“Don’t be a nitwit, get with the likwit” - Tha Alkaholiks
Where were you born and where do you currently reside?
I grew up skateboarding around Arlington, MA, which is just outside of Boston. These days I’m nursing my hangovers in Somerville, and still occasionally find time to roll my ankles at the park up the street from my apartment.
What bar do you work at and what bar’s electric bill do you pay?
I work at The Automatic, a super cool neighborhood bar and restaurant in Cambridge. Late night there is always fun, especially when I’m making cocktails for old-school barflies who have been drinking classics for decades, and pouring beers and shots for industry homies looking to hit last call. If I didn’t work there, it would still be my favorite bar to hang out at.
If I get out early enough, I like to visit my friends and neighbors at State Park in Cambridge, and Spoke Wine Bar in Somerville (which is close to my other job). I also regularly find myself drinking cocktails at Backbar in Somerville, and at A4cade in Cambridge (which is a barcade, so I bet their electric bill is pretty high with all those games and bright lights). I try to do my part.
How’d you find yourself tending bar?
When I was 21, I was working upstairs from a bar that specialized in classics. I fell in love with the atmosphere there, and would spend as much time as I could chatting with the bartenders. That’s where I had my first real cocktail.
I started working (and still do) at a cocktail supply store called The Boston Shaker, which is where I learned how to properly mix a drink. A few years later, I saw an article about a new bar called The Automatic opening, and the picture featured a Manhattan, a turntable with skateboarding stickers on it, and a stack of old punk records.
Turns out the founder of The Boston Shaker was a regular of the owner of The Automatic’s back at The B-Side Lounge, which was arguably responsible for the cocktail revival in Boston. I decided that if I was going to give bartending a shot, this was the bar that I should aim for, and I was hired to barback. I got to barback for and learn from an all-star team, and eventually worked my way up to bartending. I’m very fortunate to bartend in the impressive and tight-knit community that is the Boston bar scene.
Pick three classics that you’d sip, mind erase, dump.
Forever sipping Manhattans, slamming Daiquiris, and skipping Sidecars.
What cocktail is currently trending in your region?
This isn't a specific cocktail, but coffee as an ingredient is definitely trending right now. I’ve been seeing coffee infusions all over the place, and coffee and coffee liqueurs being used just as often. I’m down with people trying to perfect their Espresso Martini recipe, and I’ll definitely drink a Revolver any time I see it on a cocktail list. Keep ‘em coming!
I didn’t choose the pin game, the pin game chose me… How did you get into the pin world?
I put one on my shirt and it just... stuck.
I’ve always had a little collection of pins and buttons for my hats and jackets. When I started bartending, I had to get some new shirts, so I bought a bunch of cheap button-downs. They were all just solid colors and really plain, so I started putting pins on the pockets to make them less boring. The Mover & Shaker Co. and Love & Victory sets released right around then, so it was great timing. The #pinception thing was the result of an idea on a whim and a day off making cocktails at home. After the first handful of Instagram posts, people told me to keep it going. I ran out of cocktail related pins and started seeing what else I could post. Turns out that it’s a lot, because it’s been over a year since the first one and I have a ton of pins I’m still looking to recreate in the series.
Best 4 Loko flavor?
I’ve actually never had Four Loko! I feel like during that era when people were freaking out about them I was still just drinking 40s. I’ve never really been into flavored drinks like that, and since they were reformulated, I don’t see the point in trying. I’ll totally drink one of the original caffeinated cans if I ever come across one though.
Topo or La Croix?
Polar Seltzer! I love Topo but it’s fairly hard to find in the Boston area. I still don’t really know how to pronounce La Croix so I just avoid it
Baja Blast or Code Red?
Never been a huge soda drinker but I remember liking Code Red as a kid. Here’s a fun fact: the first time I ever ate Taco Bell was in 2018. Can’t confidently say I’ve ever even tasted Baja Blast.
Pineapple on pizza?
Hell yeah. Put anything on a pizza and I’ll eat it.
Who is your favorite (dead or alive) member of Wu-Tang Clan and why?
Ghostface for his discography and versatility, but RZA for his vision and especially his production on the first wave of albums. Ironman is easily one of my top three favorite Wu-Tang albums. I could go on forever about this but I think this interview is about pins. Sit at my bar and we can talk Wu-Tang for ten hours.
Most inspirational bar experience?
I would say the most inspirational experiences for me have been sitting at the bars of bartenders I admire and look up to. There’s something to be said for not only getting a great cocktail, but also being made to feel comfortable and welcome. It can be both exciting and intimidating to sit at the bar of someone well known, or whose book you’ve read, or whose cocktails you’ve replicated, etc. I’ve met a lot of people whose knowledge of cocktails inspired me to first get into making cocktails, but then their hospitality took it to the next level. Those are the experiences that really represent what bartending is about to me, and what I strive to bring to my guests as well.
If you could skateboard with anyone, past, present, future, who would it be?
The best part of skateboarding for me is getting together with the homies. I’d love to just have a good session with the Arlington crew I grew up skating with. Or the team from the Baker 3 era. Unless you’re looking for a cocktail nerd answer in which case I’d say Jerry Thomas. I bet I could beat him in a game of S.K.A.T.E.
Top 5 Hip-Hop Albums in no particular order.
Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde
Mista Thug Isolation
6 Feet Deep
Out of all of your “pinception” posts which one did you have the most fun procuring and which one got the most buzz with your followers?
The tiki ones are always fun because there’s a lot involved to make sure the pins are recreated accurately. I really loved the Old Fashioned one though, since it was a four-in-one scrolling post using multiple pins before the end result. Also the Leaning Tower of Cheeza one from A Goofy Movie, because now I know what it feels like to hold half a can’s worth of squeeze cheese in my hand.
I think the Banana Dolphin and the Shark Eye posts have been the favorites in terms of engagement. They were also later on in the series, so people were a little more aware of #pinception at that point.
What do you see trending in the bar community in 2019?
I’m curious to see the introduction of CBD into the cocktail world, and if/how it will pan out in the bar world. I haven’t really seen cocktails with CBD ingredients on menus here yet, but have been seeing things like CBD bitters come to light. I bet that will start to pop up a little more often this year.
What are your top three Instagram pages to follow for 2019?I do everything on my personal account, so I mostly follow my friends, favorite skaters, and local bars. Is it cool to plug my jobs? I’m doing it anyways. Plus, the pages are fun:
The bar: The Automatic
The shop: The Boston Shaker
Great for a laugh: Yesterday's Limes