Rising Star Mixologist John Gertsen of Drink - Biography
An after-school job as a “dishwasher/busboy/prep cook/slave” at the age of fifteen exposed John Gertsen to the addictive buzz of restaurant life. While at college, he studied biology and chemistry by day but served as a wine steward at an exclusive underground wine society and held various front-of-house positions at area restaurants during evenings and summers. As a wine steward, Gertsen was, for the first time, exposed to the pomp and circumstance that fine wines (and oenephiles) could demand, and was inspired. For someone who had grown up with dinner coming out of jars and frozen boxes, being exposed to cuisine and fine dining was absolutely enlightening. A post-graduate year in Africa allowed Gertsen to debate a future in the bio-tech field versus where his heart was – and the heart won.
Returning to the States, Gertsen assumed roles at restaurants in Boston, settling at Salamander under Chef Stan Frankenthaler. During his five year stint, Gertsen served as maitre d’, bartender, and front of house coordinator. Frankenthaler served as his first mentor, and Gertsen valued this chef for his creativity and skill. He was able to explore his love for the industry during his time at Salamander and learn to trust his instincts.
In 2002, Gertsen joined the staff at No. 9 Park as a principle bartender. Here he found a setting to develop professionally and a second mentor in Chef Barbara Lynch. Working with Bar Manager Ryan McGrale, he created a bar program which gained both national recognition and a loyal local following. Inspired by the era of the great cocktail, both McGrale and Gertsen derived endless inspiration from the gay ‘90s, that is, the 1890s – a time when bartenders were showmen and the classic cocktails were invented. Fabulous ingredients, seasonal inspiration, and a tribute to the cocktails of the past kept drawing crowds, and the gregarious nature of Gertsen and McGrale, the timeless ambiance of the bar and café, and the excellent cuisine of No.9 kept them there. It was at this post that Gertsen was awarded with a 2006 StarChefs.com Rising Stars Award.
Gertsen then teamed up again with Chef Barbara Lynch to open Drink in 2008, where he continues to craft inventive cocktails, based on the history of the drink.