Interview: bartender Ethan Terry (AQ Restaurant & Bar)

Bartenders San Francisco

Ethan Terry and Tim Zohn form two parts of San Francisco’s Cocktail Lab. [Photo Credit: Jon Wayne]


How are you able to maintain balance in your life, if you’re even able to?

It’s definitely a challenge, and something that takes constant work at. For example, I’m in relationship and live with my girlfriend. Beyond the job at AQ, Tim and I have a company called Cocktail Lab, doing events and planning big things for the future. And having a home life. It definitely takes a lot of planning. In order to have fun or cut loose, it’s kind of got to be on the schedule. Throw fun on the calendar, and of course that’s the first thing to go if something comes up.

What’s a great simple cocktail that you would suggest people make at home?

I would say, for a couple of reasons, to always have the stuff on hand to make a Martinez cocktail. Besides being delicious and an early cocktail, it’s a well balanced drink. If you’ve got a bottle of gin, sweet vermouth, orange bitters and maraschino liqueur, you’ve also got the groundwork to make a number of different tasting cocktails you wouldn’t normally have in a home bar. It’s a great go-to, sort of Manhattan-esque in a gin sort of way. The Manhattan doesn’t fit every occasion in the way a Martinez does.

What are your preferred specs for a Martinez?

I do enjoy it with an Old Tom Gin. For a long time, Old Tom had fallen away and was a defunct spirit that wasn’t being produced anymore. People add more maraschino liqueur or more sweetener. I like it as classic as you can get it. I like mine a little bit different than what you would classically. Almost a Manhattan ratio. 2 oz. Heyman’s Old Tom Gin, 1 oz. Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth, a quarter-ounce of Luxardo maraschino liqueur, and I prefer a few dashes of Regan’s Orange Bitters, which completely different from Angostura. Regan’s got a lot of wacky flavors like cardamom. Luxardo Maraschino is the way to go.

Where and what do you like to drink when you’re not working?

For the most part, as much as I enjoy coming up with cocktails, I tend to stick with straight booze, particularly bourbon or rye, though lately I’ve been sticking with sherry, definitely lower octane. It’s not something I know a lot about, but I also heard from a friend of ours – Neyah White – essentially sherry still exists to age whiskeys in sherry casks. If it wasn’t for that, sherry may have ceased to exist altogether.

If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, one city, primarily to drink cocktails and spirits, what would it be and why?

As much as I’d like to say I want to travel to an exotic, foreign land, and go to crazy places I’ve never been before, I’d been lying if I said any city but New Orleans. I’ve been there a few times, and it feels like home. There’s no better city in the world that’s so encouraging of the drink, and has that much history. When you’re drinking there, even opposed to San Francisco, Chicago, New York, you feel the history, drinking amidst the same walls that people were drinking at 100 years ago. I really get caught up in the soul of the place when I’m there. It’s fantastic.

If you could pull a guest shift at any bar in the world, what would it be and why?

One of my three life goals – I have these wacky, tongue in cheek life goals – is to pull a shift on a passenger train. Old mahogany bar, Hitchcock-like train. As soon as I find one, I’m going to fight my way to get on there.

If you could only drink one more cocktail, what would be in the glass?

If I only had one thing left, I don’t even know if I would definitely do a cocktail. I think I would crack open a bottle of Tarragona Chartreuse. As a collector and as a nerdy bar aficionado, there’s this time when Chartreuse wasn’t made in France. The monks came to Spain – I want to say back in the ’30s – and bottles go for thousands of dollars. It’s one of those few spirits that ages in the bottle. Chartreuse and Benedictine, it gets better in the bottle. If I could track down a bottle of this stuff, I think I would put down a whole bottle of Tarragona Chartreuse before I finally kicked off.

So it wouldn’t even make it the glass?

Probably not. Just right out of the bottle.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Leave a Comment