What do you like to drink after a shift? “I usually go with white wine, something that sees skin contact, like the Slavček Sivi Pinot from Slovenia and the Meinklang Graupert Pinot Gris from Austria.”
What is the all-time best dive bar jukebox song? ““99 Luftballons, by Nena.”
After all these years bartending and creating drinks, do you still enjoy going out to bars? “Although I don’t go out as much as I used to, I still enjoy seeing what other bartenders are doing—bars are still the communal meeting space.”
Name the first good drink you ever drank and where you had it. “I’m pretty sure it was a Vesper Martini made by St. John Frizell at the Good Fork in Red Hook, Brooklyn, before he opened Fort Defiance. He’s a master of balance.”
What book on cocktails or spirits is your go-to resource? “How to Mix Drinks, or the Bon Vivant’s Companion by Jerry Thomas and Beachbum Berry’s Remixed: a Gallery of Tiki Drinks.”
What’s your favorite cocktail and food pairing? “Although I pair mixed drinks with food, usually à la minute—it all depends on the flavors of the specific dish. I tend towards a more classical approach for myself: one or two mixed drinks before dinner, wine with food, maybe a nog or flip with or as dessert, in the colder months, then a digestif after the meal.”
What drink are you most proud of creating? “There is no one specific drink. What I’m most proud of is learning the building blocks for the different categories of mixed drinks (i.e. sours, daisies, cocktails, etc.), and continually finding ways to incorporate new flavors and techniques within those restrictive categories. Moreover, I’m proud of being committed to sustainability, by growing/foraging a lot of the produce for the bar and by using different forms of acid so as to not have to rely on out-of-season citrus.”
Is there one person (dead or alive) you’d like to make a cocktail for? “RuPaul Charles.”
What’s your favorite shot-and-a-beer combination? “Powers Irish whiskey and a crisp lager, like the Coalesce from the Veil Brewing Co.”
What is the one tool that you always make sure to pack when you’re traveling for business? “My knives, made by a friend, Matt Rubendall of Ruby Knives in Brooklyn, and my wine key.”
Danny McDermott is the beverage director at Longoven in Richmond, Virginia.
Interview has been condensed and edited.