What do you like to drink after a shift? “I take a shot of mezcal to close my night, because I find it the cleanest, lowest in sugar and the most uplifting spirit among all the remedies on a [bar] shelf.”
What is the all-time best dive bar jukebox song? “I tend to be silly, because why not? So, if I step into a dive bar with a jukebox, Céline Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” plays that night.”
What drink should be banished and why? “Banishing, prohibiting, or killing ideas doesn’t go well with creative growth. So, let it be, exist to die or to rise on its own terms.”
What book on cocktails or spirits is your go-to resource? “Before you improvise and start to create new art pieces, you need to know the classics, be familiar with the roots of your craft, history and previous and existing talents. The same in bartending. I have lots of favorite old and new books. Everyone on my bar team is advised to read The Joy of Mixology by Gary Regan. To check my palate maps, I use The Flavor Bible. For inspiration, I look to my girlfriend, who is an amazing cook and food lover. My travels and memories of childhood and home also trigger my creative process.”
What’s your favorite bottle of booze that costs less than $25? “For that money, you can buy a decent bottle of wine.”
What’s your favorite bottle of booze that costs more than $100? “For that money, you can buy a very good bottle of wine.”
What’s your favorite cocktail and food pairing? “A Cherry Wood Smoked Manhattan and Côte de Boeuf sitting at the bar at the Beatrice Inn.”
What drink are you most proud of creating? “I’m proud of my cocktail menu today. I feel like each cocktail is just a chapter of the story, but the whole menu tells more about the minds behind it, the character of the bar, and the philosophy of its creator.”
What’s your favorite shot-and-a-beer combination? “Corona and tequila!”
What is the one tool that you always make sure to pack when you’re traveling for business? “I travel for a lot of events, classes, and private bartending gigs. So, I always bring my tool bag full of gadgets, bar equipment, and magic tricks!”
Antanas Samkus is the head bartender at New York’s Beatrice Inn.
Interview has been condensed and edited.