Meet the Drink Master Mind – Head Mixologist Antony Sazerac

Meet the Drink Master Mind – Head Mixologist Antony Sazerac

(Source: CliQue Bar and Lounge Facebook page)

Have you ever wondered what goes on in a master mixologist’s mind? How do they get inspired to create such dazzling drinks? What drinks do they love best? And what do they do when they’re not pouring up potables to the thirsty masses?

Look no further. In this post, you’ll get a rare glimpse into the mind of our own resident drink mastermind, CliQue Bar and Lounge’s Head Mixologist Antony Sazerac. From his personal story to his thoughts on drinks that should get more attention, this profile offers a unique insight into the mixologist’s mind and process.

Is your name actually Sazerac (also the name of a classic cocktail)? If so, do you think this means you were meant to be a mixologist?

Yes, my actual legal surname is in fact Sazerac. Antony John Sazerac in full. I definitely don’t think of it as meaning that I’m meant to be a famous mixologist or anything at all actually. I don’t really believe in fate or destiny necessarily. If anything my identity to me means being able to be whoever you want, and achieve anything you want as long as you believe in yourself and work hard. That sounds a lot like Hulk Hogan circa 1987 WWF giving kids a motivational speech, I realize, but it’s the truth.

What does it take to make a great Sazerac, speaking of which?

A great Sazerac depends a lot less on the specifics of the recipe, and a lot more on the amount of care and respect paid to the history of the drink by the person making it. It’s basically a little slice of American history and culture in a glass, and that’s what makes it so classic and enduring. My personal recipe includes 1 ounce of cognac (preferably Pierre Ferrand 1840), 1 ounce of Rye Whiskey (preferably Rittenhouse Rye), 1/2 ounce of gomme syrup, 8 dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters, 1 dash of Angostura Bitters, and 1/4 ounce of Absinthe. The Absinthe is  swirled around a chilled glass, never from an atomizer. I use enough to coat the entire glass, and then put the leftover in a shot glass for the guest. Not wasting good absinthe by tossing it down a sink! Lemon peel is expressed and discarded. Never in the drink, it gets too bitter for the last several sips for my taste if the peel is left in.

Would you indulge us all for a moment and tell us the story of how you got into the world of mixology?

It was kind of an accident. I was a bartender for a while when I first turned 21, but was never interested or knowledgeable about the craft side of things. After that I was actually a professional hairstylist for years. I got burnt out on it though. I took a part time job bartending just to make enough money to pay my bills while I figured out my next move. I was fortunate enough to work in a program that really allowed me to explore spirits and cocktails. From there I was hooked. I got promoted so the part time job turned full time. In fact now my hair is the only hair I cut. Haha. After I started learning and mastering the craft, I couldn’t get enough! Anything I could learn, anyone who would teach me-I was completely hooked.

Mixologist(Source: CliQue Bar and Lounge Facebook page)

In your own words, what is the difference between bartending and mixology?

I think mixology tends to be more associated with bars that use fresh juices and have more sophisticated cocktail menus, whereas bartending is associated with more retail and blue collar establishments. At the end of the day it’s all hospitality though. I’ll take a nice cold beer from someone with a smile telling a funny story, and appreciate it just as much as a perfectly executed 9 ingredient cocktail from an amazing cocktail bar.

What is your personal process for creating a cocktail?

My process is so scatter brained I think most people would lose all respect for me if they saw me developing a new drink. Haha. Mainly I get intrigued by some challenge and I want to build a cocktail and I start from there. I just thrive on adversity, I don’t really know why. Whether it’s incorporating two ingredients that don’t seem to make sense together, or bending/breaking the “mixology rules” in some way.

This past menu refresh (coming soon!) I pushed myself to work with ingredients that I personally don’t like. I don’t like IPAs at all, just not my palate, but I realize how insanely popular they are. I absolutely want our guests who like that flavor profile to enjoy it at CliQue. I made an IPA-Sumac cordial from Elysian Space Dust IPA for a couple of our new cocktails, and it’s actually my favorite thing I’ve ever made. Sometimes Y is a rum cocktail featuring that syrup and it’s probably my favorite cocktail on the menu. I’m not supposed to say that. As the curator of the menu I’m supposed to love all my children the same, but he’s my favorite.

Las Vegas Lounge(Source: CliQue Bar and Lounge Facebook page)

Describe a perfect cocktail in 5 words or less.

Only need 4. Makes my guest happy.

What’s your favorite drink to make and why?

Nobody believes me, but I actually really love making a Ramos. It’s such a labor intensive drink, but it’s so refreshing and delicious. There’s this like sense of satisfaction and vicarious enjoyment when you see that smile on your guest’s face when they sip on that fizzy frothy goodness.

What are you drinking these days?

I live in Las Vegas and it’s like 847 thousand degrees outside so it’s officially Gin Rickey time for me until at least like October. Bombay Sapphire East, preferably. Although I just got back from New Orleans and I drank Erin Rose frozen ice coffee every day so that’s probably the more honest answer.

Gin and vodka martinis are engaged in a wrestling death match. Who is going to win?

Current market trends I would have to put my money on vodka. If you want my opinion on which is superior, some rich botanical gin, a dry blanc vermouth, some orange bitters, and a fresh lemon zest is just about an unbeatable cocktail as it gets.

What’s one drink that you wish more people would try?

Great question. Drinks in general I think the Brandy Alexander doesn’t get anywhere near enough love. That drink is beyond delicious and refreshing. You order one and don’t like it, I’ll finish it for you. From the portfolio of drinks I’ve made personally, I love this drink we made for Lionfish in San Diego called Chai Me A River. It has a tamarind gomme syrup and a chai tea infused reposado tequila. So tasty. When we trained the bar staff there I told them they had to make the guests at the bar hum the tune and sing the name when they ordered the drink. I give a lot of stupid instructions to new bartenders when we open new venues. I just like to see if they’ll do it, I’m a sadist that way. But I genuinely hope there’s a bunch of people singing, “Chai me a river” and sipping on it cause it’s one of the better things I’ve worked on.

Las Vegas Lounge(Source: CliQue Bar and Lounge Facebook page)

What’s your favorite thing about working for Clique?

That’s actually a tough question. I really do love my job. It’s crazy I’m the luckiest dude alive. I still love making that one on one connection with a guest. I think nowadays I get the most satisfaction out of training other bartenders. When I think of how many people I’ve been fortunate enough to coach and encourage to grow in this industry; and the subsequent experiences they’ve had since then and the impressions they’ve made on all their guests, it’s overwhelming. Obviously those bartenders are all rock stars and it’s them creating the success once I’m gone, but it’s so rewarding to know that I had some small role in helping them get where they are.

What do you do on your day off?

I hang out with my dog, Parker. He’s just the silliest and goofiest little dude ever. I like to ride bikes and do yoga. Right now I’m watching tons of baseball, but once Hockey season starts I’m going to be the most ridiculous Golden Knights hockey fan ever. I got season tickets. I’ll be at all the games. Being a Vegas native, having a pro sports team is literally a life long dream come true. #EnforceVegas!

What’s the next cocktail-related thing you’re excited about?

Launching the new cocktails at CliQue! We worked so hard on them. There’s absolutely something for everyone, and there’s some real home runs on there that are really going to resonate with our guests. I seriously can’t wait to get them on the menu and share them with our clique.

Has this interview piqued your interest and helped you work up a mighty thirst? Come check out Antony Sazerac’s creative concoctions at our Las Vegas lounge and see for yourself how perfectly balanced and delicious a great cocktail can be when made by a master mixologist.

What would you ask the mixologist?