Posted on | March 25, 2015
Written by | Alia Akkam
Travis St. Germain, Clover Club, Brooklyn, NY
Bartender Travis St. Germain spends his nights at Brooklyn’s famed Clover Club, working alongside owner Julie Reiner and head bartender Tom Macy. When he’s not slinging drinks, he consults for new-to-the-States cachaça brand Yaguara, spreading the gospel of an on-the-rise spirit.
The Beverage Network: At a bar like Clover Club, where the classics and modern originals are both so important, how do you stay creative?
Travis St. Germain: Julie and Tom go through the old menus and decide which classic drinks and authors we still haven’t paid homage to. Then, seasonal drink categories are chosen. Once all this is done I, along with the rest of the bar team, look at a sort of skeleton of a menu and we talk about how best to fill it in. The hardest part is deciding who gets to make which styles of drinks. After that’s done, we start working on our assignments.
TBN: Clover Club is a beloved industry den and, as revealed on hectic Saturday nights, attracts a more mainstream crowd as well. How does it lure in both demographics?
TS: Clover Club has always done things the way that Julie wants them to be done. I think that her style of hospitality and service is appealing to a lot of different kinds of people; whether they’re in the industry, neighbors or cocktail enthusiasts. Lucky for both of us, we serve food until 3:00am and get to see a couple of our favorite neighborhood industry pros for their dinner and nightcap.
TBN: Clover Club has such an esteemed reputation. Are patrons especially curious?
TS: Most people going to a bar like Clover Club will ask you if they have a question. Then some will try to stump you with a question, when it’s obvious they already know the answer to it. If it’s slow, and a guest looks interested, I’m happy to nerd out about the drink in front of them and all the ingredients in it, but for the most part people who are drinking would rather talk about something that is going to make them laugh rather than the tedium of mash bills, brix levels and char numbers. The staff is constantly going through trainings put on by distillers, liquor conglomerates and brand ambassadors. We try to take in as much as possible and spare our guests the painful details.
TBN: Now that you’re working with Yaguara, what cocktails are you turning guests onto at the bar to try cachaça?
TS: Everything but the caipirinha. The beauty of artisanal cachaça is in the aromatics. It also has a relatively low acid level due to the distillation of sugarcane juice. This gives it enough versatility to throw a ton of lime juice at it without losing balance —or even amari and vermouth for much more interesting and fun results.
TBN: Having traveled to Brazil, what are the biggest differences you encountered in their bar culture?
TS: In both Rio and in Sao Paulo I immediately saw the emphasis on fresh fruit. In Brazil everything revolves around the indigenous tropical fruits, most of which are not exported. My favorite, and one I hope to see here in the States, is caju, which the cashew grows off of. It tastes similar to the nut, however it has the texture, sugar and acid level of a peach. Some of the fruits are highly unusual, but in Brazil bartenders utilize many of them with the utmost care and skill.