Crème De La Cocktail: Four SLC Bartenders Hit Us With Their Best Shots

Beer & Spirits

Hail to thee our faithful bartenders—they know us at our best and (more often than not) our worst, act as far too many people’s over-the-counter therapists and, most importantly, blend spirits, juices, bitters and more into mouth-watering libations that can feel like chemists’ concoctions. Here are four highly skilled bartenders from the city’s hottest cocktail bars on their approach to the art of mixology, their favorite drinks to make with locally distilled booze and more.


Dylan McGinnis

The RUIN
59 S. Main Street, Salt Lake City
ruinslc.com

"I have a tendency for forgetting my own recipes, so I like the challenge of a roulette," says Dylan McGinnis of The RUIN.
Photo: John Taylor

SLUG: What are some of your favorite local spirits to utilize in your drinks?

DM: There are a lot of great local distilleries, but two of my favorites are Waterpocket Distillery and Beehive Distilling. The Jackrabbit gin from Beehive has become a staple at pretty much every bar I’ve worked at, and any amari that comes out of Waterpocket is a must-try. I especially like the Pennellen. *chefs’ kiss*

SLUG: What is your signature cocktail to create using local ingredients?

DM: Shit—I almost always just wing it. I have a tendency for forgetting my own recipes, so I like the challenge of a roulette. With that said, I try to focus on seasonal flavors and ask the customer some basic questions so I can get a feel for what they want. As long as it tastes good and the customer is pleased, so am I. Cheesy, I know, but I like to make money.

SLUG: What is your approach to mixology? How did you refine your techniques?

DM: When I first started bartending, I read a lot of books about techniques, specs, etc., and that definitely helped me get started. But most importantly, I spent too much money creeping around bars, staring at the workers and asking annoying questions. I’m sure everyone hated me, but in hindsight, I’m glad I did it. I’ve learned a lot from my fellow bartenders, and I still continue to do so. Efficiency, practicality and quality are the standards I look for when learning new techniques.

 


Sam Miller and Mikey Edwards

Island Time
@islandtime_slc

Mikey Edwards (left) and Sam Miller (right) rely on and support each other to grow and succeed.
Photo: John Taylor

SLUG: What are some of your favorite local spirits to utilize in your drinks?

Mikey Edwards: Nothing beats the work that Alan [Scott] does over at Waterpocket—a true mad scientist. The Fowlers have some wonderfully delightful expressions using Utah-sourced grains over at Sugar House Distilling. What’s more is that both have been making great rums, a category that lacks variety here in Utah.

SLUG: What is your signature cocktail to create using local ingredients?

ME: The partnership of Temple of the Moon Gin and the subtle creaminess of the orgeat made by Ryan Manning of Bardaddy is my go-to for whipping up the Saturn, a ’70s trop-classic by the mysterious Popo Galsini.

SLUG: What is your approach to mixology? How did you refine your techniques?

ME: I get better by surrounding myself with people who know more than me. As for specific individuals, Sam has helped me grow immensely as a bartender, and out of our friendship we’ve been frequently surprised about how much better our recipes and expressions of tiki classics have become. I gotta mention that the knowledge behind the bar at Water Witch (where you can find me tending occasionally) is on par with the best bars in the country, dare I even say, the galaxy. No one is an island, and we have to rely on and support each other to grow and succeed as a culture.

 

 


Kat Grebe

Back Door
152 E. 200 South, Salt Lake City
backdoorslc.com

"When I first started drinking whiskey and scotch, I felt like they were very aggressive spirits, so I tried to find things that I wanted to actually drink and swapped the main spirit," says Kat Grebe of Back Door.
Photo: John Taylor

SLUG: How long have you been mixing and shaking it up in the local bar scene?

Kat Grebe: Only a year. I’m still very new to this and am always still learning, but I have fallen in love with the people and creativity that the Salt Lake bar scene has to offer. The bartenders here are the true gem of the city.

SLUG: What is your approach to mixology? How did you refine your techniques?

KG: The best way to learn for me is to find something that I love and to change one or two things about it. When I first started drinking whiskey and scotch, I felt like they were very aggressive spirits, so I tried to find things that I wanted to actually drink and swapped the main spirit to something that I’m hesitant toward. That has led to a lot of fun creations!

SLUG: What is a cocktail or cocktail “easter egg” that visitors of Back Door should know about, and why?

KG: Lady Like, made with Holystone’s Cerulea gin, was made in honor of one of the owner’s mother and best friend who both passed away [from] breast cancer. Part of the proceeds for every bottle they sell goes to breast cancer warriors to help them with groceries, utilities and other expenses. (Recipe below)

1.5 oz Holystone Cerulea gin
.5 oz crème de violette
.5 oz lime juice
.5 oz coconut cream
1.0 oz raspberry rose simple syrup
10 drops lavender bitters


Kelley Howell

Seabird
7 S. Rio Grande Street, Salt Lake City
seabirdutah.com

"I find myself reaching for Alpine American Whiskey and Holystone’s Bosuns Navy Strength Gin quite frequently as the base for many cocktails," says Kelley Howell of Seabird.
Photo: John Taylor

SLUG: What are some of your favorite local spirits to utilize in your drinks?

Kelley Howell: I find myself reaching for Alpine American Whiskey and Holystone’s Bosuns Navy Strength Gin quite frequently as the base for many cocktails. I also use a lot of Waterpocket’s Toadstool Notom Amaro when I want to add a stronger, more complex, herby amaro element to my drinks.

SLUG: What is your signature cocktail to create using local ingredients?

KH: A signature of mine is a cocktail I have coined the Fig 75 includes a couple of local components and one of which I find quite stellar. (Recipe below).

SLUG: What is your approach to mixology? How did you refine your techniques?

KH: My approach and experience is really founded upon having a deep understanding of the classics and tried and true practices. After becoming proficient in the classics (or at least the well-known majority), I then began to mess around with other ingredients and liquors to learn how to sub out certain elements and balance my cocktails well. We serve a lot of roulettes at Seabird, so ultimately just a lot of practice and experimentation has helped me grow as a bartender exponentially

.75 oz High West Double Rye
.75 oz Waterpocket Toadstool Notom Amaro
.75 oz fresh lemon juice
.75 oz fig allspice syrup from scratch


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Kevin Templin: The Lupulin Lord of Utah