Chief Mixologist Bar Program, Green Door Distilling Company
What is your profession?
The professional term is Master Culinary Mixologist. I like to say I’m preaching and teaching the gospel of fine-crafted cocktails, using seasonally fresh, locally sourced items. The less pretentious term I also like to use is “Traveling Elixir Fixer.”
How does one become a Master Culinary Mixology?
There are several schools and academies in Chicago that teach this craft. It took me four years of schooling to get to that level. I studied under Master Mixologist Bridget Albert, and with New York mixologists through the Beverage Alcohol Resource Educational Program.
What did you learn?
There are levels of certifications obtained through testing knowledge of how distillates are processed, their origination, their flavor profiles, as well as being well-versed in the classic cocktail families. Once well-versed, you can do just about anything. There is a method to “liquid madness!”
How did you get started?
This profession picked me. I didn’t pick it. I play guitar and banjo and I moved to Chicago as part of a singer-songwriter duo. I became a bartender to supplement my income. Once I decided to focus on my bartending skills, I found the Academy of Spirits and Fine Service. At this point, I had already been bartending for ten years. I thought I’d just jump through the hoops and take the class to get the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild certification. What I found was that I didn’t know anything.
Why are you called “The Traveling Elixir Fixer?”
I served as Adjunct Professor at Chicago’s Kendall College, where I taught its Mixology Series offered through the Culinary Arts, Food and Beverage and Hospitality Departments.
Now, I freelance. The “Traveling” part is because I work with a lot of bars and restaurants within a three-hour radius to develop their beverage programs and train their bartenders. I chose “Elixir Fixer” because my family’s roots stem from the Upjohn family tree. I give a tip of my medicinal hat because spirits were originally intended for therapeutic purposes. So, I cure what ails you with the craft of cocktails. The cure doesn’t necessarily have to include spirits either. Just last week, I used non-alcoholic compounds to treat a cold, two cases of indigestion, and two cases of acid reflux. I make tonics, apple vinegar-based shrubs, and bitter components too. The colonists used what grew here to make whiskey from rye and bourbon from corn. Without purified water at that time, ciders and spirits were a healthy substitute for water to sustain oneself or purify your system if you ate something bad.
What are some of your most memorable “Travels?”
In 2009, I shook cocktails at the James Beard Awards, the “Academy Awards” of food and drink, in New York City. I’ve bartended at the Christmas party in the Playboy headquarters on North Lakeshore Drive in Chicago. I’ve set up a bar in an elevator at a Chicago art gallery. We’d move up and down floors, open the doors, make drinks and then move on.
Do you “mix up” your skills?
Right now, I’m studying the art of coffee and how it’s roasted. I’m tasting coffees from different regions; the subject is vast.
What mixing skills should people develop?
Knowing when to shake and when to stir! Cocktails that contain only spirits should be stirred. Cocktails that contain creams, juices and sugars should be shaken.
What are your favorite seasonal add-ins?
Fall and winter flavors like cinnamon, nutmeg, maple, all-spice and clove. Other terrific products are apple cider; my favorite is from Schultz Farm in Mattawan, and apple cider simple syrup.
How can someone get into one of your classes or book your services for a private event?
In Kalamazoo, I’m at Old Dog Tavern, Webster’s, and Green Door Distilling Company, and in Portage at Stick & Stones. Find me on my Facebook page: TravelingElixirFixer.
Bar Basics, According to Angie
Whiskey (Angie recommends Michigan-made Journeyman Distillery Silver Cross Whiskey or Old George 100% Rye from Grand Traverse Distillery.)
Angostura bitters (The salt and pepper of drinks)
Equipment: a good Boston shaker, mixing glass, Hawthorne strainer, bar spoon, and a good chef’s.