Midnight Mixologists: Beate Kiser and Her Top Ten NYC Hot Spots

Beate Kiser got into the nightlife game and landed her first bartending gig at an early age. Since her start, she’s risen to the top her field, where, after a four-year stint at her first gig, she landed at one of downtown Manhattan’s trendiest restaurants. She talked with BlackBook about her ideal customer, the best compliment she’s ever received, and her favorite part of the job. Also, see below for her top ten favorite spots to grab a cocktail in New York City.

How did you get into mixology?
It was something that just happened. I started bartending when I was young, and worked in bars for many years that didn’t focus too much on that. When I started working at a well-known bar four years ago, I was suddenly surrounded by people creating and trying out new things, so I just started to play with it and really fell in love with creating drinks.
 
What’s your favorite part of the job?
Seeing the look on people’s faces when they try something new that I created. When someone really likes the taste of something, they make the best facial expressions.
 
How do you name the drinks you create?
I just try to let the name be inspired by the drink itself. It can be a difficult process sometimes, trying to pick just the right name that fits and sounds like something you want to drink.
 
How is your approach to mixology different from everybody else’s?
I like to make cocktails accessible to everyone. I don’t think it’s fun to make people feel alienated because they don’t know all the ingredients in a drink. That’s when people get intimidated and just end up ordering a vodka soda. I have been to many places with friends that get overwhelmed by a drink menu and then order something simple instead of trying something new. I don’t want my customers to feel that.
 
What was your inspiration for the cocktail you created for Stoli®?
Summertime.
 
What’s your idea of the absolute perfect setting in which to enjoy a cocktail?
I love a great outdoor setting, roof, or outdoor café. It’s perfect to sip on something refreshing and delicious outside on a warm summer night.
 
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received as a mixologist?
You are the best bartender in New York!
 
What does it take to be a great mixologist? Is it a God-given gift, or something you can learn?
I think anyone could do it if they just try. We all have taste buds and can learn how to appeal to them.
 
What makes your venue special?
There is no other place like it. When people come in, it’s almost like they are stepping into another world. You could get a little of every experience you want from a bar, restaurant, or lounge here. Have a great cocktail, or sit in a grand dining room for an amazing food experience, and on the weekends you can go upstairs and dance to great music. It really has everything.
 
What nightlife trend rubs you the wrong way?
Making people feel like they’re not "cool" enough to come into the bar or lounge.
 
What’s the secret to running a great bar?
Great customer service. People want to be treated well, and if they are they will return over and over again.
 
Who is your ideal customer?
Someone who likes to try new things and trusts when you tell them you’re going to love this, and if you don’t, I will find something that you do.
 
What do you love most about New York at night?
People who live in New York live for going out at night. We all have really tiny apartments that we don’t want to be cooped up in, we don’t have to drive, and anything you could ever want is either a 10-minute walk or taxi ride away. New York comes alive at night and I love how different of a city this place is from night to day.
 
Kiser’s Top Ten NYC Spots for a Cocktail
  1. Mayahuel
  2. Bar Veloce
  3. Stanton Social
  4. 200 Orchard
  5. Dos Caminos
  6. The Hurricane Club
  7. Bar Baresco
  8. 9th Ward
  9. d.b.a.

Midnight Mixologists: Brad Bolt and His All-Time Favorite Chicago Bars

It was a fateful trip to New York, with its legendary cocktail bars, that convinced Brad Bolt to get into the mixology game. But luckily for the citizens of Chicago, he took his talents to the Windy City, where he’s as comfortable handcrafting cocktails as he is tossing his customers an ice-cold can of PBR. Here he is on his personal innovations, what he loves most about Chicago, and the best drink he’s ever had. Also, see below for his all-time favorite Chicago bars.

How did you get involved in mixology?
I took a trip to New York City with my good friend Matty Eggleston about five years ago. We ate and drank our way through the city and visited a handful of other cocktail bars. My eyes were wide open, and I came back to Chicago excited to relearn how to bartend. I later helped open other notable bars and learned a lot studying under Toby Maloney.
 
What’s the best cocktail you’ve ever had?
My first cocktail, a Manhattan, has to be the best cocktail I’ve ever had in that it was a life-changing cocktail for me.
 
What makes the place you work at special?
I think what makes it special is that someone can come in and have a handcrafted cocktail, and their friend can order a PBR. It’s unpretentious, inviting, and inclusive. There is a real sense of community amongst the staff, patrons, and neighborhood.
 
