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 Joseph Brooke, bartender at Copa d’Oro in Santa Monica.
1. Do you consider yourself a bartender or a mixologist? What’s the difference?
The only discernable difference between the two is that a mixologist is allowed to take an extra five minutes per cocktail, because he is a Genius. i never considered myself fancy enough to be a mixologist, and “bartender” sounds a little drab, so I like to call myself an alcoholist. I’m also entirely kidding. (the answer is “bartender”).
2. How did you become interested in tending bar?
Because the only thing i love more than taking care of people is being the center of attention. and drinking.
3. What’s your first cocktail memory?
A sip of a Bombay gin & tonic, given to me by my uncle Allen at a family reunion when i was 7. man, was that not the delicious, refreshing glass of sprite i thought it was going to be.
4. What’s your current favorite spirit or liquor?
I’m loving me some applejack these days, especially the bonded. it’s the second best thing to ever come out of new jersey (my mom was born there).
5. Which cocktail is past its prime?
I completely respect and appreciate the anti-cocktail underground of the 80s, but with all the recent developments and deepening understanding of this craft, i think it’s time to put all that rooty-tooty-fresh-n-corn-syrupy drinks to bed. every time i get request for a “blowjob”, “screaming orgasm”, or “cum in a hot tub”, my skin crawls. there’s this new fad in the world of drinks: it’s called “a shot of whiskey”, and you’re welcome.
6. What’s the cocktail of the future?
At this rate, there won’t be anything we can’t infuse our spirits with in, like 20 years! i’m looking forward to the “thanksgiving dinner” old fashioned, or perhaps the first-kiss-infused-caipirinha. whichever one comes first.
7. Describe one of your original cocktails. What’s it called and what was your approach?
My pride & joy has to be:
the Brass Flower
1 oz gin (preferrably martin miller’s westborne strength)
1 oz fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
3/4 oz st. germain
2 dashes grapefruit bitters
shake lightly & strain into a flute, then top it off with the bubbles. no garnish.
this one was my first, and Marcos Tello helped me nail the recipe down. to take full credit for its creation would be like me telling everyone i bowled a 270 when i had the bumpers up the whole time.
8. Do you have a cocktail mentor, and what did they teach you?
This all started with me stumbling across my dad’s signed copy of Dale DeGroff”s “the essential cocktail”, so he gets the lion’s share of props. Thinking more locally, Marcos Tello gave me the rock-solid foundation & vocabulary with which to become a better & better bartender. Vincenzo Marianella is teaching me the finer points of bartending, coming from the British school of thought (be quick taking orders, precise with your free-pours, and the thicker your accent, the better your tips). an honorable mention goes out to ET @ Jones, who is so laid back, that whether or not he knows it, his example is helping me relax behind the bar.
9. Outside of your bar, what’s your favorite bar in town and why?
Coach & horses! it’s a sweaty little slice of bavaria in there, and still the only place on earth i can order an irish carbomb without feeling the requisite pang of shame. also, seven grand is and will always be the closest thing to the lost boys’ hangout in pinocchio. the coolest treehouse in los angeles, and there’s even girls in there!
10. Who’s another bartender/mixologist you respect and why?
Every single one of my mentors, plus all the others. people like Damian Windsor, Eric Alperin, Jacques Bezuidenhout, Simon Ford and all the AKA wine geek cats are so fully committed to the advancement of this culture, and are able to do it so effortlessly and charismatically that i can’t not learn more and want to be a bigger part in it.
11. If you had a bar of your own, what would you call it?
“Whiskey dick’s”. darts, scotch & sawdust. it’d probably have to be in one of the outer boroughs of whatever city it’ll be in.
12. What’s the best simple cocktail for people to make at home, and what’s the recipe?
The jack rose!
1 1/2 oz applejack
3/4 pomegranate syrup
3/4 lemon juice
splash simple syrup
shake & strain over rocks. cherry garnish. so simple! and refined