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Boston Bartenders Recall the First Cocktail They Drank

From creating messy mixes of things stolen from parents' liquor cabinets to turning 21 and immediately ordering a Sex on the Beach, local bartenders try to remember their first taste of liquor.

Patrick Gaggiano"I tried having a martini because I thought I was at a fancy place. Most likely underage and trying to fit in. It was one of the worst things I've ever tasted, and I kept dumping water in it to make it through." —Patrick Gaggiano, bar manager at Viale


Brittany Casos"Stoli Raz and Sprite." —Brittany Casos, beverage director at Coppa


Brooke Vandecar"I grew up in Florida, so the sweet, tropical drinks were very appealing at the time. The Goombay Smash, made with light rum, spiced rum, and pineapple juice was the first cocktail I remember drinking — and my go-to." —Brooke Vandecar, beverage director at Rosa Mexicano

Greg Neises"Amaretto Sour." —Greg Neises, bartender at Tico


Patrick Sullivan"My father was a strict Bud man; never saw him drink anything else. One night we were at a Chinese restaurant, and he ordered a Stinger. Even for an 11-year-old boy, I knew that this was a special moment. I remember being struck by the name. He let me have a sip, and I remember it being minty and cold and terrible. In time I've grown to love a well-made Stinger!" —Patrick Sullivan, executive director of bar operations for the Legal Sea Foods brands

Paulo Pereira"The first cocktail I remember drinking is a Sidecar. I saw a photo of it in a book, which drew me to it." —Paulo Pereira, beverage director at Brass Union


Nick Giannotti"In terms of the first memorable cocktail, it has to be a Toronto Manhattan at Eastern Standard. I had recently gotten into taking shots of Fernet Branca and that mixed into a Manhattan was awesome." —Nick Giannotti, bar manager of The Tip Tap Room


Rob Haberek"Old Fashioned. A poorly made one, unfortunately." —Rob Haberek, bartender at Forum


Ky Nguyen"Ever?... I can remember my first beer (it was a Heineken) and the first time I had sake, but cocktail, that’s a tough one. I guess it makes sense that I can’t remember, though; it was probably a long night." —Ky Nguyen, owner of SA PA


Katie Mae Dell Isola"A White Russian. It’s one of my father’s favorite drinks, and when I was a kid he would tell me he was drinking ‘adult’ chocolate milk. When I finally turned 21, you bet I ordered an ‘adult’ chocolate milk." —Katie Mae Dell Isola, bar manager at Haru


Dan Greenough"Mimosa. It was the toast at my aunt's wedding when I was eight. My cousin and I snuck around to all the tables and drank the leftovers. Our parents found us sleeping under one of the tables." —Dan Greenough, food & beverage manager of all Burtons Grill locations

Kevin Murphy"Daiquiri, fourth of July...it was awhile ago…" —Kevin Murphy, operations manager of Deuxave


John Drew"It was a gin martini. I used to watch my grandfather make them. It was a total ritual to him. Had to be Beefeater Gin and Martini & Rossi Dry Vermouth. No real bar tools. Bottle caps to measure. Exactly 10 caps of gin to two caps of vermouth. A fork to stir. Another glass to strain. Poured into a lowball. No garnish. Simple. Precise. And, of course, he occasionally gave me a sip. Today, I love the taste of gin. It's the inspiration of the Nara House served at Blue Ginger — an East-West twist to a classic martini. Oxley Gin, TYKU Premium Sake, Carpano Bianco Vermouth, and orange bitters, orange oil garnish." —John Drew, bar manager at Blue Dragon and Blue Ginger

Vikram Hegde"Truth be told, I was a bit of a goody two shoes and never drank until I was 21, so I think the first ‘cocktail’ I ever had, if you can call it that, was a bunch of 3 Wise Men shots (Johnny Walker, Jack Daniels, Jim Beam.) Obviously it wasn’t the most pleasant experience ever. Once I got back on the cocktail horse though, I fell in love with Piña Coladas and Miami Vices. Those are still some of my favorites, although I feel guilty anytime I order them." —Vikram Hegde, bartender at Sarma

Moira Toomey"Malibu Pineapple." —Moira Toomey, bartender at Gather


Kaitlena Cash"First cocktail I remember drinking is, embarrassingly enough, a Grateful Dead. Not sure if that technically counts as a cocktail...but 18-year-old me sure did love ‘em. And I certainly don't remember drinking the second." —Kaitlena Cash, bartender at Anthem Kitchen + Bar

