Going 10 Rounds With Top Bartender Jason Hedges
The bar director at New York’s Gotham Bar and Grill tackles our speed round of questions.
What do you like to drink after a shift? “Something crisp and refreshing like a sour or a Last Word or something along those lines.”
What is the all-time best dive bar jukebox song? “‘Take Me Home Tonight’ by Eddie Money.”
What drink should be banished and why? “Folks ought to drink whatever they’re in the mood for. But as a drink maker, sometimes it pains me to go along with certain requests because I know the drink is not going to present the way it’s intended. Take the extremely tart ‘Skinny Margarita’ or the gimlet ‘no sugar’ for example. I get it, you might be watching your sugar intake, but eh…”
Name the first good drink you ever drank and where you had it. “A Daiquiri that my cousin George made on one of our annual family vacations to Cape Cod, in either the late ’90s or early aughts. George is a philosopher, artist and skilled NYC bartender who was way ahead of his time. That Daiquiri was one of many drinks he’s made on countless Cape Cod visits, but it was the first time I was blown away by balance and freshness in a drink.”
What book on cocktails or spirits is your go-to resource? “If I want historical context (and a fascinating read) then Dave Wondrich. F. Paul Pacult is my anything spirits go to. Dave Arnold or Tony Conigliaro for anything technical. And for cocktail go tos, Sasha Petraske’s Regarding Cocktails is suburb and I think the books by the folks at Death & Co, The Aviary, and The Dead Rabbit, are all solid.”
What’s your favorite bottle of booze that costs less than $25? “Rittenhouse Rye.”
What’s your favorite bottle of booze that costs more than $100? “Keeping it in the rye category—Kentucky Owl 11-Year-Old.”
What’s your favorite cocktail and food pairing? “This time of year, probably something rich. I recently had a barrel-aged Michter’s Rye Manhattan with Gotham’s Chef Alfred Portale’s seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras. That was a crazy good pairing.”
What drink are you most proud of creating? “The one created on the spot—tailored to a guest’s personal but non-specific request.”
What’s your favorite shot-and-a-beer combination? “Mezcal and a Pacífico.”
What is the one tool that you always make sure to pack when you’re traveling for business? “A funnel.”
Jason Hedges is the bar director at New York’s Gotham Bar and Grill. He is also the author of the forthcoming The Gotham Cocktail: A Guide to Seasonal Drink-Making, which is expected to be published next spring.
Interview has been condensed and edited.