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Boston Bartenders Reveal Their Cocktail Mentors

For Cocktail Week 2014, area bartenders praise the mentors that have helped guide their careers.

Patrick Gaggiano"Beau Sturm and Josh Childs. They taught me that what’s more important than what you’re putting into your drink is taking care of the person you’re serving. It’s about them, not you. And to never take yourself too seriously." —Patrick Gaggiano, bar manager at Viale

Brittany Casos"No mentor, per se, but some knowledgeable cocktail friends...Clinton Terry and Jared Johnson (both in Nantucket). And of course, the flavors and creativity in our kitchen every day that inspires our cocktail menu." —Brittany Casos, beverage director at Coppa

Brooke Vandecar"We (Rosa Mexicano) worked with Alex Day and Devon Tarby from Proprietors LLC for a few years, and it was a great learning opportunity for me." —Brooke Vandecar, beverage director at Rosa Mexicano

Greg Neises"Lazaro Gallardo, In 1858 tavern owner and tequila producer, invented a unique tequila-making process called Selección Suave, or Smooth Selection. This unique process blended newly rested tequilas with the smoothest, aged tequila reserves, creating the highest quality and best-tasting tequila available." —Greg Neises, bartender at Tico

Patrick Sullivan"Evan Harrison, local legend, Texan, hospitalitarian, and the inventor of the Paloma Cocktail." —Patrick Sullivan, executive director of bar operations for the Legal Sea Foods brands

Rob HaberekTry to learn as much as you can and pass on what you can."Every bartender I've ever worked with. Try to learn as much as you can and pass on what you can." —Rob Haberek, bartender at Forum

Katie Mae Dell Isola"It would have to be Casey Riddles (Lucca Back Bay & North End). He makes the BEST Old Fashioned around." —Katie Mae Dell Isola, bar manager at Haru

Dan Greenough"Never had one. Read a lot of books. And frequented a lot of establishments." —Dan Greenough, food & beverage manager of all Burtons Grill locations

Kevin Murphy"Old books, old stories, old recipes, old people (they know how to drink.)" —Kevin Murphy, operations manager of Deuxave

Vikram Hegde"It’s hard to choose a mentor, since I really believe that any good bartender learns whatever they can from everyone they work with, whether it’s new techniques or seeing what not to do. I think everyone I worked with at Island Creek Oyster Bar had a huge impact on how I am as a bartender today." —Vikram Hegde, bartender at Sarma

Moira Toomey"Tommy Dowd." —Moira Toomey, bartender at Gather

Kaitlena Cash"I've got two cocktail mentors. Jason Lomberg and Moira Toomey. Both taught me how to mix a mean drink and be snarky as often as possible." —Kaitlena Cash, bartender at Anthem Kitchen + Bar

Sal Gesamondo"Stephen Desousa [Tavern in the Square director of operations] and Shawn Ahern [Tavern in the Square general manager]. They both have influenced in me in different ways behind a bar. Stephen for his professionalism and showmanship but being able to adapt to each and every drinker. Shawn for his guest service and his own ‘flair’ that he puts into each drink. Both of them have had a tremendous influence on my career as well as my personal life." —Sal Gesamondo, operations manager of Tavern in the Square

Lauren Hayes"I owe Joseph Choiniere, the former head bartender at Ten Tables, a big shout-out here. I showed up at the restaurant with a liquor obsession and a lot of eagerness, and he showed me the ropes and patiently answered the hundred questions a day I threw his way." —Lauren Hayes, head bartender at Ten Tables in Jamaica Plain

Molly Woodhouse"John Gertsen, of the Barbara Lynch Gruppo. I feel fortunate to have worked within the Gruppo during his time in Boston — his passion for cocktails and hospitality is inspiring." —Molly Woodhouse, general manager and beverage director of Vida Cantina in Portsmouth (and an alum of The Butcher Shop and Menton)

