2013 San Francisco Bay Area Rising Mixologist Matt Conway of Absinthe
398 Hayes St
San Francisco, CA 94110
Born in Brockton, Massachusetts, Matt Conway originally studied communications and education at the University of New Hampshire before spending time in Tokyo and Spain as an teacher. Returning to Boston, Conway subsidized his career by working as a server in restaurants and hotels. He enjoyed the industry and, coming from a family where great drinks were important, found himself drawn to the bar.
The dreams of a California lifestyle led him to San Francisco in 2002, where he first worked as a server at Citizen Cake. When a bartender position opened, he jumped at the opportunity, thus beginning his career as a mixologist. His thirst for knowledge led him to begin playing with flavors as he began to create his own particular style of drinks. He then honed his skills as a part of the bar team at Nopa for four years.
Conway joined the opening team of The Absinthe Group’s Comstock Saloon in 2010. He worked as one of the primary bartenders for co-owners Jeff Hollinger and 2007 Bay Area Rising Star Jonny Raglin until late 2011 before traveling throughout Europe for three months. Conway returned as bar manager of San Francisco’s Absinthe Brasserie & Bar. Wanting to make an impression on the city, Conway signed a lease in 2013 for his own space, Brass Tacks. He and partners Anthony Healy-London and Josh McAdams plan to keep the former bar, Marlena’s, a neighborhood institution with a strong emphasis on cocktails.
Interview with 2013 San Francisco Bay Area Rising Star Mixologist Matt Conway
Katherine Sacks: What made you get into mixology?
Matt Conway: I had worked in the restaurant industry in Boston and San Francisco for a number of years. I always enjoyed working in the restaurant industry and the bar was the part I enjoyed the most. I already lived in San Francisco when the whole cocktail renaissance started to gain steam. When I had the opportunity to get behind the bar it made sense. I grew up in a drinking family, having spirits around was normal. This is a fun time to be a bartender, there is such a wealth of ingredients and what my drinks do is showcase some of these amazing ingredients.
KS: What are the 3 elements of a good cocktail?
MC: Balance, flavor, and appearance.
KS: How would you describe your mixology style?
MC: I would say my style is relatively straightforward, ingredient driven cocktails, relatively simple. I go to other bars with drinks that have five to seven ingredients, but I never do that. Typically my drinks have no more than four ingredients. I like it when you can understand what’s in the drink, what’s in the cocktail, and when the finished product is greater than the sum of its parts.
KS: Who is your mentor in the business?
MC: I would say Jeff Hollinger here at Absinthe and Jonny Raglin. They are two guys I worked with at Comstock and both former bar managers here.
KS: Where will we find you in 5 years?
MC: You will probably find me behind my own bar, I am working on that now. It’s right down the street in Hayes Valley, where Marlana's Drag Bar is. I acquired it recently and we intend to be open at the end of May.