Interview: bartender Jason Bran (The Roger Room)

Bartender Los Angeles

Jason Bran appeared with Hello Kitty at Test Kitchen, but works at The Roger Room.


Who are some of the other bartenders that you really respect, either in town or not?

I don’t know if you can consider a bartender, but of course he’s right there. Joe Brooke. Eric Alperin, Chris Bostick, I think they’re doing amazing things downtown. Julian Cox, of course. I like Julian a lot. I’m sad that he couldn’t be at Test Kitchen tonight, but I’m happy to have Brian [Summers]. I like to go to El Carmen a lot. I like all the girls there. I’ve known Blanca [Sanchez] since I moved to town just from going to El Carmen, so I always appreciate her there.

What do you like about her?

Blanca just knows her shit. She knows everything about tequila that you could ever want to know about it, and puts the cocktails to shame. She’s into it, always just friendly and all over it. I don’t think there’s enough said about the bartenders that just take care of their bar. I go into a lot of bars here where I see the bar neglected and there are dead drinks on the bar for several minutes while people are having conversations. What I came up in, what was taught to me, that stuff is #1. If you can’t take care of your bar, then everything else is for naught. When I see a bar that’s a mess, that winds me up, but Blanca’s one of those people that is always all over that stuff. It’s the details, and she’s amazing at getting that stuff taken care of.

ET (Eric Teckosky) is on that list as well because he is an awesome bartender, doesn’t feel the need to assert himself as such and a great business man.

Also with regard to the El Carmen crew Megan Graham and Mike Verbos I am a fan of as well. It doesn’t always have to be about cocktails for me but if it’s a shot and a beer El Carmen is where I go.

Would you say that you have any mentors?

As long as I’ve been in L.A., I haven’t. I left Seattle and didn’t know what to expect when I got here. Obviously I loved watching Murray work. Watching Murray work taught me to be fast. I’ve groomed myself to that state, where I want to be able to make an endless amount of cocktails, but do it quickly, not keep people waiting. But also keep people happy.

I’m fortunate to be able to work with Damian. It’s amazing how much stuff that guy knows about different things. He’s seen a lot of stuff across the world that I haven’t seen yet. We get to talk about different things and bounce different ideas off each other. I guess Damian is the closest thing I have to a mentor. I think there are things that I take from him. I don’t necessarily get that relationship with other people.

Also, Noah Ellis. I don’t think I’ll be working there by any means, but I certainly see sitting across the bar from those guys.

Another bartender I respect is Pablo [Moix]. Pablo is one of those guys – even Damian to a certain extent – there are a lot of people that take themselves really seriously. I feel like the crew in L.A., through The Sporting Life, have grown to not be the guys in New York, to not be the guys wearing mustaches and taking ourselves too seriously. Pablo, to me, was always one of those guys who, from the gate, “I’m just a dude having fun.” Going from a place where I wasn’t really a fan of his, where he rubbed me the wrong way, he could be a little loud, and that’s just his style. I can’t say enough good things about that guy these days.

Do you feel like there’s anything missing from the L.A. cocktail scene?

Just more and more cocktail bars. Again, I feel like there are a lot of people in the city who are tremendously talented and knowledgeable and undervalued. It’s hard to spend so much of your time and dedicate so much time to your craft and not have much to show for it besides 100 bucks, 200 bucks per day. I feel like more cocktail spots. The more places we reach. It needs more cocktail places where people can get the appreciation that they have. I have a concept that I want to launch, hopefully in the next couple years, that would be a fun addition to the L.A. cocktail scene.

What’s a great simple cocktail for people to make at home, and what’s the recipe?

For me, at this time of the year, it’s definitely a Dark and Stormy. Just a good ginger beer. I like Bundaberg a lot. I won’t say the one I don’t like. Any good ginger beer, crushed ice, and dark rum on top, like Goslings. You can’t say enough about a cocktail like that at this time of the year, when it’s getting cold outside.

What are the proportions you like?

An ounce and a half or two ounces of ginger beer and an ounce and a half of rum. Two ounces if you really need a drink.

If you could only fill your glass with one more cocktail, what would be in it?

I’m really into herbal stuff like Green Chatreuse and Fernet. The Last Word is obviously one of my favorite cocktails, but The Bijou is too. If it’s going to be the very last one, I’d probably go for a Bijou.

Who would make it?

I think Murray would have to be the one to make it. I go home to Seattle regularly, and that’s my favorite place to go.


Joshua Lurie

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

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