Ian NalThere’s elegance in simplicity. Cocktails have too many ingredients these days."Dale DeGroff — classic cocktails. There’s elegance in simplicity. Cocktails have too many ingredients these days. Tony Abou-Ganim for big personality." —Ian Nal, general manager and beverage director of Fish Restaurant & Wine Bar in Marlborough

Augusto Lino"A lot of people! I wouldn't have gotten past those Malibu-Pineapples if it weren't for people like Flavien Desoblin, Ethan Kelley, and Joel Cuellar at the Brandy Library in New York. In Boston, I have to thank Misty Kalkofen, Cousin Dave (Cagle), and many others of the B-side gang for an early education as well." —Augusto Lino, bartender at Hungry Mother

Brian Mantz"Far too many people to name. Boston is full of so many incredibly talented people that I've been lucky enough to work with, drink with, and learn from." —Brian Mantz, bar manager at Wink & Nod

Colin Kiley"Misty Kalkofen. I have always admired her approach to the profession and her presence behind a bar. Cocktail-wise, I've found through testing many versions of classics, I still favor most of her interpretations that we served at Green Street." —Colin Kiley, bartender at Puritan & Company

Libby Spencer"Dave Cagle & Max Toste [of Deep Ellum] have both taught me tons in their own ways." —Libby Spencer, bar manager at Deep Ellum

Tom Tellier"Jackson Cannon and Patrick Sullivan." —Tom Tellier, beverage director for Restaurant dante and both locations of il Casale

Tyler WoltersDoing it the right way matters."I feel very lucky to work currently with Matthew Schrage at Brick & Mortar and was also blessed to work with Noon Inthasuwan at Moska. When I came to the Boston area, I tried to get hired at 20 different bars and couldn't find a spot. I was fortunate to start learning the trade under Noon because of her emphasis on hospitality and her attention to detail. She taught me how to build a drink correctly, that there is a right way to do things, and that doing it the right way matters." —Tyler Wolters, bartender at Firebrand Saints and Brick & Mortar

Emmet Kelty "As far as a cocktail mentor goes I feel that there have been a few people in my career that have influenced me. Two people I should mention are: Craig Lines from Liquid in Nelson NZ, who showed me how to use fruit juices (in a club setting) to make truly amazing drinks; and Augusto Lino from the now extinct Upstairs on the Square, who further honed my cocktail-making by introducing me to various classic cocktails (some from homework lol) and using twists to create new drinks from them. Truly everyone I work with and have worked with continually inspire me. I also come from a home where food has always been important and that really keeps my creative juices flowing." —Emmet Kelty, lead bartender at 51 Lincoln

Todd Lipman"Unfortunately, I was never ‘mentored’ so to speak and had to teach myself everything I know. That being said, I am continually inspired by other people’s creations and re-creations. Boston has an exciting cocktail culture with plenty of bar-folk who know their craft." —Todd Lipman, head sommelier at Bistro du Midi

Davide Crusoe"Martin was a French Bartender at Jerome’s in Las Vegas that taught me how to pour a drink, build a cocktail, and become someone’s friend during their stay at my bar." —Davide Crusoe, general manager at Chopps in Burlington

Christine Kerow"My taste buds." —Christine Gerow, director of restaurant & bar at the Westin Waltham-Boston's Seventy at Third Avenue

Sam Treadway"John Gertsen." —Sam Treadway, bar manager at Backbar

Seth Freidus"I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by talented mentors; Kevin Martin, Nicole Lebedivich, Jackson Cannon, and Bob McCoy." —Seth Freidus, beverage director at Alden & Harlow

Gina Richard"My father." —Gina Richard, head bartender at Island Creek Oyster Bar

Ian Strickland"It's a tie between Tom Mastricola and Dennis Cargill — we all opened Back Bay Social Club together a few years back, and it was like cocktail boot camp the first couple months..." —Ian Strickland, head bartender at Rosebud American Kitchen & Bar

Ezra Star"I have been fortunate to have many cocktail mentors. I have to say John Gertsen has taught me a tremendous amount about how to run a bar and train a staff, Scott Marshall on how to have a good time, Misty Kalkofen on spirits, and Dale DeGroff on being a gangster." —Ezra Star, general manager at Drink

