We were lucky enough to snag some time with Elliott, the Apartment Bartender, in between his features over at places like Buzzfeed, Chowhound, The Kitchn, and Express. He’s a home (errr, apartment) cocktail enthusiast with a passion for crafting, styling, and photographing drinks. If you check out his site (or drool over his Instagram feed), you’ll find home bartending How Tos, awesome cocktail recipes, and a little bit of his life and travels here and there.
We asked Elliot about his favorite drinks, must-have tools for the home bartender, and how to craft the perfect signature cocktail for your wedding.
Elliott, you’re the Apartment Bartender. What does that mean? (And how did you get started?)
Apartment Bartender is just a name I used starting out, and it stuck. It stuck because it’s true. I’ve never worked in the industry as a bartender, everything I know is self taught through home bartending. A couple years ago I was stuck in the vodka soda phase, and wanted something different, but I didn’t know what. I randomly took a craft cocktails 101 class with my buddy in NYC, and the rest was history. I developed such a huge passion for making drinks, and it stuck. I like to say the way a chef views food is the way I look at booze.
I believe there’s a right cocktail for every situation.
I eventually started taking photos of my cocktails and blogging about my drink recipes, and home bartending how to’s and it took off. I’ve been creating content for Apartment Bartender full time for the past 6 months, and I love it. It all really started from a passion for a well crafted drink, and what it does for building community and fostering camaraderie amongst people.
What’s your go-to cocktail?
My go-to cocktail is an Old Fashioned. It’s spirit forward, and simple to make. It’s a perfect cocktail year round, and easy to create different variations of it. You can never go wrong with a well crafted old fashioned.
It’s been a long week. Productive, but long. I also think I’m having @roccothepug withdrawals. Missed him too much this week lol Anyways, what kind of shenanigans do y’all have planned this weekend?! . Chai Spiced Old Fashioned 2 oz bourbon | 1/4 oz chai syrup | Dash of chocolate bitters | Stir. Strain. Garnish with an orange twist . PC: @tiffanyegbert
What’s one cocktail that doesn’t get enough respect?
I don’t know that I can pin point one specific cocktail that doesn’t get enough respect.
I believe there’s a right cocktail for every situation. Feeling classy? Drink a manhattan or a martini. At a club and feeling tired? Drink a vodka rebull.
If I can rephrase the question to focus on a particular spirit, I’d say vodka doesn’t get enough respect. It does when it comes to being one of, if not the, most consumed spirit in the world. However, in the cocktail community it’s regarded as a “boring” spirit to mix with because it’s flavorless, colorless, and odorless. I really like vodka though, and it definitely has a place. It’s a versatile spirit, and a lot of brands are creating more high quality vodka that deserves more respect that it receives. In addition, a lot of spirits like scotch and rum and whiskey are being used in unique ways. It’s fun to see the different spirits being used in unique ways nowadays.
What are the five things every self-respecting apartment bartender needs?
I can’t speak for bartender’s in the industry, but I can speak on behalf of home (or apartment) bartenders. I think every self-respecting home bartender needs a good set of bar tools, a decent home bar stocked with a variety of spirits, liqueurs and bitters, a collection of 5-7 cocktail recipes memorized, some cocktail books to expand their knowledge base, and friends to mix for because drinking alone is never as fun.
If someone is looking to gain some confidence behind the bar, what’s a good place to start? In other words, what’s the first cocktail anyone should master?
To anyone looking to gain confidence behind the bar, I advise mastering the classic cocktail recipes like an old fashioned, manhattan, negroni, mai tai, margarita, daiquiri, martini, etc. It’ll lead you down a path of understanding the different between a shaken or stirred cocktail, along with other basic cocktail technique. And classic cocktails are classic for a reason. They’re balanced, and foundational to understanding the why behind the cocktail.
I recently did some work with @thekitchn on how to make the best whiskey sour ya ever did taste (check out their site). My goal has always been to inspire you and to make things as approachable as I can in regards to crafting drinks at home (or Apt.), and there’s no better place to start learning than with the classics. Take a peek at the article and get mixin’
If you learn to make the classics, you’ll be exposing your palate to different flavor profiles like citrus, bitter, sweet, or spirit forward. Classic cocktail recipes also serve as a template for making your own creations once you gain more confidence behind the bar. Or, you can start off doing what I did and just throw booze into a mixing glass and hope it comes out okay!
Signature wedding cocktails are a thing. If a couple wants to craft the perfect cocktail for their wedding, what are the things they need to consider?
This is a really great question, and tough to answer in a short statement. If you’re going to build the perfect cocktail for your wedding then you need to have a basic understanding of how to make a cocktail and understand flavor profiles and what is appropriate for the season. For example: spring time = gin, vodka, vermouth, etc. Fall/Winter = whiskey, brandy, darker spirits. First thing I’d advise a couple to consider is hiring a cocktail consultant or bartender who knows what they’re doing to develop the cocktail. Secondly (and most importantly), to take their guests into considersation as well.
A pair of @jackrudycocktailco elderflower gin ‘n tonics. I’ve been learning how versatile tonic syrups are, and have noticed even some of the best cocktail spots in the valley use @jackrudycocktailco tonic syrups to develop some of the most balanced drinks. It’s always good to start with the classics though and build from there. Enjoy the rest of the weekend y’all! . .75 oz @jackrudycocktailco elderflower tonic 2 oz gin Top with soda water Garnish with an orange twist A post shared by Elliott Clark | Apt. Bartender (@apartment_bartender) on
If you’re making a cocktail for a large group of people then it should be a crowd pleaser (generally speaking). You want people to have a good time, and enjoy what they’re drinking so be sure to request crafting something that fits you, but also your guests. Oh, and make sure it can be batched. You don’t want 100+ people waiting in line for a craft cocktail.
Weddings are for champagne. What’s your favorite champagne cocktail? (I’m a French 75 gal myself.)
Oooh, I like a lot of different champagne cocktails, but there’s one that takes the cake. I got the recipe from one of my favorite bars in Chicago. It’s aperol + sweet vermouth, topped with prosecco, garnished with an orange wedge. It’ll blow your doors off.
You can only buy so many towels off a wedding registry. What are some great cocktail-inspired gifts for the wedding guest?
A $100 – $200 gift card to a liquor store like Total Wine or BevMo is a great idea. Depending on where you live, $100-$200 is enough to make a good dent in building a decent home bar (which I believe everyone should have). Alternatively, there are a lot of amazing bar tool sets you can purchase. I have a copper bar set in my apartment, and people are always commenting on how classy it looks.
One last question: If you weren’t crafting cocktails, what would you be doing?