Midnight Mixologists: Charles Hardwick and His Favorite NYC Hot Spots

After getting his start at some New York City hot spots, Charles Hardwick is now shaking, stirring, and pouring at a slick pan-Asian lounge in Manhattan’s Flatiron District. He talked with BlackBook about New York nightlife, the secret to running a good bar, and his favorite part of the job. Also, see below for his top ten favorite spots to grab a cocktail in New York City.

Do you consider yourself a mixologist or a bartender?
Generally speaking, I consider myself a bartender. I don’t have a problem with the term mixologist, but I generally consider myself a bartender.
 
And how did you get into the business?
Initially, I got in through working at a place which I believe is still open. And the bartender really seemed like the best suited job for my personality type, if you will.
 
And what is that?
I enjoy talking to people, and I like the sort of level of regard that people seem to have for the bartender. Meeting the guests that come in the door and the position in the restaurant can be really well respected position and a lot of responsibility and flexibility, too.
 
And what is your favorite part of the job?
Generally speaking, I enjoy interacting with other people. I like the creativity that comes along with making drinks, whether they’re my own, or classic recipes. I like the camaraderie, that’s something I enjoy as well, working as a team behind the bar.
 
What do you think it takes to make good drinks?
I think you have to have a passion for the craft, a certain amount of creativity, an open mind, and you need to have a good sense of what makes up the elements of balance in a cocktail. I think you need to be able to, at all times, relate to the guest’s point of view.
 
Where’s your favorite place to enjoy a cocktail?
My bar. But if it’s warm outside and I can find a nice spot by the window where there’s a good amount of sunlight, and maybe the window’s open and the street isn’t too busy or noisy with traffic, in the corner of the bar, that’s pretty ideal for me, too.
 
What is the secret to running a great bar?
I would say first, hospitality. That can really make up for a lot. If something goes wrong and you’re hospitable, I think people will understand up to a point that you’re trying to show a reasonable amount of hospitality, and that you really have the guest’s best interest in mind. Then I think just having a well-trained staff that shares the core values as far as service is concerned. On a more tangible level, I would say, just well-maintained fresh ingredients, a well-maintained bar, with a high maintenance of things I already mentioned.
 
How do you go about naming a cocktail?
I like naming cocktails. They should roll off the tongue to a certain degree, but should inspire people to ask questions about where the name came from, and in some way reference the ingredients of the drink. If it has tequila in it, I may name it after an important historical figure from Mexico. If it has gin in it, I may name it after someone who’s famous here in America.
 
And what do you like the most about New York nightlife?
It’s kind of a byproduct of the fact that I’m in the business and have been in the business for quite a while, but I enjoy going to visit my friends and colleagues at the varying types of bars and restaurants that they work in, and having those relationships afford me access in going out. It gives me a perspective on things that are going on out there that I think I think are pretty rare and unique.
 
Hardwick’s Top Ten NYC Spots for a Cocktail
  1. Macao Trading Company
  2. Von
  3. The Summit Bar
  4. Bua
  5. Ward III
  6. Black and White
  7. Mayahuel
  8. Death and Company
  9. Lit Lounge
  10. Smith & Mills
Read more Midnight Mixologists interviews here.

Midnight Mixologists: Camille Austin and Her Top Ten Miami Hot Spots

Camille Austin was so fantastic as a 2010 Midnight Mixologist, that we just had to ask her back this year. Here is the bartending beauty on Miami nightlife, her go-to ingredient, and that pompadour. Also, see below for her top ten favorite spots to grab a cocktail in Miami.

How did you get into mixology?
I’ve been into cocktails since my venue opened in Miami. All it takes is one person that’s passionate about their craft to bounce that same passion onto you.
 
What’s your favorite part of the job?
A great day at the bar is when I see a bunch of my regulars, we have great conversation, and they leave happy and tipsy.
 
How do you name the drinks you create?
Sometimes it comes easily, and sometimes it needs a little thought. It’s almost like you’re creating a character, and you need the perfect name to represent their unique personality.
 
How is your approach to mixology different from everybody else’s?
The great thing about the world is that we’re all similar in some ways, and different in others. Anyone who chooses to do this as a career has love for it. So in that respect, we all love what we do, and want to make people happy. It’s also great that the world is diverse. I can visit New York City, for example, hit 5 bars in one day, and have 5 unique cocktails, all equally great.
 
What was your inspiration for the cocktail you created for Stoli?
I’m very much into Eastern culture at the moment. I think you can really experience a culture by its cuisine, and this is definitely something I would be sipping on if I were sitting at a swanky rooftop bar in Shanghai.
 
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received as a mixologist?
People dig the pompadour! They ask me all the time if they can touch it, and I say, "Absolutely!"
 
