Cocktail culture is thriving in large part due to a passionate contingent of exceptional bartenders and mixologists. This feature places a spotlight on the craftspeople behind the bar, and not just the structure itself. Meet bartender Matthew Eggleston from The Hungry Cat in Hollywood.
Josh Lurie: Do you consider yourself a bartender or a mixologist? What’s the difference?
Matthew Eggleston: Marcos [Tello] cited the right reference- mixologist is a term that has been around for a while. These days they are pretty much interchangeable with the mixologist tag maybe bearing a bit more need to prove oneself- maybe even a sub-category. Except when someone drags out the middle syllable: “So are you a mixooooologist?” Whereupon my response is “No, just a bartender, m’am. Another vodka & soda?”
JL: How did you become interested in mixology?
ME: Most of my bartending has been done in a restaurant setting. The sense of community, the interplay between food, cocktails and wine, the creative aspect behind the bar all hooked me from early on. I get a lot of satisfaction in pairing a drink perfectly with someone’s upcoming dish. In the execution itself- taking the ‘raw’ ingredients and (hopefully) being able to watch a guest pull away from their first sip with a satisfied grin. And I like having my daytime free.
JL: What’s your first cocktail memory?
ME: Today? None yet. I remember as a kid though when I was supposed to be going to sleep most nights and my parents were downstairs watching T.V., sneaking out of my room, emptying the linen closet of any interesting bottle and along with whatever was under the plugged sink, mixing and stirring potions until they started to bubble or change strange colors. I hup tha fumes warn’t tocksick.
JL: What’s your current favorite spirit or liquor?
ME: Still and forever: Bourbon
JL: Which cocktail is past its prime?
ME: For me – The Grey Goose Dirty Martini has always made my skin crawl – and with blue cheese stuffed olives?! Here, pluck out my eyes and use those.
JL: What’s the cocktail of the future?
ME: Hmmm, let me just consult my upcoming projects list here. . .
JL: Describe one of your original cocktails. What’s it called and what was your approach?
ME: A recent cocktail I really dug was the ingeniously named “Beets’ Knees”. A Martin Miller’s Gin Bee’s Knees with the addition of a beet juice, apple juice and apple cider vinegar mixture which gave it this beautiful magenta color and added an interesting layer of flavors. I’m of the mind that if something delicious can be turned into a liquid or juiced, it can be incorporated into a cocktail. It’s just a question of how.
JL: Do you have a cocktail mentor, and what did they teach you?
ME: I look towards the group of men and women associated with the Beverage Alcohol Resource Program with great regard. These are people who have literally written the books, opened restaurants and bars, worked events worldwide and have decided to band together to organize the disparate elements of this business and share the knowledge they have garnered.
JL: Outside of your bar, what’s your favorite bar in town and why?
ME: Despite my unending fascination with the crafting of drinks, I’m usually thirsty for a cold beer and a glass of whiskey. Recent favorite watering holes include Ye Coach and Horses, The Bowery, Tiny’s, The White Horse, La Cita, and the Bar at the Figueroa.
JL: Who’s another mixologist you respect and why?
ME: I have a lot of respect for my colleagues here in Los Angeles. This isn’t an easy job anywhere but especially in this town trying to adhere to a sense of pride in one’s craft seems daunting. There is a small and growing cadre of guys and girls who are at the very least maintaining if not pushing a bit further an identity here and a demand for respect.
JL: If you had a bar of your own, what would you call it?
ME: I am also reticent to divulge the final name and concept, but the project header is “Zero”. I am still awaiting an answer from the city regarding dirigible licensing.
JL: What’s the best simple cocktail for people to make at home, and what’s the recipe?
ME: Pre Election I would have said, The Molotov- first, stuff a greasy rag into . . .
Now: A Champagne Cocktail – a few bottles of Gruet Blanc de Blanc (delicious, inexpensive and domestic) natural brown sugar cubes, Angostura bitters, and a few lemons. Moisten the cube with a dash of bitters, drop into glass top with bubbles – peel a fresh twist of lemon over the glass- squeeze and drop into bubbles – even if a detail is forgotten and your glass is filled with sparkling, its win-win.
UPDATE: Matty Eggleston is no longer with The Hungry Cat and is no longer bartending in Los Angeles.
November 20, 2009 at 11:07 AM
Matty Eggleston recently relocated to San Francisco, where he’s helping to open Smuggler’s Cove.
Chartreuse Sweet Sixteen Cocktail Competition « Blueprint Cocktail
September 19, 2009 at 11:41 PM
[…] that I had made it to the final four, my next competitor was good friend and Varnish co-worker Matty Eggleston. Matty ended up being the Syracuse to my Texas in the 2003 NCAA Men’s Tourney. For those […]
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April 2, 2009 at 4:55 PM
[…] home the Grand Prize was Matty Eggleston of The Hungry Cat fame. Leading him to victory was his wonderful cocktail “The […]
February 7, 2009 at 12:13 PM
The Beets Knees is fantastic, I can say with absolute objectivity!
January 29, 2009 at 9:22 AM
funny — I can still think of a few uses for the Molotov right now…