Sal Gesamondo"Sex on the Beach or a Woo-Woo...underage in my best friend’s basement at his dad’s bar. Obviously we had no clue what we were doing, but thank god for the internet and older siblings!" —Sal Gesamondo, operations manager of Tavern in the Square


Giulio Favuzza"An Old Fashioned Manhattan." —Giulio Favuzza, beverage manager of Red Heat Tavern


Lauren Hayes

"The first real cocktail I remember tasting is a Vieux Carre. It of course wasn't my first one, but it was the moment I realized there was more to imbibing than alcohol content. It was the one that got me hooked." —Lauren Hayes, head bartender at Ten Tables in Jamaica Plain

Molly Woodhouse"I remember tasting a Brown Squirrel at the first fine dining restaurant I bussed tables in using a straw to sample — just watching ice cream go into a blender, I was intrigued — it was so rich, I couldn't believe after a full meal guests were ordering what was basically a boozy milk shake!" —Molly Woodhouse, general manager and beverage director of Vida Cantina in Portsmouth (and an alum of The Butcher Shop and Menton)

Ian Nal"I’m from Belize, so it’s a toss up between a Rum & Coke and a Panty Ripper (coconut rum & pineapple juice). And I was probably 12 years old. Haha." —Ian Nal, general manager and beverage director of Fish Restaurant & Wine Bar in Marlborough


Jenna Pollock"I honestly have a tough time remembering my first, but my first time in a bar, my friend ordered me a Dr Pepper shot (which is a shot containing ¾ amaretto and ¼ Bacardi 151, dropped into half a pint of Bud Light), which I didn’t realize was supposed to be a shot. I drank it as a drink, shot glass in the bottom and all. I also remember a piano man conveniently playing ‘Piano Man’ by Billy Joel." —Jenna Pollock, bar director at Nebo

Augusto Lino"Red wine and strawberries blended with condensed milk, when I was 13 in Brazil. It looked and tasted bright pink." —Augusto Lino, bartender at Hungry Mother


Brian Mantz"Pina Colada while on vacation in Dominican Republic. This may have also been the first time I tried fresh pineapple juice." —Brian Mantz, bar manager at Wink & Nod


Colin Kiley"A Manhattan, of course!" —Colin Kiley, bartender at Puritan & Company


Libby Spencer"Not counting gin & juice in college? Hendrick's & Tonic on my 21st birthday. I felt like such an adult!" —Libby Spencer, bar manager at Deep Ellum


Tom Tellier"Midori Sour. So gross!" —Tom Tellier, beverage director for Restaurant dante and both locations of il Casale


Tyler Wolters"I am from Saint Francis, Kansas — population 1200 — and the closest thing we had to a cocktail were the cases of Keystone Light that got shook up in the back of my Chevy truck and got foamy. It's kind of like a Northwest Kansas version of a Ramos Gin Fizz. I had my first real cocktail after I moved to Boston. I went to Russell House Tavern and ordered a Negroni. It was the worst thing I had ever tasted. I thought someone mixed NyQuil and Dr Pepper. Times have changed, though, and now I'm a big fan of Campari, and my favorite drink is a Boulevardier." —Tyler Wolters, bartender at Firebrand Saints and Brick & Mortar

Gretchen Thomas"Besides a few bourbon and cokes in my uninitiated years, the first ‘real’ cocktail I had was a Manhattan during culinary school." —Gretchen Thomas, wine and spirits director at Barcelona Wine Bar & Restaurant


Emmet Kelty"First cocktail I remember drinking is, unfortunately, mojitos by the pitcher-fulls in Vancouver with my buddy Anton while we were watching an epic showdown between the Jets and the Pats. Turns out the mojitos were bad luck ‘cause the Pats got killed that game, and I had never been more hung over. It felt like I had injected green minty sugar into my brain all night the next day. Not good." —Emmet Kelty, lead bartender at 51 Lincoln

Todd Lipman"A Screwdriver, but that’s hardly a cocktail. Remember when to say when — I couldn’t even look at orange juice for three months." —Todd Lipman, head sommelier at Bistro du Midi


Davide Crusoe"Ketel One Gimlet on the rocks — as an assistant manager of a restaurant in Las Vegas." —Davide Crusoe, general manager at Chopps in Burlington


Christine Kerow"Sex on the beach (back in the 80s when you got to order your first drink, that’s the one you wanted to order.)" —Christine Gerow, director of restaurant & bar at the Westin Waltham-Boston's Seventy at Third Avenue


