Interview: bartender Kenneth McCoy (Ward III + Rum House)

Bartender New York City

Photo courtesy of Kenneth McCoy


Would you say that you have any mentors?

Micahel Waterhouse, without a doubt. The love of bartending. He is the guy – him and him father – instilled in me what bartending is all about, making people feel good, making them have a good time. If they have a good time, you’ll ahave a good time. The whole thing about bars is that they’re meeting houses. People forget that. If you walk into a bar now, they have a bunch of TVs and everybody’s on their phones. Bars are meeting houses for people, community centers, and I think we’re lacking that.

Who are some other bartenders that you really admire, and how come?

My parntner Michael and Abdul are two of the best bartenders I’ve ever worked with. As far as showmanship goes, nobody can outdo Abdul. He’s a Moroccan who has so much style in his bartending, even the way he dresses and shakes. The same with Michael. He’s just a consummate bartender. He’s a pro. These guys know how to make cocktails like nobody else, an they don’t geek out on it. Also the guys at E.O and Macao here in New York City. They’re amazing.

What was the last rum cocktail you developed, and what you’re your approach?

The other day I was making a drink for my friend Charlie, and I took some Azcapa dark rum, mixed it with Ramazotti – Amaro Italian bitters – and yellow chartreuse – and some Regan’s orange bitters. Stirred, served up in a coupe. Basically, the way I make cocktails, I don’t think about it too hard and dive in. I know Charlie and know what he likes. I love using dark spirits, rum, Ramazotti. With the chartreuse, you’re just cleaning the glass and dumping it out, so you get a hint of licorice. You’re getting orange and wood flavors from the rum, and also the orange, so I knew it would balance it out. I’ve been working long enough where I know what things taste like, and I think I have a palate for it, so I know how to match things.

What’s a great simple cocktail recipe for people to make at home?

A Manhattan.

What’s the key to a great version?

Depending on whether you like bourbon or rye, either is amazing. 2 ounces bourbon, do a 2:1, so one ounce of sweet vermouth – Dolin preferably – a couple dashes of Angostura bitters, stirred, chilled glass and some brandied cherries.

Where and what do you like to drink when you’re not at Ward III or Rum House?

I like to drink either Old Fashioneds or Manhattans at Employees Only in the West Village, or Macao Trading Company, which is their other place, down in Tribeca. If I’m in Brooklyn, Clover Club. Those are the drinks for me. If you can’t do those right, you probably shouldn’t be in the game. That’s the bar, if you know what I mean. Pardon the pun.

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

Whiskey, without a doubt.

Which whiskey, and how come?

Hirsch 16 year old, because there’s none left in the world, and I have four bottles of it. It’s just amazing. It’s like drinking baby’s tears.


Joshua Lurie

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

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