One on One with The Bon Vivants

by The Bon Vivants

Today's article comes to you in the form of a back and forth interview.  We came up with questions for each other and what you will read below are the answers.  We'd said to each other, "Just answer without composing too many thoughts."  Chasing some instinctual truth. 

Scott asking Josh:

Scott:  If you had to stop bartending right now, what would you do?

Josh:  Smoke cigarettes.  I'd go full on Picker, and hit the estate sale junket.  Probably be an Antique dealer. I'd immerse myself fully, I'd learn to weld and learn to refurbish.  Old sh*t shiner upper.

Scott:  In ten years what do you think a drink menu will look like?

Josh:  Probably pretty similar to how one looks now... The bars practicing the art of the elevated cocktail, those menus will be very similar, with some elevated technique.  Places where there aren't menus now or menus that have been written by a distributor; those will come up in caliber. 

Scott:  Favorite drink to make?  Favorite tasting drink?  Favorite drink only because you think it’s cool?

Josh:  First inclination is "The Haberdasher" across the board.   Equal parts Gran Classico, Carpano Antica and Amontillado Sherry, 2 Dashes Ango Orange, stirred, coupe, lemon twist.

Scott:  Someone calls a dealer’s choice from you. How do you handle it?

Josh:  I ask, what kind of spirit do you drink?  If they say Gin or Bourbon I look at the time of day and weather and season and then once I've made my spirit determination, I ask whether they like spirituous or juice/bubbles/mint. If they don't follow then I ask, “Are you a Manhattan person or a whisky sour person?”  At times I ask, “Are you ‘P.Y.T.’ person or a ‘What a Fool Believes’ person and if you had to add variety would you add the Bee Gees or Hall & Oates?”

Scott:  Whats your happy place?

First one.  When I know I'm not shirking any responsibilities, I get in bed at 3 pm, light a cig, order a pizza, turn on a rerun crime show TV and take a nap.

Second one.  First Sunday of every month, 6 am, alone at the Alameda Flea Market, on my solitary in my own head adventure, watching the sun rise and reflect in the West against the glass skyscrapers in San Francisco while massive tankers and cargo ships quietly pull into the Oakland harbor. My "quest for discovery."

Scott:  What scares you?

Josh: The proverbial "Bone Collector."  Real psycho killers.  Or not meeting the standards you set for yourself.  Which is different than failure. 

Scott:  Shake or stir?

Josh:  Stir unless I’m feeling lively and then both at the same time while simultaneously playing the one-handed air piano.

Scott:  If you were a monster or villain who would you be?

Josh:  Walter White from Breaking Bad. 

Scott:  Where do you find your inspiration for the bar game?

Josh:  On a most basic level my own flavor sensibilities.  Things around me that catch my eye, words or things that bring words to mind, and the word leads me to the cocktail name that then I put flavors to.  My passion for aesthetic leads me to create cocktails I find visually beautiful but restrained.  This is a tough one (the question), it has to be a very personal thing that starts from you or in you.  I don't make drinks I don't like.  I make things that I would want to drink myself.  It’s a culmination of all things: me, my memories, travel, thoughts, reading and then allowing them all to voice themselves into a finished cocktail. 

Scott:  Do you fold the paper or wad it up?

Josh:  Combination of the two.  As I pull I loosely fold and then it pinches naturally into a wad. 

Josh asking Scott:

Josh:  What's your favorite music to bartend to? Why? 

Scott:  Music with driving beat or music that we all know the words too.  Lively, fun. You'd have to be dead to not want to move to it.  Moody and slow sucks energy out of a bar.  The SF/Journey connection is killing me lately though.

Josh:  What are your thoughts on vodka?  If you were on a desert island and there was one bottle and it was vodka but you could choose the brand, which would it be?

Scott:  I love vodka.  I love it slightly chilled, with pickles, smoked fish, with really fresh flat shelled oysters or with a sharp cheese.  One ounce at a time, over and over, with friends.  Good conversations happen.  And then you wreck the room. The vodka stigma in our world is big.  It’s not the spirit but the ad campaigns and the herd that drinks it that gives it a bad name. My favorite has been for seventeen years, since my senior year in high school, Stoli Gold. It was Stoli Kristal then.  I would hope the deserted island was not near the equator but in a colder place. 

Josh:  What are your thoughts on white whiskey?

Scott:  I think it would taste great after some time in a barrel.  I also think that Moonshine and dynamite and a lake full of fish makes for a great day.

Josh:  How does your passion for design influence your life in a business of making drinks?

Scott:  The design I gravitate towards is economical, less is more sorta thing.  My drink recipes are trending in that direction.

Josh:  You eat food like a person who was birthed from the union of Bourdain, an astronaut, and a caveman.  Explain the satisfaction you get from this, and why you put your stomach through a 1930's manual clothes wringer in order to have it.

Scott:  I should have been a cook.  My grandma reminded me of the day in kindergarten when she pulled three cloves of raw garlic out of my coat pocket and asked me what they were for and I told her I like to smell them while I do my school work.  Food tastes better to me when you eat it with your hands.  How can you know how good something tastes if you don't know how bad it tastes, same goes with smells.  I do because I have to.

Josh:  Tough question.  You obviously love San Francisco both personally and professionally.  But, if you HAD to move to another city with your family (complete relocation) and continue your professional path exactly the way it is now (meaning completely entrenched in the cocktail and food business), which city would you choose? And why?

Scott:  Austin.  My daughter would dictate the move and it's a great city for raising a kid.  And it’s hot.  Never too hot for me.  And when we went there last Spring I was blown away by the style and food scene and how nice everyone was.

Josh:  Not in the context of coming back in another life as someone with a different job, but in the context of hobbies and loves...if you could pick one skill set and be a master at, what would it be, why, and what would be the first thing that you would do with it.

Scott:  Tough.  First inclination is cooking.  But I think the answer is traditional style Japanese carpentry.  Quiet, meditative wood working.

Josh:  Last night, you were talking about Priests and Carpenters.  What the f*ck does that mean? And which one are you?

Scott:  I was a bit loaded.  But thinking back on the conversation, I think I said there are priests, carpenters and politicians.  I was very loosely waxing poetic about how in life we need all three figures to get through.  I guess in terms of your staff or team at your bar.  The bartenders are carpenters, technicians, craftspeople.  The backbone of a place.  Someone who is charge of the menu or service is a priest or politician.  One would be a spiritual leader, the other would lead through charisma.  If you have both you are solid gold.  They don't always agree with one another and from that good stuff happens.  Oh, and I did mention I was loaded.

Josh:  Must choose one.  Would you rather, for 30 seconds, be standing on top of a massive glass cubed aquarium containing a great white shark that was being suspended in the sky as high as the top of the Sears Tower or, be in a bathtub with no water and a tarantula?  Why?

Scott:  I hate you.  Either choice ends in me sh!tting my pants.  Tarantula.

Josh:  If you had to pick a staff of 5 people off the street to bartend at a program that we were setting up without being able to talk to them at all, what would be 6 things that you would look for to help you make your choices?

Scott:  Oh boy.  Tough one.  Ok, 1.  How they move; quick and efficient or theatrical and stylish both good.  2.  Alertness in their eyes and expression.  3.  Comfort in their bodies or their own skin.  4.  Style, both dress and physical gesture.  5.  Presence.  Either you have it or you don't.  6.  Their smile; is it genuine?

Read more from Bartenders.