Sam Treadway"Gin & Tonic (from my parents)." —Sam Treadway, bar manager at Backbar


Seth Freidus"I always had an interest in tasting different spirits, specifically whiskey, starting at a young age, but the first cocktail I tried was my father’s gin martini (3:1), and my favorite part was eating the olives." —Seth Freidus, beverage director at Alden & Harlow


Gina Richard"A gin martini at my father's bar in Las Vegas." —Gina Richard, head bartender at Island Creek Oyster Bar


Ian Strickland"Although it's not really a cocktail, I remember ordering a Screwdriver because at the time I figured the bartender would be less likely to card me if I actually knew the name of a drink!" —Ian Strickland, head bartender at Rosebud American Kitchen & Bar


Naomi Levy"The first classic, that I fell in love with, was the Sidecar." —Naomi Levy, bar manager at Eastern Standard


Katie Emmerson"A bourbon Manhattan — I was 22 and working at a restaurant in Manhattan. At the time, I was drinking all the vodka/cranberry type drinks my girlfriends were into. I sat down at the bar for my post-shift drink, and my friend wanted to make me a Manhattan. I took one sip and thought, "Now this is a drink!" —Katie Emmerson, bar manager at The Hawthorne

Ezra Star"The first cocktail I remember drinking was a Negroni. I was, I think, 18 or so, and a friend of mine had read about it in one of his fathers' old cocktail books. I remember thinking that it tasted pretty bad. I think the vermouth was also super old; pretty sure there wasn't any ice involved either. If I had it now I'd probably love it." —Ezra Star, general manager at Drink

Paul Manzelli"Either vodka and Gatorade or Amaretto Sour" —Paul Manzelli, bartender at Bergamot


Jonathan Mendez"Rubinoff Vodka and Gatorade. Lemon-lime if memory serves me." —Jonathan Mendez, beverage director and bartender at TRADE


Jared Sadoian"Does a gin & tonic count? I remember hopelessly shaking the crap out of a 10-to-1 gin martini with my roommate Jack in college in a decorative, blimp-shaped shaker tin. We complained about how cold our hands got. The fins on the blimp were also really, really sharp." —Jared Sadoian, head bartender and beverage director of Craigie on Main and The Kirkland Tap & Trotter

Sean Woods"A Screwdriver. A girl from my class showed up at my house one day with one she had made for herself in a to-go cup. She told me what it was, what went in it, and I drank it. Didn't taste too great, but I liked it since I knew we were doing something kind of bad. I was nine." —Sean Woods, bar manager at Ribelle

Will Isaza"A Tom Collins (Temple Bar, Cambridge, MA)." —Will Isaza, bartender at Fairsted Kitchen


Ryan Lotz"The first real cocktail I remember drinking was just when I was starting to tend bar. John Gertsen had just opened Drink, and he made me the most perfect Old Fashioned I think I've ever had. Prior to that my first cocktail was probably a gin & tonic in college. The gin obviously came from a plastic jug." —Ryan Lotz, bar manager at No. 9 Park

Jake Kress"Vodka soda." —Jake Kress, bar manager at Grill 23 & Bar


Tenzin Samdo"Sex on the Beach." —Tenzin Konchok Samdo, head barman at TRADE


Michael Florence"Growing up in Kentucky, bourbon ruled & so the first cocktail tried was a Mint Julep on Derby day with a slice of grasshopper pie." — Michael Florence, bar manager at Ole


"First cocktail I ever drank was when I snuck a sip of my mom's frozen grasshopper (don’t tell her.)" —Tom Dargon, assistant general manager of BOKX 109

"A Chivas Regal whisky sour." —Ashish Mitra, bar manager at Russell House Tavern

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

"Sidecar." —Ryan McGrale, beverage director at Tavern Road

"Dark and Stormy." —Taso Papatsoris, bartender at Casa B

"My first cocktail was a Sidecar. Hugh Fiore made it for me at Eastern Standard. After that it was a Mai Tai, and then a flip...and then it gets hazy." —Tyler Wang, bartender at Audubon

"The first cocktail I remember drinking was a straight vodka martini in Venice when I was 17. I did not have the tolerance to get past the first few sips." —Rob Dunn, bar manager at Lineage

"The first time I really tried a real drink (e.g. not beer) was either a gin and tonic or a whiskey and Coke, from my Navy days. I really didn't get very adventurous with drinks until after the military when my wife and I first moved to Boston in 2007." —Alex Howell, bar manager of Bondir

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