2014 Coastal New England Rising Star Bartender Andrew Volk of The Hunt & Alpine Club

2014 Coastal New England Rising Star Bartender Andrew Volk of The Hunt & Alpine Club
April 2014

Andrew Volk ended up in that other Portland (Oregon), right on the cusp of its cocktail boom. He managed the bar program at farm-to-table forebearer Clarklewis before moving on to Clyde Common to work with Rising Star Bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler. There Volk was recognized by Tanqueray for his gin and tonic variation, and the cocktail program received award nominations from Tales of the Cocktail and the James Beard Foundation.

Volk also developed a bar program for a James Beard-nominated chef in Alabama before landing in the Portland, Maine, intent on building and opening his own craft cocktail bar. If that weren’t enough of an undertaking, Volk works closely with distillers and distributors to expand the selection of spirits in the state-controlled market that is Maine. He’s shaping cocktail culture outside the bar, while also remaining behind the bar at his game-changing Portland Hunt & Alpine Club, manifesting years of honing his skills and mixing superlative drinks.


I Support: Big Brothers Big Sisters

www.bbbs.org

Why: I support Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern Maine because they do a wonderful job of providing mentors to children across the southern part of the state.

About: Big Brother Big Sisters match children from single-parent families with caring, adult mentors.


Interview with Coastal New England Rising Star Bartender Andrew Volk of Portland Hunt & Alpine Club – Portland, ME

Antoinette Bruno: How did you get into bartending?
Andrew Volk:
I went to school here in Maine and didn’t know what I wanted to do afterwards. I hopped in a car and ended up working in Glacier Park in Montana, it was my first industry job, at a hotel in a national park. It was one of those summer jobs and it kept me driving around and paid the bills. I Landed in Portland, Oregon 10 years ago and craft cocktails were just hitting that part of the Northwest. I started working in bars because I was 21 and simply said why not. I was really fortunate to be able to evolve with the Portland scene. The first places I worked were bars. Soon I was working in restaurants that let me experiment. I was making tonic water for a place where I was the manager. I read a lot but didn’t know a lot.

Then there was this big point where I was hired at Clyde Common and working with Jeff [Morgenthaler] where I realized it was something that I could actually do for a living. He was someone leading the way and I was able to secure a position with him and work alongside him for two years at Clyde. That sort of, in my head, turned what was kind of a fun job into something like, oh! this could really be something that is okay to do. I remember telling my parents, if I'm doing this in 10 years, tell me to get the fuck out.

We moved here about two years ago for plenty of reasons and looked around at the scene here and said there is great food and great beer and all the bartenders are in restaurants and there is no focus on bars with the craft cocktail being the focus. 

AB: Who are your mentors?
AV:
Jeff, and Nate Tilden—he owns Clyde common. He’s THE best boss I’ve ever had. What I love about him is he’s not one of those one trick ponies. Clyde Commons was his first place, his second was half restaurant half charcuterie. For him the industry is about a certain experience instead of a certain concept. 

AB:What’s your favorite cocktail to make and drink? 
AV:
My favorite cocktail to make is, honestly, whatever the guest likes. For me, what’s so wonderful about this industry is the hospitality side of things, and one of my favorite moments behind the bar is having a conversation with a guest and putting something in front me them they've never had and have that light go on. That's what I'm really excited about. Putting something in front of someone that they like and didn't know they'd like. 

My favorite drink, a daiquiri, or an old fashioned, a well made classic. It’s a drink that’s about balance. When you get it right and you get one that’s well made, it’s great.

AB: Where do you see yourself in five years?
AV:
Certainly, in five years, I see myself in Maine still or New England, at least. I'm still going to be at the Portland Hunt & Alpine Club in five years. I really love New England and northern New England especially, for so many reasons. I have lots of ideas, another bar or another restaurant or consulting with other places in town…One thing I was fortunate to see in Oregon and something I want to bring here is creating a community of bartenders. You certainly see in New York that the industry supports one another and you see it here, too. But to bring people together and to create a stronger bartending community is what I want. Everyone here is great people. 

AB: What’s the hardest thing you've had to do in your career? 
AV:
It’s got to be opening this bar. It’s not easy. Opening a venture where you know, you have, well....this is my baby. This is something I’ve worked on and talked about for years and worked hard and almost exclusively for a year and a half in a lot of different ways. 

AB: What are you most proud of?
AV:
Opening this bar, once it’s opened [he laughs] I mean we have the staff hired, we have the menu almost complete, and at this point it’s just a lot of logistical stuff—licensing, finishing work, equipment all that stuff. And it’s been a great challenge. I'm proud of it already and I'll be even prouder once we are a real bar.  

 

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