What nightlife trend rubs you the wrong way?
Exclusivity.
 
What’s the secret to running a great bar?
The secret is employing the very best team you can put together. We are blessed with an amazing one.
 
Who is your ideal customer?
My ideal customer is someone that walks in and says, “I’d like something with this spirit and I like these types of flavors. Make me whatever you want.” And also the customer that recognizes when we are slammed and is smart enough to know that the quickest things I can put in their hands are a beer and a shot.
 
What do you love most about Chicago?
One word: summer.
 
What personal innovations have you brought to the nightlife game?
I think that we opened a bar that bridges the gap between a straight-up cocktail lounge and a neighborhood-type joint. Most people want to have fun in a bar while consuming quality drinks, not sit around in a quiet bar geeking out about cocktails while putting their drink up on a pedestal. Cocktails are cool and all but, just drink already.
 
How do you name a drink?
Most of the time I’ll start by browsing my iTunes library, but occasionally I’ll name a drink for someone or after something.
 
Bolt’s All-Time Favorite Chicago Bars
  1. Bar DeVille
  2. The Whistler
  3. Matchbox
  4. The Green Mill
  5. Bangers & Lace
  6. Five Star Bar
  7. Delilah’s
  8. Continental
  9. Big Star
  10. Rainbo Club

Meet more Midnight Mixologists here.

Midnight Mixologists: Cricket Nelson and Her Top 10 Miami Hot Spots

As a bartender at a Miami art space, Cricket Nelson is a long way from the farm she grew up on. But the professional pourer has brought the principles she learned growing up—namely a dedication to fresh ingredients—to the mixology game. Here she is on the perfect setting to enjoy a cocktail, her ideal customer, and Miami at night. Also, see below for her top ten Miami hot spots.

How did you get into mixology? 
I grew up on a farm, and learned to cook at an early age. Being very creative, I’ve always enjoyed playing with flavors. It was a natural progression to carry my passion for food and fresh ingredients to mixology. I guess mixology came into my life in response to my guests. They’re always looking to try something new, so I ambitiously stepped up to the plate.
 
What’s your favorite part of the job? 
The beaming smile a guest makes when they take their first sip of a really great drink.
 
How do you name the drinks you create? 
It sort of just comes to me. The names are inspired by a guest, an ingredient, a brand’s history or story, the vibe of the establishment I’m designing for. But I always try to throw in a little humor or sexy suggestion. Sexy sells, let’s face it. 
 
What was your inspiration for the cocktail you created for Stoli®? 
Funny, I had a recipe all planned out, then I got an imagination curve ball! I belong to an organic produce co-op, and picked up my beautiful box of fresh summer fruits and veggies—plump, ripe, juicy strawberries, fragrant basil and lemons, all from Florida. It reminded me of my childhood summers on the farm and time spent with my family; fresh lemonade stands, and barbeques. I took the black pepper, basil, and balsamic vinegar from memories of my grandmother’s tomato salad, and mixed it with sugar, lemons, and strawberries. All reminiscent of the strawberry lemonade we used to make. Then I added the memory of the booze I used to pinch from her liquor cabinet when I was a young teenager, and bam! “Not yer Gran-Ma’s Lemonade” happened.
 
What’s your idea of the absolute perfect setting in which to enjoy a cocktail? 
Beachside, surrounded by friends.
 
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received as a mixologist?
For me, actions speak louder than words. Referrals and repeat business are the best compliments. That tells me I did it right the first time. 
 
What does it take to be a great mixologist? Is it a god-given gift, or something you can learn? 
Passion is a key component. I think anyone can learn to do “mixology," and many can become really good at it with practice, but I think to be really great at anything you have to be born with a natural gift, and have the confidence and passion to indulge it.
 
What makes your venue special? 
In a city of DJ culture, we have great live music everyday of the week! 
 
What nightlife trend rubs you the wrong way? 
Arrogance. We are here to serve.
 
What’s the secret to running a great bar? 
Combining great service with delicious cocktails and offering up a welcoming, heartfelt smile. A lot of bartenders forget to smile. 
 
Who is your ideal customer? 
The one ordering drinks.
 
What do you love most about Miami at night? 
Balmy breezes.
 