What does it take to be a great mixologist? Is it a God-given gift, or something you can learn?
Tony Abou-Ganim, one of my favorite bartenders, says that you can train skills, but you can’t train personality. I like to remember that when I’m having a bad day, so I change my mood before I step into the bar. Aside from that, you just need a little passion, imagination, and eagerness to learn.
 
What’s the most important lesson about mixology you’ve learned in your years on the job?
To take pride in what you do. Never skimp on freshness or quality, and make friends with the chefs!
 
What makes your venue special?
My bar is just stunning. I’ve been there for over 2 years now, and there are still days when I walk in and think "Wow." Being there invokes a feeling of anticipation and a true engagement of all the senses. The gorgeous dècor, the mouthwatering aromas, and the sexy beats from our resident DJ Jean Marc leave you wanting more.
 
What nightlife trend rubs you the wrong way?
Rose’s lime juice, soda guns, and shaking a martini or classic all-spirit cocktail.
 
What’s the secret to running a great bar?
Passion and attention to detail.
 
Who is your ideal customer?
Someone that’s open to try something new.
 
What do you love most about Miami at night?
I love Miami’s vibrant party scene. It has such a unique and uplifting energy. There’s heat and passion here.
 
What personal innovations have you brought to the nightlife game?
I’m excited that we’re starting to see a strong female element in the Miami cocktail scene. I love a classic all-male bar, but a male/female bar can be just as great because men and women complement each other nicely.
 
What’s your go-to ingredient to make a great cocktail?
At the moment, tea, ginger, and edible flowers.
 
Austin’s Top Ten Miami Spots for a Cocktail
  1. Hakkasan
  2. Purdy Lounge
  3. Arkadia
  4. Zuma
  5. Soho Beach House
  6. Haven
  7. Mynt Ultra Lounge
  8. The Florida Room
  9. Sra. Martinez
  10. The Living Room at the W

To read more interviews with Midnight Mixologists, click here.

In Their Own Words: Our Favorite Up-and-Comers’ Favorite Apps

No matter what industry you work in, smartphone apps always find a way of creeping in. Which is why, when we asked five up-and-comers for our Oct/Nov print issue what their favorite apps are, the verdict became clear:  when you like what you do, you app what you do. Choosing apps that closely relate to and help with their work – from crosswords to meterology – here are these jetsetters’ favorite apps, in their own words.

Michael White: chef/co-owner of Italian culinary empire Altamarea
A native Midwesterner, chef Michael White has shocked and excited the culinary scene worldwide with his continually-expanding Italian empire: Altamarea Group. As co-owner, White’s brand of elegant and soulful Italian food can be found in Hong Kong, New Jersey, and New York, and has garnered multiple Michelin stars. Some of his restaurants include Osteria Morini, Marea, and Ai Fiori . Last month, the chef presented an array of his signature dishes at Food Network’s New York City Wine & Food Festival.

Michael says:
“I love the app Chef’s Feed. It’s an app dedicated to databasing what the nation’s best chefs like to eat at their favorite restaurants. It’s almost like Yelp, but with the advice of well-known chefs. It comes with an interactive map where you can find out where your favorite chef likes to eat in relation to where you are at any given moment. So cool.”

Solomon Choi: founder and CEO of 16 Handles
As the entrepreneur behind frozen yogurt chain 16 Handles, Solomon Choi is responsible for putting customization in a cup and making it delicious. Choi’s company brings 16 rotating flavors of yogurt and over 40 toppings to the masses, all of which the customers put together themselves. Thanks to his past experience working for his parent’s restaurant franchise in California, as well as at restaurant startup, Choi handles 16 Handles’ expansion with ease; with 26 locations throughout the East Coast, and 10 stores in development, the franchise is becoming one tasty phenomenon.

Solomon says:
TripIt helps me manage my business and personal travel itineraries, as well as view all air, hotel, and car rental reservations from my iPhone. I’m also able to my friends’ or associates’ travel plans once we’re linked. Business owners know that time is money, and efficiency translates to more money earned; thankfully, TripIt gets the job done in a snap.”

Fiona Staples: Canadian comic book artist
Known both for her covers, which earned her a 2011 Joe Shuster Award, and her interior artwork, Fiona Staples has drawn everything from horror to superheroes. She’s illustrated for such series as Mystery Society and the Eisner-nominated North 40, and covers for Superman/Batman, DV8, and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. She’s currently collaborating on Image Comics’ fantasy epic SAGA. Last month, Staples was a featured guest for the entirety of New York Comic Con.

Fiona says:
“My favorite is the New York Times crossword app! I like doing the crossword every day without needing a newspaper subscription. I’m a bit addicted to crosswords and other puzzle games, and do them whenever I have a bit of time to fill. It’s a nice way to take a quick break from drawing while keeping my mind engaged, rather than getting sucked into watching T.V. for an hour!”

