2014 Kentucky-Tennessee Rising Star Mixologist Doug Monroe of Patterson House
1711 Division Street
Nashville, TN 37203
As head bartender at Strategic Hospitality’s Patterson House, Doug Monroe’s flair for crafting the perfect classic cocktail is incomparable. Napa Valley-born and Tennessee- and North Carolina-raised, Doug Monroe’s career in the hospitality business is broad and all-encompassing. He’s worked in a variety of establishments from Nashville’s 360 Bistro to The Wine Loft, where he assisted with building and running both bars’ impressive wine programs.
Fish & Co. marked Monroe’s first foray in creating a sophisticated cocktail program, but it wasn’t until he arrived at Patterson House, Nashville’s speakeasy-style cocktail lounge, that he found his footing amongst the Music City’s cocktail elite. Trained under Alchemy Consulting’s Toby Maloney, Monroe specializes in the classics, meticulously crafting each cocktail with precise amounts of spirits and house-made syrups, juices, and bitters, while also creating original cocktails for the seasonally changing menu.
Drawing inspiration from a multitude of cocktail books including David Wondrich’s Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Punch Bowl, Monroe successfully delivers cocktails that are not only inspired and balanced, but ones that tell a story and ignite conversation.
Interview with Kentucky-Tennessee Rising Star Mixologist Doug Monroe of Patterson House – Nashville, TN
Caroline Hatchett: How did you get your start in the industry?
Doug Monroe: Restaurants, when I was younger, it seemed like the easiest thing to do to make money. I’ve been working in restaurants since I was 15. Monday I turn 33. I first started getting into bartending via wine. Mostly, it started at P.F. Chang’s, where I worked for three years in Knoxville. I learned a lot in corporate restaurants and structure. That was really my introduction to wine. When I moved to Nashville, I worked at a little restaurants, 360 Bistro. I learned most of my wine knowledge there, and my introductions to bartending. I did every job, from working in the kitchen to managing, serving, and bartending. At 360, I worked for James Hensley, who’s a mentor for me. He was into classic cocktails back then. From there, I served and bartended in every restaurant and split my time with wine. At the Wine Loft, I helped to create wine program and also a fledgling cocktail program. I left there to go to Fish & Co.; there I started a cocktail program and ran it. I spent less than a year there and moved to Patterson House, where I’ve spent the last three years honing my craft.
CH: Where do you get inspiration for new drinks?
DM: Inspiration comes from everywhere. It could be anything: food, a dish I ate, a book I read, or a childhood memory. When it lands on a memory, it’s one of the best things you can have in a cocktail. The Lazy Maisie is a perfect example. You related it to Cinnamon Toast Crunch; someone else tasted cinnamon toast in the oven. It could also be another drink I have at a bar. From there, I create the flavor profile I’m going for, a memory, or just something fun. For me, bartending is fun. It’s a place where people relax and create memories.
CH: What ingredient or spirit do you feel is underappreciated or underutilized?
DM: When most people think of tequila they think shots or margaritas. There’s so much more, so much history, and it’s so fun to work with. One of my favorite things about bartending is showing people how to drink spirits again. Maybe they got drunk on tequila when younger and never want to touch it again. You can change their minds through a great cocktail. Lots of people don’t know amaros and bitters. I like to take something that someone says you can never do anything with and use in a cocktail. Like my obsession with Zwack. Let me take this spirit and show you how beautiful it is.
CH: How has cocktail culture changed in Nashville?
DM: It’s changed dramatically and continues to change. I moved here eight years ago, and there were no cocktail bars. Nashville is a shot and beer town, and I love shot and beer. But being here three years, and Patterson House being opened five years, I have watched Patterson House make a huge impact on this town. You can see the influence all over. Changes as simple as bar and restaurants using fresh juices and fresh ingredients. I don’t expect every place to be Holland House or Patterson House. I love to sit down at a restaurant to see what bartenders are working with and doing something different from the norm and really caring about what they do. Nashville has come up in the food scene. It’s incredible what’s happened with food here. The beverage programs are lagging behind a little, but more chefs getting involved. You and I know chefs love to drink. It’s great to see them caring about it. The scene is really on the verge. People are making bitters, use fresh ingredients, restaurants are opening with cocktail programs—it’s not just wine and beer.
CH: How do you want to grow as a bartender?
DM: Continuing to learn. One of the most amazing things to me about Patterson House is how much I’ve learned. Not only from mentors and fellow bartenders, but also on my own with spirits. I’ve been in charge of bitters at Patterson House for a year now. People are impatient. People don’t want to slow down. Bitters are the perfect example. Take ingredients—fresh herb, citrus, quinine—and put them into a high proof spirit and watching what happens. I’m also going back to things I thought I knew and relearning
I really want to try to bring the bartending and restaurant community together in Nashville. I want to be a part of that. I want to be involved in a community of people who want to push the envelope and really make things happen. I want to bring the everyday person, who doesn’t know about what we’re doing and the passion we have—sharing with them what we enjoy.
CH: What’s something you thought you knew how to do that you’re currently working to improve?
DM: I thought I knew how to bartend—the way that I carry myself as I bartend and talk to people. It’s not that I didn’t know, but you have to own that. You learn. You see someone else. So many people think they can’t learn something from people who are younger than them. You can take something from each person behind the bar. The way that I talk to people and teach people has changes. The way I move and create cocktails in general. When I first got behind the bar at 360 and then here at Patterson House, I wanted to create something original and show how much I know. Now I know everything is a riff on something else. Everything is created with inspiration from another dish or cocktail. You get to a point when you create a cocktail or even a dish, if it has seven ingredients, you take one away and make it less complicated for everyone. I would say that I have a simpler approach to everything I do.
CH: What cocktail(s) are you most proud of?
DM: It’s humbling to have anyone love something that you do when it comes to food and drinks. The fact that anyone would stand outside the curtain at Patterson House to drink a cocktail is amazing to me. It’s one of the reasons I first got into it. When I cooked for family and friends, and they would smile and laugh. That makes me happy.
There are two cocktails I’m most proud of. The first is Hungarian Like the Wolf. It’s a Zwack cocktail and my first cocktail that got on the menu at Patterson House. It’s based on Zwack, tequila, and Pimm’s. The reason I created it was that James Hensley found bottle of Zwack and realized it hadn’t been used in so long. He made a cocktail Zwack, but I decided that I wanted to use it as major ingredient. I put the cocktail on Kindred Cocktails and people found it online.
The second cocktail is The Golden Suit because it has brought so much attention to me and the Nelson brothers. It’s amazing to me, what one little cocktail can do. I don’t know if you know Carrington Fox. She’s a food writer and blogger in Nashville. She’s part of the Nelson family. When she read about The Golden Suit, she came into the bar and cried. It’s such a sad story, but look what at what a family can do. Look at a silly little cocktail. In day to day life, it can reach someone’s heart. To make someone be happy and cry humbles me.