12 Rounds With… Gary Regan

By Lesley Jacobs Solmonson

Gary Regan is a man who wears many hats – bartender, author, newspaper columnist, educator.  However, to coin a phrase from his website, we like to think of him simply as a true “ardent spirit”, so deep is his love for the cocktail world.  One glance at ArdentSpirits.com, which he hosts with wife Mardee Haidan Regan, will show you the breadth and depth of this man’s knowledge and passion.  The site offers everything from a glossary and a recipe collection to photos of wonderful cocktail ephemera and a collection of Gary’s “Barroom Flashbacks”.

For more of the latter, grab a copy of his newest book: The Cocktailian Chronicles; Life with the Professor, Volume I.  Inside, you will find Regan’s re-edited, annotated columns from the San Francisco Chronicle.  A tireless writer, Regan has also written The Bartender’s Gin Compendium and The Joy of Mixology, as well as a collection of drink books with wife Mardee, including The Book of Bourbon which got them inducted into the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels.  After years in Manhattan, the Regans settled in the Hudson Valley with a passel of cats and dogs (we at 12 Bottle Bar are jealous indeed.)

01)   What inspired your interest in cocktails?
I came to NY in ’73, I was 22 years old, and I knew nothing about cocktails.  Since I wanted to work as a bartender—something I started doing when I was 14—I had to learn how to make cocktails and mixed drinks, and I found the subject to be fascinating.

02)   What was your first formative cocktail experience?
Gin Gimlet, no ice, at a party my parents threw when I was 12 years old.

03)   What is your all-time favorite mixed drink?

04)   Favorite place to drink?
The Bay Horse, 1 Station Road, Thornton, Lancashire, England

05)   If you don’t know the bartender, what do you order?
Manhattan, and I request specific ingredients and proportions, in a very nice way

06)   If you could make any drink with the 12 Bottles, what would you make?
A Manhattan

07)   If you could replace any one bottle with another, what switch would you make? And why?
I’d remove the Irish Whiskey and add Ocho Blanco Tequila.  It’s a FABULOUS new tequila.

08)   Outside of the 12 Bottles, what should people make an effort to try?
A Negroni

09)   If you could only have one mixed drink for the rest of your life, which would it be?
A Manhattan

10)   With whom (living, deceased, or fictional) would you like to most share a drink?
Jesus or the Buddha.  Preferably both at the same time.

11)   On which one item should the home bartender splurge?
Always buy great vermouth.

12)  One piece of advice for the home bartender…
Remember that mixing drinks is simple, and that taking care of guests is the real challenge.


4 responses to “12 Rounds With… Gary Regan

  1. I’d love to know more about how Mr. Regan requests “specific ingredients and proportions, in a very nice way.”

    It’s so hard when going to a bar to see if they have both decent vermouth and a stash of bitters. Plus bartenders always want to shake a Manhattan. It’s craziness.

    Kudos for scoring an interview with a giant who walks among men.

    • Thanks, Daniel. Gary really is a prince. He was a prince when Lesley had questions on her Gin book; he’s been a prince on the various drink forums (answering my ramblings on Advocaat).

      We’ll email him and see if he can provide some further insight into his technique. I’ve actually left a bar, gone out an bought Angostura, and donated them to the bar upon return — just so I could get a round of Manhattans. Admittedly, my technique might not be as smooth as Gary’s.

    • Gary had responded in another post, so I’m cross-posting his response here:

      “I ask for specific ingredients only in bars that I think might have a decent selection. I can usually see what whiskeys are behind the bar, then I ask about vermouths if I think there’s a chance they have a selection. In neighborhood joints (which I often prefer) I get meself a Jack on the rocks.”

  2. That is awesome. All of it. On all levels.

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