If you want to
judge the quality of a bartender, ask him to make a Manhattan,
says mixologist Adam Seger. Among other stints, Seger is the
consulting mixologist and Sommelier for Bayshore's iPic
They may not
have the star power of the top chefs but mixologists are beginning to
make a name for themselves. Leading the charge is Adam Seger, a
mixologist before most of us had ever even heard the word and
certainly before it became cool.
elevated bartending to high culinary art. He has been called a
"Spirits Guru" by Food & Wine, featured in Cigar
Aficionado, Wine Spectator, The New York Times and on the Food Network
and created cocktails for the 84th Academy Awards Governorís Ball.
As part of his groundbreaking approach to mixology, he was one of the
first to make his own sweet vermouth, bitters and maraschino cherries
and grow all the mint, basil and other herbs used in his drinks.
Seger is best
known for his creations at National 27 in Chicago but he is also
founding owner of Hum Spirits Co. and the Sour Mash Bourbon Bread Co.,
which makes gourmet bread, biscuit and pancake mix from Bourbon mash.
Locally Seger is the consulting mixologist and sommelier for Bayshoreís
iPic Theaters, and he created all of the cocktails at Big Daddyís
Brew & Que.
When does a
bartender become a mixologist?
I usually say a
cook is to a chef as a bartender is to a mixologist. It takes a lot of
skill and knowledge to become a great cook. The same can be said of a
bartender. A chef, on the other hand, is someone that can go into a
pantry, grab a bunch of random ingredients and create something
original. A mixologist is similar. You need to have the foundations of
a disciplined bartender, but a mixologist adds creativity. Given a set
of spirits, if a guest asks for something made with passion fruit and
tequilla or fresh peaches, a mixiologist should be able to create an
What drink do
you wish you had invented?
That would be a pretty big feather to have. I always say it is my
favorite wedding-bartender drink because if they have a relatively
fresh bottle of vermouth and a decent whiskey you can talk any wedding
bartender into making you a decent Manhattan. Itís one of the first
classic cocktails I learned to make and also one that even in its
simplicity has many tannin variations. Sometimes a chef is judged by
how they make an omelet. To me a Manhattan is a bartenderís omelet.
It says a lot about the bartender and itís a great drink.
What is your
If you did a
logarithm of all my recipes I would say ginger would come up more than
anything. Itís like pepper. Itís a flavor enhancer but I also like
it on its own for the peppery heat it can bring to a drink. Passion
fruit is my other favorite because it has great natural acidity, which
is important if you want someone to have that second or third sip. It
also has that top note perfume that is so distinctive and decadent. As
for the alcohol, I think vodka is like the boneless, skinless, thawed
chicken breast of the spirit world. If you put enough spice on it or
blacken or marinate it, you can make it taste like anything, but on
its own thereís not a lot there. I like working with mescal and
other agave spirits. Theyíre like pork, you can throw as much fruit
and spice at it as you want but the natural flavor still holds up.
What makes a
Caring is a huge
part. Obviously you have to use good ingredients, but there has been a
lot of research that shows that the way something tastes depends a lot
on the state of mind of the taster. This is why you may have a
favorite bartender that technically does not make the best drink but
they put a lot of attention into serving you and that makes the drink
taste fantastic. On the other hand, you can go to one of these big
mixology bars that do everything perfect and by the book but the
treatment is cold; consequently, the drink is not nearly as enjoyable.
There is a subjective side of it that has to be taken into account.
Yes, you have to make a great drink, but if you are a jerk the client
wonít enjoy it much.
If you were
going to bar-hop in any city in the world where would it be?
Three years ago
I would have definitely said London but today I have to go with
Singapore. Itís incredible how fast and far they have come. There
are certain factors in play that make it what it is today. One is the
economy. Obviously Singapore missed the memo about the global slowdown
so there is a lot of disposable income. Suddenly there are 20 cocktail
bars on an international level bringing in mixologists from the U.K.
and the U.S. Secondly, because they are new to the game, they donít
have an identity or predetermined notions about what can and canít
be done. From a creative standpoint there are some crazy and
interesting things happening because no one is afraid to try something
different. It is one case where they are helped by their lack of
tradition. In terms of cocktail bars, it is the most interesting and
diverse place in the world right now.