12 Rounds With… Philip Duff

By Lesley Jacobs Solmonson

Philip Duff.  In his own words: “jet-set bartender, trainer, and beverage consultant.”  There is no better description for the man.  Through his company Liquid Solutions, he has advised some of the biggest brands in the world and influenced the development of cocktail culture immeasurably.  Recent feathers in his cap include the opening of door 74 (the Netherlands’ first classic cocktail bar), the creation of the G’Vine Gin Connoisseur Program, and the founding of the Bols Bartending Academy (Europe’s largest bartending academy).  So, need we say more?  Well yes, in fact, we do.  I (Lesley) have many people to thank for their invaluable aid with my forthcoming book “Gin: A Global History”, but Philip was my go-to guy for all things related to Genever.  His enthusiasm, generosity, and sheer breadth of knowledge (as well as his wonderfully Irish sense of humor) make him a man with whom we’d like to share a drink (or several).

01) What inspired your interest in cocktails?
I really hated picking potatoes as a part-time job in high school, and bartending appeared to be much easier, just as well paid and with the bonus of maybe meeting beautiful women!

02) What was your first formative cocktail experience?
Filling an oversized brand balloon with equal parts of gin and vodka and downing the lot when I was twelve. Not a promising beginning, but things got better…

03) What is your all-time favorite mixed drink?
Has to be a simple 7:1 gin martini with orange bitters, but a cognac Sazerac or a rye Manhattan is very close behind…

04) Favorite place to drink?
Rum Trader, a 17 seat speakeasy bar in Berlin

05) If you don’t know the bartender, what do you order?
G&T to start with…

06) If you could make any drink with the 12 Bottles, what would you make?
That cognac Sazerac I mentioned… (Note that Philip provided his answers before we made the switch in our bitters.  His answer here is a damned fine one and well worth heeding).

07) If you could replace any one bottle with another, what switch would you make? And why?
Irish Whiskey replaced with a decent Reposado Tequila, one that still tastes like agave. Irish is great – hey, it’s my national drink!  But it doesn’t have the wide range of heritage drinks that tequila does.

08) Outside of the 12 Bottles, what should people make an effort to try?
(More) Genever! It’s awesome, although devilishly hard to get hold of: settle for nothing less than Korenwijn, the highest official grade. And good pisco.

09) If you could only have one mixed drink for the rest of your life, which would it be?
Ouch! Might have to choose the Manhattan there….

10) With whom (living, deceased, or fictional) would you like to most share a drink?
PJ O’Rourke, he seems to have great stories and not be shy of a drink or two…

11) On which one item should the home bartender splurge?
An ice machine! Failing that, a small freezer for backup ice and glassware…

12) One piece of advice for the home bartender…
Don’t bother innovating, just buy diffordsguide and follow the recipes slavishly!

Whether he is writing, teaching, speaking, or consulting, Duff’s expertise is unmatched in his field.  So believe him when he says it’s worth seeking out G’Vine Gins (Floraison and the new Nouaison, http://www.g-vine.com ) and Excellia Tequilas (www.excelliatequila.com).  If you’re lucky, you might even catch him holding forth at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans.  He can be reached via the following links:

http://www.scribd.com/Philip%20Duff (published articles)
http://www.slideshare.net/philipduff (presentations given)


6 responses to “12 Rounds With… Philip Duff

  1. So is that three votes for losing the Irish whiskey and three votes for adding some tequila? That’s a lot of pressure given the sources for those votes, no?

  2. Book??? how cool is that… and about gin… I am growing to love gin!!! I can’t wait.

  3. Philip mentions that we shouldn’t settle for anything less than Korenwijn for our genever. Is this a good one?


    I’m looking to buy my first bottle of genever but I have no idea what to go with. I can’t find Bols Genever around here anyway so I have to order out for something and if this is mored traditional then I’ll go for it.

    • Bols Genevers are all mighty fine, as far as we’ve tasted. The Oude (Old) should be your starting point, but the one you’v linked to should be great. If you can’t find The US Bols, Anchor Distilling’s Genevieve is wonderful but a little more challenging if you haven’t had the Dutch stuff before.

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