Food & Wine: Best New Mixologist Ryan Casey
Best New Mixologist Ryan Casey Photo © Andrew Cebulka

Ryan Casey

Best New Mixologist

Where He Won
McCrady’s; Charleston, SC

First Bartending Experience
It was a Mexican restaurant called Salsa in a mall in Orlando, Florida, where last call was at 8 p.m. They had a whole run of frozen flavored margaritas. I had no experience when I got hired there. I was 21. One of my next jobs was at an Italian steakhouse that had 40 or 50 martinis on its list, all flavored vodka–based, sugar rimmed, chocolate garnished. I still have their drink list to remind myself how far we’ve come.

Guilty Pleasure Drink
White Russian. (I had to think about the answer to that for one half of one second.)

What to Make with a Limited Bar
Classics are simple, so I whip together a passable old-fashioned with bourbon, sugar and bitters. You can normally find a bottle of Campari, gin and some sort of amaro to use as vermouth at someone’s house, so you can make classic cocktails like Negronis or Boulevardiers.

Claim to Fame
I am great at delivering a round of shots with no one noticing. And it’s appreciated: It’s a good trick, and it always makes people happy. You show up, you walk away and there’s shots!

Best Joke/Worst Joke
They might be the same joke: “The past, present and the future walk into a bar…It was tense.” It’s funny because it’s a grammar joke, and it’s terrible because it’s a grammar joke.

Favorite Bar
My favorite cocktail bar is Arnaud’s French 75 in New Orleans. It’s been there since the late ’70s and it’s been pretty unchanged by time. Chris Hannah, the gentleman who runs the bar, is considered one of the best guys in the South. It’s an impeccable classic cocktail list.

Best Bartending Tip
Don’t be too proud to have a reference book behind your bar. Some people look down their nose at it, but I double-check a measure in The PDT Cocktail Book once or twice a month. It’s an awesome book by an awesome dude!

Drink Everyone Should Learn How to Make
A Boulevardier, which is a bourbon Negroni, is a personal favorite that not many people know. Most people look at you funny, but it’s a really great classic cocktail.

Best Cocktail Name
Emerald City, which is a bright green, nine-ingredient monster with large ice cubes cut to look like giant green crystals from the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz. It’s made with pisco, fig leaf extract, lime juice, green Chartreuse, crème de menthe, Luxardo Maraschino, lemon bitters and our house-made staghorn bitters. It’s impossibly complex and really neat.

Recipes by Ryan Casey

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