Mixologist Jonny Raglin
Absinthe | San Francisco
In early 2001, Raglin moved to San Francisco and got the bartending break of a lifetime at Stars Bar and Dining, the longest bar in the city with one of the most eclectic and well stocked bottle collections. There Raglin met influential mentor Dan McCracken who taught Raglin how to make proper cocktails with fresh juices and seasonal ingredients, and vastly increased his spirits and classic cocktail knowledge. When Stars Bar closed, Raglin took a part-time job at Incanto where Chef Chris Cosentino proved to be a valuable mentor, among other things helping him score local ingredients from the farmers markets. In 2004, Raglin found work at Absinthe, where he has been developing culinary-like cocktails inspired by the classics under Rob Schwartz and Jeff Hollinger.
Oklahoma native Jonny Raglin began his career by taking a job at local Cajun restaurant Pearls Oyster Bar when his two best friends agreed to show him the bartending ropes. When he graduated from college in 1999, Raglin decided to move to Europe and wound up on the west coast of Ireland in Galway. He started off lugging heavy kegs of Guinness around Irish pubs and ended up working in a bookstore. Raglin moved to Santa Rosa, California, and bartended in Bodega Bay at a small bar stocked with high-end cognacs, single malts, grappas and the like. There, under the careful guidance of mentor Luigi Lezzi, Raglin learned the proper art of espresso drinks and his curiosity for the bottles behind the bar was piqued.
WB: Were you trained in bartending of mixology?
JR: I wasn’t formally trained but I did have a series of apprenticeships which taught me the standards of professional service. I worked with Dan McCracken at Stars. He reveres the classics and showed me how important it is to use really fresh, seasonal ingredients in cocktails.
WB: What inspires you when creating a new drink?
JR: I try to always use three ingredients. Two ingredients are too simple. It’s really important to achieve balance in drinks. The drinker’s perception of sweet and savory should be mixed because the drink is well balanced. I like experimenting with new ingredients like different fruits and syrups. I like to think about my work historically and contextually.
WB: What is your favorite cocktail to drink? To make?
JR: The Sazerac is one of my favorites. It’s a really simple drink – all that’s in it is whiskey, bitters, and sugar, but it has to be well executed to be good. A drink I like to make is the pisco sour.
WB: What is your favorite mixology resource book and who is the author?
JR: The Savoy Cocktail Book by Harry Craddick is a classic book with great pre-prohibition cocktails. The very first issue has lots of great ideas.
WB: What are the most important restaurants where you staged, apprenticed, or externed?
JR: Next time I’m in New York I plan to stage at Milk and Honey with their bartender Matt Scheibel.
WB: What organizations do you belong to?
JR: I’m a member of the San Francisco chapter of the US Bartender’s Guild (USBG). I got awards at the Plymouth Gin competition in August of 2006 and the USBG competition.
WB: Where do you see yourself in five years?
JR: Hopefully owning my own bar, but I really like being here at Absinthe.
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