The origin of the term “behind the stick” to describe a bartender is a tad murky. The general consensus is that bartenders earned the moniker because they pulled wooden tap handles to serve beer. Today, even bartenders who spend more time on craft cocktails than slinging beer identify as working behind the stick. This column is the first of our new monthly series profiling local bartenders. Pull up a barstool and join me as we learn more about our local scene and must-have drinks this month.
I spoke with Blair Redington about his experience in the craft cocktail scene. He has been bartending for almost ten years and is currently the head bartender with Bistro Aix in San Marco. Redington’s tip for potential imbibers is to, “Keep an open mind. There are no stupid questions about anything.” He adds, “Don’t be afraid to ask for something that’s not on the menu.” Obviously if the bar is packed, a bartender might not have the time to go through the ingredients of each drink. If you know that you like a specific base liquor, take a chance on a new cocktail that looks tasty. Do you think the name sounds funny? Try it!
As hotter weather sets in, Redington says that there are a couple of cocktails he recommends that will refresh you from the summer swelter. The Orphan Annie is currently on the menu at Bistro Aix and is as delightful as its namesake. It has Ketel Citron vodka, Canton Ginger Liqueur, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, and is topped with lavender bitters. While I don’t normally gravitate toward vodka cocktails, this one is a winner. It’s sweet and tart, and it reminds me of the lemonade stands I set up in the front yard as a kid. It’s essentially the adult version of running barefoot through the grass to cannonball into the pool.
The Bridge of Lions is another cocktail that will get you ready for summer. It’s not on the Bistro Aix menu, but Redington has kindly provided the recipe for home bartenders to try. The recipe is as follows: 1½ ounces St. Augustine Distillery Vodka, ¾ ounce St. Germain (elderflower liqueur), ¼ ounce Cappelletti (wine-based herbal aperitif), ½ ounce fresh lemon juice, ¼ ounce simple syrup, shaken and topped with Bittermens Tiki Bitters. Cue up Katy Perry’s ‘Roar’ for maximum enjoyment.
Redington says, “My favorite thing about bartending is that it’s different everyday. There’s always a fresh face and new conversation.” Whether you go to Bistro Aix to try the Orphan Annie or try your hand at the Bridge of Lions, remember to enjoy responsibly. There’s Uber and common sense to consider. Be sure to join us next month behind the stick for local legends and cocktail lore.
Bridge of Lions
1½ ounces St. Augustine Vodka
¾ ounce St. Germain (elderflower liqueur)
¼ ounce Cappelletti (wine-based herbal aperitif)
½ ounce fresh lemon juice
¼ ounce simple syrup
Bittermens Tiki Bitters
Shake all ingredients except bitters and strain into a chilled martini glass. Top with a few dashes of Bittermens Tiki Bitters. Imbibe.