Sarkis sees cocktails through the lens of pop culture and film. A
film studies graduate and filmmaker, he started bartending on the
side at Braise when he realized he enjoyed the creativity of
mixology more than film production. Today, heís the inventive
beverage director behind The Phoenix Cocktail Club and the
co-founder of events company Bodega Party with Ruben Flores of Sugr.
Sarkis sat down with MKE Lifestyle to talk Wisconsin cocktails,
pop-up events and setting up your home bar.
Tell me about the
transition from film to mixology.
I realized that I had more creative control in food
and beverage than in film, and one of the main reasons I got into
film was to be creative. There was one very specific commercial I
was doing for a company downtown, and they wanted to enter a
competition for the coolest office space. They needed a video, and
we were shooting this in the middle of winter, and they said they
wanted to showcase their patio. The patioís covered in snow, with a
glass table shattered right in the middle of it, and there was trash
out there. They only had one stock image of the patio (in summer
looking good), and they were disappointed that I didnít showcase the
patio. That ruffled my feathers and made me rethink everything. At
the time I was creating all of these new menus at Braise, and I was
thinking, ďMan, this is so much more satisfying than the film stuff
How would you
describe The Phoenix Cocktail Club to someone whoís never been
Well, itís not like anything else along Jefferson.
Itís a place where you can have a really nice cocktail and a place
where you can kick back and have a High Life and a shot. The drinks
are definitely 90 percent of what we sell. A lot of people who come
in are not necessarily into cocktails, but thereís reference and
imagery that draws you into the menu so when you put the menu down
in front of someone, thereís no way theyíre not going to order
something off of it.
The banana daiquiri is really popular. There arenít
many places where you can get a blended, fresh banana daiquiri
thatís not overly sweet and is really balanced. Our mai tai on tap
is really popular. It was a drink that has a lot of ingredients so
we put it on tap. Thatís kind of fun. Our French 75 has been selling
really well lately, and we have a drink called a raspberry sour that
has some eucalyptus, tequila, raspberry, lemon, cherry bark bitters
and a protein in it. The protein is froth from fava beans so it
makes the drink vegan.
Donít you have a
new Wisconsin classic drink? Whatís it called?
The kingsway. We spent a couple years trying to come
up with a modern classic. One of the owners is really into cognac,
and we kept making him cognac drinks, and he would say ďMake me
something else.Ē When this recipe came up, he didnít ask for it, and
I said ďI think weíre onto something.Ē Word of mouth spread so we
put it on the menu.
Tell us about the
pop-up bars you do. Youíve done Dad Bar, LoveShaq (melding tiki with
Shaq OíNeal) and others.
It kind of goes back to when I worked at Braise, and
we were constantly changing the menu. The pop-ups are ways for us to
be creative, to have fun and to test out new recipes. They make
cocktails less serious. Iím taking LoveShaq and Dad Bar to other
cities, including New Orleans and Baltimore. Iím doing that with a
friend of mine, Ruben Flores, and we call our company Bodega Party.
What do you have
in your home bar?
I like having mezcal on hand. Thatís something I like
to sip on. I have an aquavit from Tattersall in Minneapolis, and I
keep a bottle in the freezer and a bottle in the bar cart. Iíve got
a bottle of coconut rum from Belize I really like, and I just got a
bottle of Sartori whiskey from Japan. Iíve got an amaro from Russia.
When friends travel, I ask people to pick up interesting things.
What equipment do
people need in their home bar?
I think just having a Hawthorne strainer can get you
pretty far, and having mason jars. I like Sur la Table Hawthorne
strainers because they have a really tight spring on them so you
have the option of not double straining, as it catches ice shards.
And I like the Leopold jiggers in gunmetal black from the