What do you like to drink after a shift? “Usually just a cheap beer, something I don’t have to really think much about, like a Coors or a Cold Snack. If I’m feeling fancy, which is often, probably a glass of manzanilla sherry.”
What is the all-time best dive bar jukebox song? “Any song that rallies a group and gets them all singing is really what makes the best jukebox song, right? Considering some of my favorite dive bars are in the South, I’m going to have to go with an oldie but a goodie: ‘Chattahoochee,’ by Alan Jackson. You can try and tell me that your leg doesn’t start tapping as soon as you hear that guitar start up, but I won’t believe you.”
What drink should be banished and why? “Cocktails exist because someone enjoys drinking them. As bartenders, our one real job is to make sure that every person who sits across from us at our bar feels at home and comfortable ordering whatever makes them happy. That being said, I don’t really think that any cocktails should be banished.”
Name the first good drink you ever drank and where you had it. “I know that I had good drinks before this one, but for some reason the first cocktail that comes to mind is one that I had from Greg Best at Holeman & Finch in Atlanta, way back when. It was called the Usual, and it was just refreshing and delicious and incredibly simple. Amaro, grapefruit, and sparkling wine, if I’m remembering correctly.”
What book on cocktails, spirits, or food is your go-to resource? “I’ve been taking my time reading and re-reading Talia Baiocchi’s Sherry. It’s really wonderfully written and you can truly feel her passion for the subject oozing out of every page. I’ve probably read it three times by now.”
What’s your favorite bottle of booze that costs less than $25? “A great bottle of vermouth is typically my go-to for stocking my home. The Casa Mariol Vermut Negre is around $22 a bottle, which leaves you enough money to get a bottle of soda water to go with it.”
What’s your favorite cocktail and food pairing? “There’s something really magical about having a Bamboo cocktail and a plate of Jamón Ibérico and maybe a little sprinkling of marcona almonds. Also, not a cocktail, but there may be nothing more delicious than enjoying a glass of off-dry, wildly acidic Reisling alongside a plate of super-spicy Thai or Chinese food.”
What drink are you most proud of creating? “There are many drinks I’m fairly proud of creating, but I’d say my La Sobremesa (previously on the menu at RiNo Yacht Club) is one of my proudest creations. It was a cocktail that I set out to make with a very specific concept in mind, and while it uses a few strange culinary ingredients, like goat cheese and marcona almonds, everything still works really nicely in the glass. I actually created it originally for the Lustau Sherry cocktail competition, and it was the cocktail that won!”
What’s your favorite shot-and-a-beer combination? “Ratio Beerworks here in Denver makes a seasonal Saison brewed with carrots and elderflowers called the King of Carrot Flowers, and it pairs really wonderfully with a shot of mezcal.”
What is the one tool that you always make sure to pack when you’re traveling for business? “The one thing that I really can’t live without is my handmade knife from the incredibly talented Heather Haas. She is currently training to become the fifth female master bladesmith in the world, and her knives are so badass.”
Alex Jump is the bar manager of the brand-new Death & Co Denver.
Interview has been condensed and edited.