This episode we interview Aaron Beaver, General Manager of Rural Society DC. Aaron, a Level II Sommelier, built the Rural Society’s beer, whiskey, wine, and cocktail menu from scratch. He has spent a lifetime in the service industry and has a wealth of experience and knowledge. Alex and Jordan learn about his journey in the beverage world and how he developed his palate. This interview is an excellent insight into the mind of an industry expert.
What’s the first cocktail you remember really enjoying?
Kalimoxo – This is a red wine & coke cocktail had in San Sabastian Spain in the Basque region of north west spain near the French border. I drank Kalimoxos and ate Spanish seafood tapas all day for the 5 days I was there when I was 19 and it still a memory that I love. Drinking is about travelling to a place or feeling in a cup. I like to experience things with a cocktail and share them with other people.
What do you like to make most at home?
Whiskey and a pbr. No really. I play a lot with pisco, tequila, mescal – South American styled cocktails – shocking with the restaurant concept I run now. Latin culture has historically used a lot of fresh flavors which I like when it is hot, but now I try things like a mezcal old fashioned & negronis.
What would you suggest reading or watching to a new home bartender? What skills should they pick up?
I think that the Death and Co. book cocktail guide really helpful way to understand what the best craft cocktail bar does on a daily basis. Liquid Intelligence is another quintessential book. As a guilty pleasure often times look up recipes and techniques based on what I would call the youtube method. I open up one video or recipe and if I don’t really know what an ingredient is I research it. For example, Green Chartreuse. The story of the Carthusian Monks is amazing story and helps build the back bone of a drink and just happens to be an amazing herbal injector of complexity and flavor.
What’s your favorite cocktail?
I am whimsical when it comes to cocktails. I like seasonality, creativity and a cocktail that can tell a story. I love going to the Aviary in Chicago. It is a Grant Ashatz concept and everything is experiential. I like to just sit back and enjoy the show.
What cocktail do you just not understand why people drink it?
I know I might offend you guys but I don’t like the gin and tonic at all. I could live a happy life without that one even being invented.
First thing I got intoxicated drinking? Zima and I am not proud of it although I wish they still made is so it could be a secret ingredient in a cocktail challenge. I think it would be a good one. I wish I would have saved a six pack of it back in the 90’s.
What cocktail trend(s) do you love? What cocktail trend(s) do you hate?
I love seeing Sherry wines in drinks, they often times integrate similar to a sweet vermouth, but can add a dried fruit aspect if you use Pedro Ximinez Sherry. I also just like to ask bartender what they are working on. I saw someone make a tiki drink that had Jaegermeister and I was totally intrigued. The cocktail trend I hate the most is when people make an overly complex drink that is not balanced. There has to be the perfect blend of ingredients, flavors, complexity and finish. It is not likely that the first carnation of a cocktail is going to be the final. Jose Garces has taught me to surround yourself with a few people that you really trust and work through a cocktail with a few opinion and utilize a collective collaboration to create a drink, or a dish, that is perfect.
If you have one (or a few), what would say is your ‘signature drink’?
I like barrel aging cocktails. I made a barrel aged manhattan and it is simple but the oxidation that occurs mellows the cocktail is amazing. Then when I used the same barrel to age a negroni, it pulled some characteristics from the manhattan and I enjoyed the progression of the cocktail. I also make an oranecello that will rival an Italian Grandmother. I am making another batch as we speak.
Can you share with us one of your favorite toasts?
Here is to cheating, stealing, fighting and drinking.
If you cheat, may you cheat death.
If you steal, may you steal a woman’s heart.
If you fight, may you fight for a brohter
and if you drink, may you drink with me.