Chad Arnholt & Claire Sprouse
Best New Mixologist
Where They Won
Tin Roof Drink Community; San Francisco, CA
What was your first real bartending job?
Claire: I was a regular at a chef Monica Pope’s restaurant and cocktail bar (one of the firsts) in Houston and fell in love with an Aviation cocktail. I begged the bar manager to let me barback and eventually worked my way up to bar manager.
Chad: The Bubble Lounge in San Francisco. I worked my way up from bussing tables. There were a lot of great old-school bartenders there, so I learned a lot about the basic stuff that sometimes gets lost in today’s scene. The whole thing didn’t last very long though—it was also my first experience in getting fired!
Besides your own, what is your favorite bar in the world and why?
Claire: We love agave spirits and are very active with the Tequila Interchange Project—a nonprofit that supports sustainable practices in that industry. This finds us in Mexico from time to time. Pare de Sufrir in Guadalajara is what I hope heaven is like—beautiful mezcal, kids dancing to ’60s garage rock and a disco ball swinging from the ceiling until well into the night.
Give us one bartending tip that everyone should know.
Claire: I like to say when you're starting out to try to sit in front of as many bartenders in as many different bars as possible. Soak up as much as possible—not just the whiskey—but everything from cleanliness to hospitality to spirit choices. Watch, learn, and use that as a context when you form your own style and ethos.
What's your favorite guilty pleasure drink?
Claire: A quart-sized deli cup full of crushed ice and sherry.
Chad: NASCAR Spritz. [A blend of light beer, Aperol and a lime twist.] Especially if I am hanging out with my old pals from Citizen in Boston.
What are some things every home bartender should know?
1. Stock your bar like you are packing for a trip. You can't buy everything, so get some liquors that match and can be used more than once. Maraschino and curaçao are like your fancy jeans that can be worn on different occasions.
2. Get some good tools—not the fancy, goofy-looking stuff sold in department stores, but the stuff we use at bars: shakers, jiggers, ice molds, recipe books. The folks at places like Cocktail Kingdom or Boston Shaker can get you all set up.
3. Get good booze. This is tougher than it looks, as often we succumb to billboards and not flavor. Check out what your favorite bar is pouring and try that, even/especially if you have never heard of it.