Going 10 Rounds With America’s Best Bartender, Jeff Bell
We got Jeff Bell, who was named the country’s top bartender this past summer, to tackle our speed round of questions.
What do you like to drink after a shift? “A Daiquiri or a Brooklyn Sorachi Ace Saison beer.”
What is the all-time best dive bar jukebox song? “Eddie Money’s ‘Take Me Home Tonight.’”
What drink should be banished and why? “I don’t know if I would banish any particular drink, mainly because it’s up to the person paying what they are drinking. I, however, would never order a Dirty Martini. I don’t see any redeemable qualities in that drink.”
Name the first good drink you ever drank and where you had it. “My most memorable Manhattan was at Employees Only in 2009. It was the first bar I went to the day after I moved to New York from Seattle. Milos was bartending that night and my brother and I stopped by at 6 p.m. and had a couple Manhattans, they were so good.”
What book on cocktails, spirits or food is your go-to resource? “The PDT Cocktail Book is definitely my go to.”
Ever appropriate for a customer to ask for more olives for a Martini? “The answer is always no until you ask. I have no problem with someone asking for extra olives with their Martini, it’s not like they are the most expensive item in the inventory. My goal is to give people a good experience at the bar, if they need an extra skewer of olives to achieve that, then so be it.”
What drink are you most proud of creating? “Hard to say that there’s one singular drink that I’m most proud of. I’m just happy when my ideas materialize into delicious drinks that people like. That’s all that really matters in the end.”
What’s your favorite shot-and-a-beer combination? “I like a little capita of Del Maguey Tobala with a Folksbier Helles Simple.”
What is the one tool that you always make sure to pack when you’re traveling for business? “A sharp knife.”
Jeff Bell is general manager of New York’s famed PDT and was named American Bartender of the Year at this past Summer’s Tales of the Cocktails conference.
Interview has been condensed and edited.