Tales of the Cocktail: 10 Bartenders Reveal Their Guilty Pleasures and More

By Gabi Porter  |  July 25, 2013

At Tales of the Cocktail, the art of the cocktail is celebrated and elevated. And while the daytime is for seminars, tasting rooms and networking, late nights you can find some of the world's best bartenders enjoying Miller High Life and shots of Fireball whiskey at one of New Orleans' great dive bars. While at the event (that went down last week and over the weekend), we had a chance to corner some of them and ask about their favorite guilty drinking pleasures. Turns out, shaking up fancy drinks for a living doesn't always make you a cocktail snob.

  • Credit: Gabi Porter

    Franky Marshall, The Tippler, New York, NY

    What's your favorite guilty pleasure cocktail, and how would you make it better?


I would say the creamsicle. It's a flavor from childhood - you know, you had those Popsicles. Orange and vanilla  - those two flavors just work together. The vanilla ice cream mellows out the orange.

 There are so many different ways to put it in a cocktail. You can do the ice cream version or crème de cacao and orange juice. Right now I would use white crème de cacao, orange Curaçao and, because we're in NOLA and it's warm, a little vanilla ice cream to be decadent."

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    Eric Alperin, The Varnish, Los Angeles, CA

    What's your most indulgent cocktail? Super luxe ingredients, the kind of thing you almost can't serve because it would be too expensive. Or your fantasy cocktail?

    Drinking a Piton beer in St Lucia, overlooking the mountain.  I can't serve that because I don't "have" it.  I could say something about the world's most expensive Armagnac, but that's stupid because the most indulgent thing I can think of is Piton in St Lucia, but it's location dependent.

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    Nicholas Jarrett, Cure and The Saint, New Orleans, LA

    What's your favorite thing to surprise an indecisive customer with?

    "Well, that really depends on where I'm at these days, and on the customer. There's not a one size fits all solution. At a cocktail bar, I hate to be that guy, but usually one of my Prizefighter variations: salt aromatised wine/amari smashes. Savory, bitter, sweet, sour, with strength dial-able through the addition of overproof liquors, they're dead in the middle of the spectrum. That said, I like to surprise all customers with a good time."

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    Fred Sarkis, Sable Kitchen and Bar, Chicago, IL

    What do you like to drink that's a little bit shameful?


I like an amaretto sour, but only by the strawful. A whole one is too much. I make them really well."

    Do you have a favorite amaretto? 

    "Disaronno, to be honest. I don't feel guilty about anything I find pleasurable. I think anyone who knows me would vouch for that."

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    Maxwell Britten, Maison Premiere, New York, NY

    What's your favorite thing to drink when you're suffering from cocktail fatigue?

    "I'm a champagne enthusiast actually. One of my favorite bars in New York is a wine bar called Corkbuzz. The nice thing about drinking a good bottle of champagne or wine, is there's a whole culture of ceremony. It's more about the land and the blood, sweat and years and years of production to get to what you have in your glass, compared to the few minutes it takes to make a cocktail. There's a sense of complacency for me with wine. I don't have to worry about what comes out of the bottle, as opposed to having to make sure that the cocktail happens."

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    Jill Webster, Harvard and Stone, Los Angeles, CA

    What's your favorite way to unwind after work?


A pound of deli meat. Just turkey. And cognac out of the bottle in front of the TV."

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    Liz Pearce, The Drawing Room, Chicago, IL

    What's your favorite frozen drink?

    "A piña colada! I don't care if it's manufactured B.S. - I still like it.

 What do you like to float on it?

 More rum? Or maybe Campari?


That sounds awful.


It could be awesome."


So why do you like a piña colada?


It's frosty, it's sh***y and indulgent."

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    Joaquin Simo, Pouring Ribbons, New York, NY

    What's the best thing to order at a dive bar?

    "Can you just get me on the vanilla vodka and ginger ale kick? It's like cream soda for adults. It's the best dive bar drink EVER."

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    Chris Hannah, French 75 Bar at Arnaud's, New Orleans, LA

    What's your favorite after-shift beer?

    "Anchor Steam beer! I'm always in beer mode after work. If I have a cocktail after work, I would drink it like a beer and be housed in less than an hour. I like the mouth feel and the fullness of Anchor Steam."

    Bonus guilty pleasure:  "I have a thing for thrift store wingtips. I have at least four regular pairs, but I always decorate a pair for Mardi Gras, so I have about eight pairs sitting in my room right now."

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    Charles Joly, The Aviary, Chicago, IL

    What's your favorite shot?

    "The one I'm doing with my friends. It doesn't matter what's in the glass, it's about community and who you're "cheers-ing."