Scott Beattie’s cocktail recipes more closely resemble the workings of a well-seasoned chef than those of a swanky restaurant bartender. But then again, he did help elevate the term “bar chef” during his tenure as bar manager at Cyrus Restaurant, where his fanciful concoctions paid homage to seasonally available ingredients, and careful attention to technique and tradition. Many of Beattie’s creations call for obscure herbs and other mystical ingredients that he either grows himself or convinces local growers to plant for him. Homemade bitters, simple syrups infused with essential oils, and rich foams are just some of the components that make this mixologist’s imaginative cocktails memorable and delicious.
No longer at Cyrus, Beattie is currently consulting and promoting his new book Artisanal Cocktails: Drinks Inspired by the Seasons from the Bar at Cyrus, which offers detailed recipes for many of the drinks he once served at the Healdsburg, CA, restaurant, including a Westside Bellini that calls for a dehydrated peach chip garnish and a Celery Mary that requires pickled celery root threads.
A San Francisco-native, Beattie graduated with an English degree from the University of California at Berkeley before finding his place behind the bar. He helped open Pat Kuleto’s Martini House in Napa Valley before arriving at Cyrus, where he compiled a 45-page cocktail and spirits menu for the restaurant’s bar customers.
Interview with Mixologist Scott Beattie Antoinette Bruno:
What drew you to restaurants and, in particular, to mixology? Did you attend culinary school?
SB: Initially I was drawn to the action of the bar scene. I was young and single living in San Francisco, and it was a fun job to have. There was a group of young mixologists who were interested in going a step further with their cocktails, and the logical step was to head into the kitchen. I also wanted to take the next step.
AB: Where you trained in bartending or mixology? Did you attend culinary school?
SB: No, I just started to work in bars and kitchens.
AB: What are the most notable restaurants you’ve worked at?
SB: Martini House in St. Helena, CA; Azie and Postrio in San Francisco; and Cyrus in Healdsburg, CA, were the most notable.
AB: Who are your mentors? What are the most important things you’ve learned from them?
SB: I don’t really have any one mentor. I have influences from all kinds of people, such as Mark Dionysos, formerly of Absinthe and now of Clock Bar.
AB: What goes into creating a new cocktail?
SB: Being your own worst critic is definitely one part of creating a new cocktail. Also you can’t skimp on anything—you have to use all good ingredients.
AB: What is your favorite cocktail to drink? To make?
SB: To drink—the one someone else is buying for me. Actually my favorite cocktail to drink is The Last Word. My favorite cocktail to make is the Plum Dandy. I get the plums from my neighbor, the peppermint from my father and the jasmine blossoms from down the street. I always try to use things that grow around me.
AB: What ingredient or spirit do you feel is underappreciated or underutilized?
SB: I think green chartreuse is an amazing ingredient that’s underutilized. It was originally used a lot in classic cocktails, and it’s just now starting to come back. I use it in my Thai Monkey cocktail, among others.
AB: If you weren’t a mixologist what would you be doing?
SB: I’d be in diplomatic relations in some far corner of the Earth.
AB: Which person in history would you most like to have drinks with?
SB: Probably Thomas Jefferson—he is my favorite President. I would drink Madeira with him.
AB: What are some current trends you’ve seen in the cocktail market? How have trends changed?
SB: I’m definitely seeing more attention to quality—measuring everything and trying to put a face behind all of the ingredients used, whether they are liquor or produce. Another trend is using small, handcrafted ingredients and fresh produce in cocktails.
AB: What’s next for you? Where will we find you in five years?
SB: My next venture is cocktail catering—I make drinks for private events that are already being catered for food. There is a serious void in the market for cocktail catering. I’m also teaching drink-making classes.