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 Marcos Tello from The Edison in Los Angeles.
Josh Lurie: Do you consider yourself a bartender or a mixologist? What’s the difference?
Marcos Tello: I consider myself a bartender! The term “mixologist” was first put in to play by Dale DeGroff who was trying to set apart the bartender to who created “hand crafted” cocktails and the one bartended as a “day job” and just poured “Jack & Coke”! The origin of the term is an old one that was originally spelled “mixicologist” and there is an 1895 book of the same name by C.F. Lawlor. It was meant as a joke! All joking aside, I long for the day that the word bartender is synonymous with someone who tak es their craft seriously.
JL: How did you become interested in mixology?
MT: I had always been intrigued by “the bartender.” I used to bartend all my friends parties but it wasn’t until I started a cocktail catering company “Drinks First” and took a class on mixology in New York (the now defunct “Cocktails in the Country” by Gary Regan). I came back, fully inspired, and committed my life to the craft!
JL: What’s your first cocktail memory?
MT: My first memory was at “Cocktails in the Country”, after a truly “spirited lunch” I went to make my first cocktail and cut myself with a pairing knife! It was very embarassing and I looked like such an amateur in front of all these great bartenders who attended the class. Another one is walking in Milk & Honey for the first time! I still remember the smell and what it looks like in my mind.
JL: What’s your current favorite spirit or liquor?
MT: Probably Cachaca! I love rum and it is in the rum distillate family! As one of the oldest spirits on this earth (rum) it intrigues me that it is used more often! Sagatiba is my favorite brand!
JL: Which cocktail is past its prime?
MT: The flavored martini or anything that ends in the suffix “tini”. It’s so played out and just plain wrong since the martini is, in the true sense of the word, a cocktail (and the glass that you put “cocktails” in are named “cocktail” glasses! However, people insist on being ignorant even if a bar boasts a great classic menu with bartenders who know what they’re doing!
JL: What’s the cocktail of the future?
MT: Punch Bowls! I’ve been saying this for about a year now. In a time where everything old is new again, punch bowls were the first bottle service (which in my opinion is the biggest scam on consumers today!). Punches are delicious, well worth the money if you’re gonna pay for the whole bottle and take the awkwardness out of figuring out who knows how to mix “cranberry and vodka”. With punches you just serve your glass, they stay cold, are quite potent, and look amazing!
JL: Describe one of your original cocktails. What’s it called and what was your approach?
MT: AM Punch (AM =Amy & Marcos)
Description: A traditional style punch made with St~Germain, Fresh Lemon, Anejo Tequila, Apple Brandy, and Orgeat, in a lovely, bubbly bath of Champagne. Winner of the Le Bar St~Germain’s Cocktail Competition for the month of August.
My inspiration for this punch was my girlfriend whose name is Amy! She loves Tequila and I love Apple Brandy so I found a way to combine the two!
JL: Do you have a cocktail mentor, and what did they teach you?
MT: Yes. I actually have a couple. One is Chad Solomon from Cuff & Buttons in New York. Another is Dave Wondrich. And still another is Vincenzo Marianella from Copa D’ Oro in Los Angeles. They both have taught my so much but from Chad I learned strict attention to detail. And from Vincenzo I learned speed and improv. And from Dave I learned the passion for the history of the “craft”.
JL: Outside of your bar, what’s your favorite bar in town and why?
MT: The Village Idiot (not for cocktails but for ambience)…They pour the best “Guinness” in town and are a great gastro-pub!
JL: Who’s another mixologist you respect and why?
MT: Sasha Petraske…He was one of the revolutionaries that re-ignited the “cocktail movement”! The quality of his places (Milk & Honey, Little Branch, etc.) are what we all aspire our bars to be on the same level with!
JL: If you had a bar of your own, what would you call it?
MT: Can’t say…it’s in the works and I don’t want anyone to steal the name! But I’d love to name them after the Old Hollywood Haunt’s like Embassy Club, Ciro’s, Vendome Club, etc.
JL: What’s the best simple cocktail for people to make at home, and what’s the recipe?
· Sugar Cube
· 6-8 Dashes of Angostura
· Dash of Soda Water
· 2 oz. Bourbon
· Muddle Sugar Cube w/ Soda & Angostura, Add Bourbon & Ice, Quick Stir & Enjoy!
· Garnish: Lemon Peel & Orange Peel – Glass: Old Fashioned Glass
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