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
- Jones Hollywood
- The Roger Room
- Bar Marmont
- Tiki Ti
- Blipsy Barcade
- Copa D’Oro
- Big Bar at Alcove Cafè
- Seven Grand
Read more interviews with Midnight Mixologists here.