Terry Casey: New York-based DJ and event promoter
Terry Casey can be found all across the city and the state, spinning music and planning events at his resident spots Hotel Chantelle and The Montauk Beach House. He’s worked alongside such legends as Paul Oakenfold, Mark Ronson, and BlackBook’s very own Steve Lewis.

Terry says:
RadarScope is a meteorology app DJ Paul Sevigny showed me when he was spinning at The Montauk Beach House. It shows the weather and where  the clouds are coming from and where they’re going. It helps us when programming the outdoor pool parties at the Beach House.”

James Ruff: New York-based singer-songwriter/producer
James Ruff hits the stage two-fold, as both a solo artist and the front man for New York-based band The Rouge Royale. Known for its energizing and eclectic sound, the band has performed on CNN at the 2011 United Nations concert, at such beloved rock joints as The Bitter End, and as one of the more frequent acts for Avenue A Soundcheck. With three solo albums under his belt, and the band’s debut EP this month, Ruff is an artist in his prime.

James says:
“I always reach for the iPhone’s highly underrated native app: Voice Memos. With a click of the “record” button, it captures in a moment every musical  idea I’ve had brewing for days. As a songwriter who composes melody strictly by recording and listening back to my ideas, this app is my best friend and most valuable tool. Every pre-production aspect of The Rouge Royale’s upcoming  EP was aided by this simple little gem.”

Midnight Mixologists: Joseph Brooke and His Favorite LA Bars

Joseph Brooke, who slings drinks at a sophisticated Hollywood speakeasy, takes his job very seriously — just don’t expect him to show it. Here is the easygoing Brooke on naming his drinks, the important lesson he’s learned on the job, and what separates him from the competition. Also, see below for his eight favorite LA hot spots.

How did you get into mixology?
When I realized that wanting to be the center of attention at all times wasn’t going to be enough, I started learning about the impressive art of giving good service and executing proper cocktails with correct techniques.
 
What’s your favorite part of the job?
Making that connection with the guest, knowing the exact point when you’ve gained their trust and are now able to help guide their night, drinks-wise.
 
How do you name the drinks you create?
Nothing too kitschy or direct, and nothing political or religious (unless it really is that good). The names come from a direct connection to the ingredients or place of origin of the spirit, made ambiguous enough so that you don’t feel clubbed over the head with the meaning.
 
How is your approach to mixology different from everybody else’s?
I take it extremely seriously, but I won’t let anyone ever see that.
 
What was your inspiration for the cocktail you created for Stoli® ?
Summer in Santa Monica was the initial inspiration, as it can get pretty hot out there during the day. Simple, balanced, and about as poolside-appropriate as a whistle-twirling lifeguard.
 
What’s your idea of the absolute perfect setting in which to enjoy a cocktail?
Depends on the cocktail, and also where your head’s at. Before dinner? At your own wedding? Poolside?
 
What does it take to be a great mixologist? Is it a God-given gift, or something you can learn?
Anybody can become proficient if they pay attention well enough. [You’ll need] the ability to be hospitable, attentive, positive, reasonable, full of love, but also possess the ability to be firm when needed.
 
What’s the most important lesson about mixology you’ve learned in your years on the job?
Shame on you if you make a customer feel bad for ordering something they like and want. There is no difference between a bartender being a judgmental snob and a teacher using fear and intimidation to get their point across.
 
What nightlife trend rubs you the wrong way?
Everybody wearing the same clothes! T-shirts, raccoon eyes, spiky hair, bleached blonde, Brazilian God-knows-what, colognes and perfumes, all of that garbage. That whole scene is like 400,000 dogs chasing each other’s tails in one massive, man-scaped circle. Boooo-ring.
 
What’s the secret to running a great bar?
Make sure to maintain the integrity and standards of your program, but give the people what they want (within reason). Also, free snacks at the bar. I’m not above the bribery of guests.
 
Who is your ideal customer?
Someone who has an open mind and hip dysplasia from how huge their wallet is.
 
What do you love most about Los Angeles at night?
It has perfect top-down weather that makes everyone much happier around town.
 
What personal innovations have you brought to the nightlife game?
A shake that is equal parts self-humiliating and tip-increasing. I never ask why people laugh.
 
What’s your go-to ingredient to make a great cocktail?
If it’s a sour, then it’s fresh, seasonal, and locally produced. No exceptions. If it’s an aromatic, then ice and a supple wrist.
 
Brooke’s Favorite LA Hot Spots
  1. Jones Hollywood
  2. The Roger Room
  3. Bar Marmont
  4. Tiki Ti
  5. Blipsy Barcade
  6. Copa D’Oro
  7. Big Bar at Alcove Cafè
  8. Seven Grand

Read more interviews with Midnight Mixologists here.