The career of bartender-mixologist Brian Summers started humbly at the casual French café La Frite, but since then, the “Valley kid” has worked at some of the most high-profile bars in town. He was on the illustrious opening crew at Comme Ca before transitioning to Bar Centro and the Hollywood Roosevelt Library Bar. Summers currently works alongside Julian Cox behind the bar at the Test Kitchen mega pop-up. We recently met at Bricks & Scones, where Summers shared insights about his background and approach.
Do you consider yourself a bartender or mixologist?
That’s kind of a semi-loaded question. I’m not crazy about the word mixologist, but I guess I’d have to consider myself one. The word connotes an underlying pretension that I try to avoid in my style of bartending. I’d say both.
What’s the difference for you?
A bartender should want to make good drinks, so it’s just a way for other people to classify.
Did you become interested in cocktails or spirits first?
How did that come about?
Just working in the industry. I waited tables before I was a bartender for six years. I slowly acquired different knowledge here and there. I feel like going into mixology with halfway decent spirit knowledge was certainly an asset and helped a lot.
After waiting tables for six years, how did you make the jump behind the bar?
My first bartending job was at La Frite. I made the jump from server to bartender, and then the opportunity to open Comme Ca came up. I jumped at it. I was originally starting to train as a waiter, and the opportunity came up to bartend, and that was kind of a no-brainer for me.
So you worked with Joel Black over at Comme Ca?
I worked with Joel and got trained by a combination of Joel and Sammy Ross from Milk & Honey.
How did you become so interested in cocktails?
I’ve just always had passion for food and drink. It was easy to get sucked right into it, to keep diving deeper. It’s so much fun playing with different flavors, learning all the history of everything and having the opportunity to work with my brain and my hands. I get to be creative as an outlet, it’s certainly a lot of fun.
Do you have a pivotal cocktail memory?