It’s been a good year for Joseph Brooke. The former Copa d’Oro barman took top prize with “ON THE ROCKS: The Search for America’s Top Bartender,” a televised cocktail competition. Now he’s become Director of Spirits at The Edison, a subterranean downtown pleasure palace in the Higgins Building’s original power plant. He recently discussed his latest developments in a short Q&A:
Josh Lurie: How did the opportunity at The Edison come about?
Joseph Brooke: After I had left the first time due to scheduling conflicts with Copa d’Oro, I kept in touch with Barbara Jacobs, the materfamilias and GM of The Edison. We always had a good relationship, and I knew at some point down the road we might be able to collaborate on something.Ii also had absolutely no idea it would be anything even remotely close to this. My ears are still ringing from when she offered me the position.
JL: What’s your approach with the cocktail program at The Edison?
JB: I think that Aidan Demarest did a great job of cultivating and maintaining Marcos Tello’s original list, and I don’t need to alter it right out of the gate. What Marcos gave The Edison (besides an indelible spot on the map) was a great blend of classic, pre-Prohibition cocktails and newer, more innovative ones, which is a quality I would much like to keep. It wouldn’t be right of me to simply uproot it and plunk down an entirely new program, rather, I’d like to take what’s already been developed and streamline it. The Edison is on a long winning streak; all I want to do is to keep it going. At the end of the day, though, if it’s not going to be fun, all the filament bulbs and burlesque dancers in the southern hemisphere couldn’t get people to come back. I just want them to leave in a better mood than the one they came in with. Unless, of course, they screwed something up.
JL: What has winning “On The Rocks” meant for your career?
JB: I think that show was most important for my confidence and credit score, but that’s about it. I think I was lucky to get on the show in the first place, and tremendously fortunate to make it through on top. I never once took (nor am i taking) the title seriously, though… it doesn’t feel right to call myself “the best bartender in America” when there are people around me who have been shaping the scene and paying their dues and kicking ass for much longer than I have. And even when I do reach the point where I’m in the good ‘ol boys club in twenty years, or whatever, those other guys are still going to be that much further along than me. Unless, of course, they have the DT’s and I don’t. In that case in particular, I win.
To learn more about Joseph Brooke, check out his Food GPS Q&A, complete with his recipe for The Jack Rose.
In other Edison news, February 23 marks the return of The Radio Room, a showcase of classic cocktails with top bartenders from across the country. Brooke will be behind the bar, along with Rickhouse bartender Erick Castro and Death & Co. bartender Brian Miller. Maitre Ecallier Christophe Happillon will also be in the house, showcasing pristine oysters and Organic Habanero Vodka. Live jazz comes courtesy of The Vagabond Opera.