What makes you a good bartender?
If I’m a good bartender, it’s because I
love every aspect of it. I love the adren-
aline rush of being slammed with cus-
tomers. I love when it’s slow and I can
just talk to people. I love learning about
and teaching about new products and
drinks and techniques. I love getting
paid to hang out with people, especially
in the French Quarter where you never
know who is going to walk through the
door. I love spending weeks perfecting a
drink and then watching people’s reac-
tions to it.
When you craft a new drink, what’s upper-
most in your mind?
When tasting a new combination of in-
gredients that don’t quite work, there are
only two questions to ask: Are the flavors
off, or is the balance off? If the flavor is
off, you’ve got to find out what ingredi-
ents to add or subtract. If the balance
is off, you have to adjust proportions.
That’s the art. It’s so subjective but at the
same time it’s so black and white—the
drink will either sell or it won’t.
Who outside the drink business influences
your work?
Sallie Ann Glassman is a voodoo priestess
who actually doesn’t even drink. There is
such a rich history of both voodoo and
bartending in New Orleans, but it’s dif-
ficult to find much interaction between
the two. So I go to her for ideas and in-
spiration. She pulls down this herb or
that resin and tells me about the magical
properties. I take the ingredients and try
to create tasty drinks while still respect-
ing the religion. I still have a world to
learn about voodoo, but I think there is
an intriguing potential relationship there
and I’m hoping to pursue it further.
Your biggest non-hospitality related hobby or
pastime is…?
Playing the piano. I’ve played since my
grandmother started teaching me at age 5.
I always did classical, but recently I’ve been
getting into jazz.
What’s particularly interesting about the
drinks in Portland?
Consumers here have created an envi-
ronment that demands food and drink
be local, fresh, seasonal and sustainable.
We have an amazing beer scene, numer-
ous micro-distilleries, are in the middle
of one of the most lush wine-producing
regions in the U.S. and have arguably the
best coffee in the country. When it comes
to cocktails, consumers don’t lower their
standards. Because of that, bars and res-
taurants are constantly pushing forward
with new innovations, new ice programs,
new techniques.
Who do you most admire in the restaurant/
bar business?
I really admire the Bon Vivants of San
Francisco. They’ve forced us to think of
an industry that revolves around indul-
gence as a vehicle for charity and positive
change. They’ve inspired bartenders to
give back to our communities and invest
in the young people around us.
Recent drink innovation that excites you the
most?
I’m happy to see that it’s no longer cool
to hate vodka. I’m glad to see that craft
bartenders are no longer ignoring the
largest-selling spirit in the world. It can be
a vehicle for so many interesting flavors
and I’m excited to see what shows up on
cocktail menus around the country.
Your biggest non-hospitality related hobby or
pastime is...?
I currently have two beehives and close
to 100,000 bees in my backyard. I col-
lect their honey and use it in cocktails
throughout the year. No matter how
many books you read or blogs you sub-
scribe to, the bees will always teach you.
You learn a lot about yourself when you’re
surrounded by thousands of bees. Nothing
else matters in those moments. There’s no
room for worries or “what ifs” or living in
the past. The world is very real and you
are incredibly vulnerable and powerful at
the same time.
NATHAN DATON
NEW ORLEANS , LA
Daton consults with a
New Orleans voodoo
priestess when seeking herbs
for new drinks.
LACY HAWKINS
PORTLAND, OR
“You learn a lot about your-
self when you’re surrounded
by thousands of bees.”
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