Evan Kenny"Dave Cagle." —Evan Kenney, head bartender at West Side Lounge

Jonathan Mendez"I can’t really trace my love of cocktails to any single person. I’ve been fortunate enough to work-with/befriend/get bamboozled with so many wonderful bartenders. They’ve all taught me so much about passion, balance, presentation, and service. In no particular order: Scott Marshall, Will Thompson, Joachim Simo." —Jonathan Mendez, beverage director and bartender at TRADE

Jared Sadoian"Several folks through my career thus far. Jack Styczynski for buying bottles of Campari and Fernet without knowing what they were when we were roommates in college. Jackson Cannon over at Eastern Standard & The Hawthorne, for giving me my first shot behind a bar in 2010. ​Brandon Davey & Scotty Schneider from Elsa in NYC ​who took me to the intersection of classical and innovative. Del Pedro, formerly of the Pegu Club, who listened to my musings and gave back some of his own every Monday night for eight months. Ted Gallagher for teaching me to embrace seasonality in my drinks and to stop putting one hand behind my back when I'm pouring." —Jared Sadoian, head bartender and beverage director of Craigie on Main and The Kirkland Tap & Trotter

Sean Woods"Matt Schrage, no question. My mentor and lover." —Sean Woods, bar manager at Ribelle

Will Isaza"Rowan Leavenworth, formerly of Temple Bar, Cambridge MA." —Will Isaza, bartender at Fairsted Kitchen

Ryan Lotz"I've been really blessed to have worked with some great people in my time in this industry. At No. 9 I was lucky enough to work with Ted Kilpatrick (and definitely the influence of John Gertsen can always be felt behind the bar here); Jackson Cannon at the Hawthorne; but the one person I constantly find myself looking to emulate is Scott Marshall (now in Savannah, GA)." —Ryan Lotz, bar manager at No. 9 Park

Tenzin Samdo"John Gertsen, Chef Jody Adams, and definitely Jon Mendez (my #CocktailMafia partner in crime)." —Tenzin Konchok Samdo, head barman at TRADE

MIchael Florence"I never had a real guide in the cocktail world other than a few books and strong curiosity. In a way the city of Boston & all of its amazing bartenders and chefs have been my mentor. I've learned so much from watching fantastic bartenders like Tyler, Kevin, Misty, Marc, Josh, Emma, Seth, and a slew of other amazing bartenders do their thing." — Michael Florence, bar manager at Ole

"My cocktail mentor is Tom Cruise in ‘Cocktail.’" —Tom Dargon, assistant general manager of BOKX 109

"Aaron Butler." —Ashish Mitra, bar manager at Russell House Tavern

"My dad." —Erica Petersiel, general manager at No. 8 Kitchen & Spirits

"Everyone (Julie Reiner if I need to have a name.)" —Ryan McGrale, beverage director at Tavern Road

"Steve Shur, head bartender at the Boston College Club." —Taso Papatsoris, bartender at Casa B

"Scott Marshall, John Gertsen, Misty Kalkofen,Ted Kilpatrick, Sam Olivari, Katie Jean Saunders, Ezra Star, Josh Childs, Beau Sturm, Kenny Belanger...need I go on?" —Tyler Wang, bartender at Audubon

"I can't really say I have any specific mentor in my bartending career. I have worked aside many great people in the three different bars I have been behind. Each co-worker has shaped my awareness and skills of not only making cocktails but also the art of bartending." —Rob Dunn, bar manager at Lineage

There's nothing too ridiculous to do, as long as it tastes good and makes sense.

"Josh Taylor (formerly of Eastern Standard and West Bridge, where I worked with him) was a huge influence. Not only did I learn a lot about technique and efficiency, he was also incredibly generous with his knowledge and helping me in any crazy idea I had for a cocktail. He showed me that there's nothing too ridiculous to do, as long as it tastes good and makes sense." —Alex Howell, bar manager of Bondir