What’s your go-to ingredient to make a great cocktail? 
I love a lot of ingredients, but I have to say that every time I drink a glass of Florida pink grapefruit juice I say to myself, God I love grapefruit juice. 
 
Nelson’s Top Ten Miami Hot Spots
  1. The Stage
  2. Hakkasan
  3. Sra. Martinez
  4. The Living Room at the W
  5. Florida Room
  6. Haven
  7. Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink
  8. Mercadito Midtown
  9. Sustain
  10. Clarke’s

Meet more Midnight Mixologists here.

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: Justin Anderson and His Top Ten Chicago Hot Spots

Justin Anderson takes pride not just in pouring and making quality drinks, but also in running a bar and making his customers feel welcome. The SoCal native can be found tending bar at a Chicago swank neighborhood watering hole. Here he is on his favorite part of the job, naming his drinks, and the perfect setting to enjoy a cocktail. Also, see below for his top ten Chicago hot spots.

How did get started with bartending and mixology?
In college I started doing bartending part-time, and I’ve kind of just been doing it ever since. And then about a year and a half ago—this was in San Diego, I grew up in Southern California—I decided that a move to Chicago might put me in a good market. I just kind of hooked up with a big group of people and restaurant groups. 
 
What’s your favorite part of the job?
My favorite part of the job is finding satisfaction on people’s faces, if it’s from a cocktail or just from their experience in my restaurant or bar. When I go to a restaurant or bar, the food might not be that great, the ambiance fantastic, but then, the service is kind of paramount. Just seeing the gratitude on some people’s faces, or someone coming in and asking specifically for me, or something that we’ve made them in the past. I think the other part of it is, when I first started bartending, you make a ton of vodka tonics, and you get taught a ton of drinks that are just really—you don’t really put a lot of appreciation into the cocktails, or know how they’re made or how they’re distilled, things of that nature. You get to a level where you really want to know what it is that you’re doing, and how things are produced, and how to make a quality product. And I think the longer you do this, you probably gain an appreciation for the things you’re actually doing. I think that it’s about using quality products, but also at the same time, providing a service to somebody.
 
How do you go about naming the drinks that you make?
For a lot of people, it seems like the most difficult thing, and the majority of people will tell you that it has to be clever. It’s funny because each one I use, you’re always working off of something clever. Today, for example, someone on their Facebook page said something about gin, and I actually took what they said, and just put it in my iPhone. So instead of writing things out on my notepad, I put it in my notepad on my iPhone, and I have a list of like 60 cocktails names. If I see something funny on a billboard, and it seems like a name that could be used for a cocktail, I’ll use it. I also try to reference things from my past that I think are relevant.
 
What was your inspiration for the drink you created for Stoli®?
It’s summertime, and I try to use simple ingredients, fresh produce. I like to go to a chef because they tend to know flavors better than anybody. I’ve been working with the chef since I first got here, and he used a lot of farm-to-table for his cooking, so I figured why not use that in the cocktail. So I used fresh blueberries with Stoli Blueberi®, which seemed kind of natural. So as far as the cocktail goes, what I did was I took fresh blueberries, and then I made house syrup, and made a tea out of rosemary. I incorporated that into the Stoli Blueberi® and used higher end tonic water based out of California. 
 
What is the perfect setting for you to enjoy a cocktail?
I’m a big fan of a dark room, lots of candles, and some music that I’d say fits that kind of ambience. I’m a big fan of rock and roll, but I’m also a big fan of some Latin jazz, some bossa nova, something that makes sense for the atmosphere. And if you’re at a gritty dive bar, then you like gritty, fun good music. If you’re at something sexy and dark and candlelit, then you don’t want crazy dive bar music. 
 
What do you like most about the Chicago nightlife scene?
In California, the bar scene is done at 1:30 or quarter to 2. But in Chicago, they have bars that are open pretty much until 4 or 5 in the morning. There is an opportunity to always get your taste of it no matter what time of night. The other cool aspect of it is the community; I’ve never seen anything like it. I know people that bartend in New York, and it doesn’t have that same camaraderie. I think everybody is closer here. Chicago is a big city, but everyone knows each other in the bar and restaurant industry here. And they take it very seriously, there’s a level of respect, where in other cities, it’s more or less a means to an end. Here it’s a career, and you don’t get looked down upon for being a bartender or a server. In California, I kind of felt like people were like, I’m just doing this to get through college.
 
