Interview with Chef Jonny Raglin of Absinthe - San Francisco

June, 2007

Will Blunt: What drew you to restaurants and, in particular, to mixology?
Jonny Raglin: I’ve been bartending for 10 years, and I got the opportunity to work with people who made me feel like they wanted to make it a career. I wanted to make cocktails for a living because I worked with people who were inspiring. I’ve only been working as a mixologist for 6 years.

WB: Were you trained in bartending of mixology?
JR: I wasn’t formally trained but I did have a series of apprenticeships which taught me the standards of professional service. I worked with Dan McCracken at Stars. He reveres the classics and showed me how important it is to use really fresh, seasonal ingredients in cocktails.

WB: What inspires you when creating a new drink?
JR: I try to always use three ingredients. Two ingredients are too simple. It’s really important to achieve balance in drinks. The drinker’s perception of sweet and savory should be mixed because the drink is well balanced. I like experimenting with new ingredients like different fruits and syrups. I like to think about my work historically and contextually.

WB: What is your favorite cocktail to drink? To make?
JR: The Sazerac is one of my favorites. It’s a really simple drink – all that’s in it is whiskey, bitters, and sugar, but it has to be well executed to be good. A drink I like to make is the pisco sour.

WB: What is your favorite mixology resource book and who is the author?
JR: The Savoy Cocktail Book by Harry Craddick is a classic book with great pre-prohibition cocktails. The very first issue has lots of great ideas.

WB: What are the most important restaurants where you staged, apprenticed, or externed?
JR: Next time I’m in New York I plan to stage at Milk and Honey with their bartender Matt Scheibel.

WB: What organizations do you belong to?
JR: I’m a member of the San Francisco chapter of the US Bartender’s Guild (USBG). I got awards at the Plymouth Gin competition in August of 2006 and the USBG competition.

WB: Where do you see yourself in five years?
JR: Hopefully owning my own bar, but I really like being here at Absinthe.

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