good practice to be weighing things out in general.

T: We might get into this very shortly, but in terms of a scale, I’m assuming you’re a big fan or you’re a big proponent of getting a scale that measures to point-something grams, especially when those citric acids, malic acids come into it and when it’s for at home versus a bar where you’re working with much greater quantities for these things.

J: Yes, absolutely. A lot of bartenders and cooks call these drug scales, but basically-

T: I was just going to say.

J: Yes, it’ll weigh out till like the hundredth decimal point, just because when you’re dealing with those small percentages, 20 percent of 50 grams. If you use a regular scale, it’s just going to read zero every time.

T: Yes, exactly. It’s a tough one and a little goes a long way, especially when it comes to acid-adjusting and whatnot. Fantastic. Before we move into the final section of the show, I just wanted to open the floor for you, see if there’s anything we haven’t covered here, just about your philosophy or intention as your bar program or the topics we’ve covered today.

J: Yes, absolutely. I think that it’s always important to take a step back and not take anything for granted. Acid-adjusting is super cool. You just mentioned it. I think it’s a really great way to change the flavor profile of fruit juices, which is what a lot of bartenders do. We take a step back and we’re like, “If you ask to adjust juice, you could ask to adjust spirits as well.” Anything you do with any product, you can apply that same technique to other things. We’ve been messing around with Brix-adjusting spirits, for example. We’re launching a Last Word where we sub out Luxardo for — there’s a product that Empirical Spirits makes called The Plum, I Suppose, which has a lot of the same notes as Luxardo. Both sit at 32 percent ABV. If you just adjust the Brix of the Empirical Spirits product to the same as Luxardo, you can do a straight sub-out. Lots of techniques there. I think in terms of bartenders moving forward, really taking out the equation of needing to follow the spec of a classic cocktail too. I think that it’s great what the cocktail revolution we’ve had in New York and around the world the last 15 years or so, bringing back pre-Prohibition-era practices and drinks. That’s pretty ubiquitous with cocktails at this point. I think it’s really cool to say, “Well, what’s the next step?” For us, it’s been not listing ingredients in any of our drinks which some people are a little confused by. At the same time — we have a drink called a Tropicana. It comes inside of real orange and it just tastes like a really delicious orange Creamsicle. Everyone asks me, “What’s in the drink?” I’m like, “Okay, there’s a house-made orange liqueur, there’s Japanese whisky infused with mango. There’s a vanilla liqueur infused with thyme or chicha, fresh lemon juice, and fresh orange juice. That doesn’t tell you what it’s going to taste like. It’s probably more confusing if I listed all of those ingredients on the menu. Similar — so, with a lot of classic cocktails, the Last Word, for example, the average person has no idea what green Chartreuse, Luxardo tastes like. It’s not going to tell you what the drink tastes like. The idea of needing to list ingredients on a menu versus having that more interactive experience with the guest and making sure that you have all those kinds of systems in place in your bar to allow you to have that hospitality for experience. I think it’s the next evolution in bars which we’re really trying to work towards, spreading the word out there to other bartenders that that is possible.

T: Yes, and I think, if you don’t mind me just dropping in with one final thought here on that too. It very much came across that what you’re doing there is outward facing versus inward facing in that these techniques are being applied so that you can provide a better experience for the guest rather than so when someone sits down, you’re like, “Hey, look at us. This is what we do.” There’s a very subtle distinction there, but it makes a massive difference. Yes, congratulations on that. It’s wonderful.

J: Thank you.

T: All right then, let’s do it. Let’s move into the final section of the show and hit you with our five recurring weekly questions. Starting with question number one, what style or category of spirit typically enjoys the most real estate on your back bar?

J: At Shinji’s it would have to be Japanese whisky just because we have one of the largest collections in the city. I think we have about 80 different bottlings. I’m very lucky that I get to taste all of them and I get to experience all of them. At home, I don’t really drink cocktails that much. I tend to enjoy drinking with my wife, who doesn’t like cocktails. She loves Champagne. Two of us will just sit back, watch a TV show, drink some Champagne, and have a wonderful time on our day off.