Are there any nightlife trends that rub you the wrong way?
I think there’s a huge gap between a bartender and a mixologist. There’s a huge gap and there’s also a thin line. There are plenty of people now that are taking classes and they can make drinks at the bar. You might know how to make a drink, but you can’t tend a bar. That’s part of the gig. Mixology is an old-time term, but I think that people that are labeled true mixologists these days might have forgotten about what it is to actually tend a bar.
 
What makes your approach to mixing drinks different from everybody else’s?
I try to use the least amount of ingredients as possible, and I use things that are approachable and identifiable for the general public. And if they can’t, I try to educate people and just know as much as I can about certain products. To really tie it all together, it’s a matter of making a cocktail that’s approachable, that someone can identify with—you know, having something that’s made with bourbon, but not having something that has five or six things with that bourbon. What I try to do is that whatever the base is, I make sure that you can identify that. 
 
Anderson’s Top Ten Chicago Hot Spots
  1. The Whistler
  2. Bar DeVille
  3. Big Star
  4. Rainbo Club
  5. Matchbox
  6. Delilah’s
  7. Bluebird
  8. The Bar on Buena
  9. Bangers & Lace
  10. Rite Liquors

Meet more Midnight Mixologists 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.

Midnight Mixologists: Beate Kiser and her Top Ten NYC Hot Spots

Beate Kiser got into the nightlife game and landed her first bartending gig at an early age. Since her start, she’s risen to the top her field, where, after a four-year stint at her first gig, she landed at one of downtown Manhattan’s trendiest restaurants. She talked with BlackBook about her ideal customer, the best compliment she’s ever received, and her favorite part of the job. Also, see below for her top ten favorite spots to grab a cocktail in New York City.

How did you get into mixology?
It was something that just happened. I started bartending when I was young, and worked in bars for many years that didn’t focus too much on that. When I started working at a well-known bar four years ago, I was suddenly surrounded by people creating and trying out new things, so I just started to play with it and really fell in love with creating drinks.
 
What’s your favorite part of the job?
Seeing the look on people’s faces when they try something new that I created. When someone really likes the taste of something, they make the best facial expressions.
 
How do you name the drinks you create?
I just try to let the name be inspired by the drink itself. It can be a difficult process sometimes, trying to pick just the right name that fits and sounds like something you want to drink.
 
How is your approach to mixology different from everybody else’s?
I like to make cocktails accessible to everyone. I don’t think it’s fun to make people feel alienated because they don’t know all the ingredients in a drink. That’s when people get intimidated and just end up ordering a vodka soda. I have been to many places with friends that get overwhelmed by a drink menu and then order something simple instead of trying something new. I don’t want my customers to feel that.
 
What was your inspiration for the cocktail you created for Stoli®?
Summertime.
 
What’s your idea of the absolute perfect setting in which to enjoy a cocktail?
I love a great outdoor setting, roof, or outdoor café. It’s perfect to sip on something refreshing and delicious outside on a warm summer night.
 
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received as a mixologist?
You are the best bartender in New York!
 
What does it take to be a great mixologist? Is it a God-given gift, or something you can learn?
I think anyone could do it if they just try. We all have taste buds and can learn how to appeal to them.
 
What makes your venue special?
There is no other place like it. When people come in, it’s almost like they are stepping into another world. You could get a little of every experience you want from a bar, restaurant, or lounge here. Have a great cocktail, or sit in a grand dining room for an amazing food experience, and on the weekends you can go upstairs and dance to great music. It really has everything.
 
What nightlife trend rubs you the wrong way?
Making people feel like they’re not "cool" enough to come into the bar or lounge.
 
What’s the secret to running a great bar?
Great customer service. People want to be treated well, and if they are they will return over and over again.
 
Who is your ideal customer?
Someone who likes to try new things and trusts when you tell them you’re going to love this, and if you don’t, I will find something that you do.
 
What do you love most about New York at night?
People who live in New York live for going out at night. We all have really tiny apartments that we don’t want to be cooped up in, we don’t have to drive, and anything you could ever want is either a 10-minute walk or taxi ride away. New York comes alive at night and I love how different of a city this place is from night to day.
 
Kiser’s Top Ten NYC Spots for a Cocktail
  1. Mayahuel
  2. Bar Veloce
  3. Stanton Social
  4. 200 Orchard
  5. Dos Caminos
  6. The Hurricane Club
  7. Bar Baresco
  8. 9th Ward
  9. d.b.a.