Gaz Regan knows more about bartending and hospitality than most bartenders alive today. He’s been a bartender arguably his whole life and is one of the fathers of its modern renaissance.
The Joy of Mixology (2003), his breakthrough book, helped bartenders to categorize cocktails into core families to better understand that if you learn the familial style, one could remember thousands of drink recipes simply by identifying key characteristics and then using the proper spirits. Michael Dietsch, author of Shrubs: An Old Fashioned Drink for Modern Times and noted cocktail journalist, has called Regan’s book one of the five essential reads for all bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts.
“Understanding cocktail families makes it easier for a bartender not only to memorize entire classes of recipes, but also to improve new drinks.” – Michael Dietsch (Serious Eats)
justcocktails.org recently sat down with Gaz Regan to learn more about his thoughts on the Joy of Mixology and to find out what he’s working on now.
What is the joy of Mixology?
“The Joy of Mixology is my baby! It’s a book that I pitched to publishers for years, but it kept getting kicked back with comments like, “We like the idea, but can you condense it a little?” Finally Roy Finamore at Clarkson Potter read my proposal and told me that he liked it, but could I possibly make it bigger? I’d found my dream editor.
Originally the book was going to contain lots of photographs, but we went without them to preserve as much written information as possible.”
What finger stirs the best Negroni?
“Index finger on dominant hand”
Who did you look up to most when you were learning how to drink properly?
“Probably my father, who drank far too much! He was a fabulous pub landlord, though, and he taught me much about the true meaning of service and hospitality.”
What is your ‘guilty pleasure’ drink?
justcocktails.org recently talked to David Wondrich – we asked him what he thinks is next for liquor writing? He thinks it’s more about bars and less about drinks. What would you add to that conversation?
I like to concentrate on the service/hospitality side of the business. I believe with all my heart that bartenders can change the world by spreading happiness among their guests, and I have some ideas about how they can go about that mission. I’m talking about my Mindful Bartending workshops, which I’ve held all over the world for the past few years, and that will be the focus of my upcoming ‘Cocktails in the Country‘ workshops.
(The New York Times discussed this more with Gaz HERE)
What do you think is the best argument against someone who wants to see a ‘temperance society’?
“Banning alcohol just does not work, and that’s been proven over and over, so why waste money trying to promote abstinence when that money would be better spent extolling the virtues of moderation?”
How has the landscape of cocktail book publishing changed since Joy of Mixology went to print?
“With the advent of easy and decent “print on demand” options, anyone with a few dollars can publish their own book, and I’ve taken advantage of this myself. Of course this also means that there are many books out there that are not well written or conceived, but there’s nothing wrong with that. The cream will rise to the top, and the sour cream won’t really harm anyone, so what’s the problem.
My new Negroni Book (May 2015) was commissioned by Ten Speed Press on the strength of my first edition which was “almost but not quite” self-published.”
If you do a revised edition of Joy of Mixology, what will be the biggest changes you’d like to make?
“I’m working on that concept now and the changes will have to be many. New techniques and methodologies need to be added or updated, the “drink families” need to be revised, culled, and added to, the history chapter needs to be brought up to date, etc. It’s going to be a lot of work.”
You talked about “punk cocktails” in Joy of Mixology. Where is the place for that, in the current market, best suited?
[Excerpt from Joy of Mixology, – “Punk Cocktails hit the scene. Young bartenders, who had never been trained in the finer aspects of the cocktailian craft, grew bored with making wishy-washy White Wine Spritzers, tedious Tequila Sunrises, and lackluster Long Island Iced Teas, so they created obnoxious potions with vile sounding names until the point came when you could order an Abortion or a Blow Job in any old bar and nobody would blink an eye.”]
“The Punk Cocktails I usually refer to arose in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s when very few people were being creative behind the bar, but that’s all changed now. That doesn’t mean, though, that novelty cocktails have disappeared, and I think that the Molecular Mixologists are coming up with some very cool concepts that are much fun, AND well thought out in many cases.”
You’re known for your love of 5pm Manhattans – what is your life hack for a great Manhattan?
“My late-afternoon Manhattan is sometimes a Negroni, and it signifies, for me, the end of my workday, and the start of relaxation time. That said, I often keep working after 5 pm, but I try not to make big decisions after drinking a Manhattan or two.”
Finally, a serious question, what is your favorite animal in a sports movie?
“Tough question, but I really liked the pussy in Bull Durham . . .”
Libation Goddess, by Mardee and Gaz Regan
Here’s our take on the Regan family cocktail that shares the same moniker as Pegu Club’s, Audrey Saunders.
.75 oz Tempus Fugit Creme de Cacao
Combine ingredients in shaker. Add ice. Hard shake and fine strain into a chilled coupé