T: Amazing. I’m also a big proponent of Champagne. It does not need to be for celebrations. The pricier stuff, yes, but that can be a weekday wine.

J: Absolutely.

T: Question number two, which ingredient or tool do you believe is the most undervalued in a bartender’s arsenal?

J: I think we already talked about this. I think it would be a scale.

T: The old drug scale.

J: Yes.

T: For the citrus acid purely we’re talking about here, but yes, definitely. Number three for you. What’s the most important piece of advice you’ve received while working in multiple facets of this industry? I’m going to say from chef, running bar program.

J: When I was working at a restaurant called Saison, when we won our third Michelin star, the chef Josh, he only said one thing when it happened. He said, “None of this matters. If money was falling from the sky, someone would still have to wake up in the morning to pick it up. Now let’s get back to work.” All that means is the accolades don’t matter. People loving the bar doesn’t matter. If you are not invested in the work that it takes to do all of this then none of it matters.

T: Great advice, and that, kind of like the old sports one, “there we go again” kind of thing. That it’s just like, yes, I don’t know. At some point, you have to sit back and enjoy it for a moment, but yes, I think in terms of a work ethic, great advice. If you could only visit one last bar in your life, what would it be?

J: That was a tough one because I love so many bars. I want to like pigeonhole one and throw other people under the bus, but I really love the bar at EMP (Eleven Madison Park) a lot. I think it is the hidden gem of New York City. Most people don’t realize that you can just walk in there without a reservation, no dress code, and sit at the bar. Sebastian or Richie or any of the amazing bartenders there will make you one of the best drinks in the city. I would definitely stop by there if I couldn’t go anywhere else.

T: That is news to me. I’ve never-

J: You’re right there. You’ve got to go there.

T: Yes. In terms of just, like, on a standard weeknight, I think I’ll go. I’ll probably head down there a little early when I’m getting in.

J: Because no one knows about it.

T: All right, we’ll scratch that in the edits. We’ll remove that one. Amazing. Final question for you here today. If you knew that the next cocktail you drank was going to be your last, what would you order or make?

J: It’d have to be a Daiquiri.

T: Daiquiri?

J: Yes, absolutely. It’s the most delicious cocktail out there in my opinion. You can’t screw it up, but you can screw it up pretty badly if you don’t know what you’re doing.

T: If they turn around to you and say you have full choice over your rum, which rum are you going for? Which rum blend do you mind sharing that you might go for there?

J: I usually tend to like something drier on the rum. We use Brugal Extra Dry. I also like the, I guess lower age statement, El Dorado, the three-year. Anything that the sugar content isn’t really overwhelming on the palate. If I’m overseas, I’ll get Havana Club that’s actually from Cuba.

T: Nice. Very nice. What a drink. All right then, Jon, thank you so much for joining us today. I think this has been a super-interesting episode. I’m excited for it to go out and, like I said at the top there, I know the folks, I know the listeners enjoy these “techniques” episodes. Thanks again for sharing all your experiences.

J: My absolute pleasure. Thanks for having me.

T: Cheers.

OK, that was a lot of info, but here’s the good news. Every single episode of VinePair’s “Cocktail College” is also published on VinePair.com as a transcript. So you can check it out there all over again.

If you enjoy listening to the show anywhere near as much as we enjoy making it, go ahead and hit subscribe, and please leave a rating or review wherever you get your podcasts — whether that’s Apple, Spotify, or Stitcher. And please tell your friends.

Now, for the credits. “Cocktail College” is recorded and produced in New York City by myself and Keith Beavers, VinePair’s tastings director and all-around podcast guru. Of course, I want to give a huge shout-out to everyone on the VinePair team. Too many awesome people to mention. They know who they are. I want to give some credit here to Danielle Grinberg, art director at VinePair, for designing the awesome show logo. And listen to that music. That’s a Darbi Cicci original. Finally, thank you, listener, for making it this far and for giving this whole thing a purpose. Until next time.