What I Drink is a series featuring legendary bartenders to learn about how they got started, what they love to drink and discover their go-to cocktail recipes.
Tad Carducci has been in the bar business his entire life. With partner Paul Tanguay, he’s behind The Tippler in New York’s Chelsea Market and operates the cocktail consultancy Tippling Bros. He and Tanguay also published a book last year called A Lime and a Shaker: Discovering Mexican-Inspired Cocktails, so he can give you some insight into how to celebrate the drinking holiday known as Cinco de Mayo. Here, he talks about his background, favorite cocktails and how to take your margaritas to the next level.
When did you know you wanted to work behind the bar?
I knew I wanted to work behind a bar from my early teens. My grandfather taught me how to cook (and how to drink [cheap] wine) when I was 12 or so. He was a consummate host and purveyor of genuine hospitality. He made people happy by feeding and entertaining them. I caught the bug and never looked back.
What's the inspiration behind the menu at The Tippler?
The Tippler is a drinking room for every man, so the menu offers a little something for all tastes. It's all about blending high quality with fun and a little cheekiness.
Which cocktail that you've developed in your career is your favorite, and why?
Man, oh, man. That's a tough one. There have been a few. Right now, today, as I write this, my favorite is the Crippler. It was created essentially as a homage to an old watering hole in Aspen, Colorado, where people would regularly get heavily sauced. It's bonded rye whiskey, overproof rhum agricole, high-proof mezcal, an Austrian spice liqueur called Jagertee, with a dash of Yellow Chartreuse and Bitter End Memphis BBQ bitters. It certainly lives up to its name, yet it is deceptively smooth and delicious. We put it on the menu as a lark and never thought anyone would really order it. But we were wrong. Very wrong.
What's your favorite classic cocktail, and why?
Boring: The Manhattan. When it’s made right, it's just a perfect drink. Simple and decadent.
What's a super-easy recipe that someone can re-create at home?
To me, the Margarita is the quintessential “bag of tricks” home cocktail. Three ingredients that together make a racy, complex cocktail that is beguiling and refreshing and befit for year-round tippling. 2 parts strong, 1 part sweet, 1 part sour. It all comes down to the ingredients. You've got to have a well-made, 100 percent blue agave tequila, preferably blanco. Then either your favorite orange curaçao or simple syrup and very fresh lime juice. It also becomes a terrific palette for creativity. Switch it up with a chile-infused syrup or add some cumin to the coarse salt to rim the glass.
- 2 ounces blanco tequila
- 1 ounce V9 Super Juice (see below)
- 1 ounce fresh lime juice
- 3/4 ounce agave nectar
Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake. Strain over fresh ice in an old-fashioned glass. Garnish with the sprig of cilantro.
V9 Super Juice
- 1/2 quart fresh pineapple juice
- 1 cup tightly packed finely chopped kale
- 1/2 cup tightly packed fresh cilantro with stems
- 1/4 cup peeled and chopped fresh ginger
Add all the ingredients to a blender. Blend for 30 to 45 seconds. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer.