What is the all-time best dive bar jukebox song? “‘Suspicious Minds’ by Elvis Presley for dive bars on busy streets; the ones where you’re just as likely to sing along with other patrons as you are to see others quietly wording the lyrics to themselves. ‘Clap Hands’ by Tom Waits in all the other dives. You’ll find yourself hypnotically nodding to the beat by the last verse.”
What drink should be banished and why? “The drink that’s ordered when you’ve been over-served. Keep your wits, know your limits.”
Name the first good drink you ever drank and where you had it. “In 2010, my brother forgot my birthday and as recompense, he covered dinner at Cole’s in Downtown L.A. and drinks at The Varnish afterwards. I stepped out for a moment and he asked the crew to whip up ‘something special.’ I came back to my first Brooklyn cocktail, made with Amer Picon, which at the time, wasn’t something easily found in that part of the world. The memory of that drink has some serious terroir for me.”
What book on cocktails, spirits or food is your go-to resource? “For cocktails and hospitality, Regarding Cocktails by Sasha Petraske and Georgette Moger-Petraske. This is a book that should be a mandatory read for all aspiring and green bartenders. It covers all necessary topics from ice, hosting, the home bar, posture, and comp protocols. More or less, it tries to marry the lifestyles of the professional and personal lives of those in bar hospitality.”
What’s your favorite bottle of booze that costs less than $25? “Buying wholesale, Plantation O.F.T.D. Rum. Buying retail, Casa Magdalena Rum—use the remaining funds to get a beach towel and sandals.”
What’s your favorite cocktail and food pairing? “Hurricanes and steamed king crab legs from The Boiling Crab in Koreatown. I used to live in the apartment building above the HMS Bounty restaurant for 5 years. There were lines every day, so the best way to get in and out would be to order take out and bring it upstairs the day after you made ‘too much’ Hurricane batch and go to town. Not many better ways to spend a day off. Also, the seasoning they use in their sauces make for some interesting dreams, so buckle up.”
What drink are you most proud of creating? “I don’t feel much pride in creating drinks or when guests ask for them. But after working and being trained by a friend at a bar I was anxious to work at, I whipped up a variation on an Artist’s Special (from the Savoy Cocktail Book), which I called the Martinique Ink, using aged rhum agricole in place of blended Scotch. She tasted it and was proud for/of me. So much so that when the owner walked in later that night, she told me to run behind the bar and make the drink for him, to which he ordered a second.”
What’s your favorite shot-and-a-beer combination? “Barley wine and Amaro Ramazzotti.”
What is the one tool that you always make sure to pack when you’re traveling for business? “A sturdy wine key will take care of you for as long as you take care of it.”
Daniel Zacharczuk is the general manager of L.A.’s new Bibo Ergo Sum.
Interview has been condensed and edited.