A good bartender has had enough human interactions and seen enough of the world that he or she can hold a conversation with just about anyone. Thomas Spaeth, a bartender who has worked at Manhattan hotspots like Dear Irving and Bar Uni, is the perfect example.
From living in Madrid and backpacking through Spain, to navigating high rises and $16 cocktails in Manhattan, Spaeth has nearly seen it all. His experience is reflected in his work, which continually influences the bartending community. We caught up with Spaeth to talk about his death row drink, his favorite bar in the world, and why bad tequila is seriously the worst.
1. What’s your desert island drink?
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Probably a grower Champagne like Vilmart’s Tete de Cuvee. Or an older German Riesling like Shonleber. Those wines brought tears to my eyes, and if I’m on an island I want something I’ll never get tired of. And since money’s not an object on my own island, I’m going baller.
2. What’s the first drink you bought when you turned 21?
I was at a karaoke bar with all of my high school friends belting out Billy Joel and getting terrifically drunk. I have no idea. Most likely Margaritas, Rum and Cokes, and all the shots.”death roslslslsl
3. FMK three cocktails: Negroni, Margarita, Manhattan
4. You’re on death row. What’s your death row drink?
A Painkiller. Good god those things are good, and I’d like to be transported to the Caribbean right before the lights go out.
5. You can only drink at one bar for the rest of your life. What is it?
Coyo Taqueria in Miami. The tacos are fire, and when you go through a hallway in the back you walk into a dark, candlelit room with a massive and amazing selection of mezcals and other agave spirits, helmed by friendly and knowledgable women, where unbelievable DJ’s like Oscar G come through for a free show and play some of the best music you’ve ever heard. I’m not sure there’s much more you can ask for from a bar.
6. What’s the best and worst bottle on your shelf?
Best bottle is probably the single barrel of Russell’s Reserve rye hand-picked by the distiller and creator of it for those of us lucky enough to go visit the Wild Turkey distillery in their Behind the Barrel program. It’s 9 years old and 104 proof and it’s just excellent. Worst is a bottle of generic creme de menthe I bought years and years ago when I wanted to know what a Stinger tasted like.
7. What cocktail will you never order again?
Anything made with really cheap tequila or mezcal, because agave plants are special and expensive and if the juice comes cheap something shady is being done, whether it’s in the bottle, to the farmers, or to the land or a combination of all three. That shit ain’t right.