Interview: mixologist Ian Ward (Searsucker)

Bartenders San Diego

Ian Ward (right) joined USBG comrade Tim Stevens for tequila at Cantina Mayahuel.

Ian Ward is a mixologist for the Snake Oil Cocktail Co. and lead bartender at Searsucker, the high-profile restaurant from chef Brian Malarkey in San Diego’s Gaslamp District. He’s also Vice President of the San Diego chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild. We first met Ward at Cantina Mayahuel during an after party for the San Diego Spirits Festival, and later caught up with him over the phone. The Queens native better explained his approach and background, which includes prior stints at the famed Hotel Del Coronado and La Jolla’s Whisknladle.

How did the Searsucker opportunity come about?

I started a consulting company called Snake Oil Cocktail Co. They contacted me. We sat down, started talking and figured out we had similar viewpoints.

Did you become interested in cocktails or spirits first?

I got into cooking. I was working in this place in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, managing the bar and working the line…I brought what I was doing in the kitchen to the bar.

What do you mean?

Most of what we do now, our stuff’s not really spirit forward. We do a lot of pickling, sauces, gastriques, we jam, we make jellies. A lot of the prep work’s done on the front end in our kitchen. It’s culinary based because we cook a lot of what we do.

What was your first bar job in Brooklyn?

Miss Williamsburg. It was a 1940s boxcar diner. It was only there for four yeares, but the chef was amazing, his name Massimiliano Bartoli, who’s now at the Tribeca Grand.

What did you learn from him?

How to cook and how flavors work, and also the importance from making everything from scratch. It was a 1940s boxcar diner, and he’d be rolling pasta all day. It wasn’t a big space, but it was important to how to reincorporate things. It was the first environment I was put into where everybody cared about what they did.

Anybody else along the one who’s really helped you develop as a professional?

My business partners Lucien Conner. We work as a pair. He understands more analytics…He can break down a space and has an insane eye for detail. I focus more on flavor. We started doing a perfume program, and that was his inspiration. We have old style puffer bottles for our perfumes to accent or pull out what’s in the cocktail.

What are a couple tips that you would give other bartenders to endear yourself to customers?

Be honest. That’s it, not to try to force people one way or another way, or tell them vodka sucks, or one spirit’s better than another. Just full disclosure. Give them what they want.

What do you look for when you’re hiring somebody to work behind your bar?



Joshua Lurie

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

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