Take it from someone who muddled mojitos, poured pints, and dirtied martinis for a decade: Bartending is hard work. Sure, it looks glamorous and entertaining and lucrative from the customer’s side of the rail—and the job is all those things at times—but it also requires both the physical stamina of a stonemason and the mental bandwidth of a therapist. Which is why, after a long night, bartenders often make their last pour for themselves. Mine was always a hazy Hoegaarden wheat beer poured into a pint. I’d been chilling all night in the coldest part of the fridge. These Chicago, Park City, and Brooklyn bartenders go a little more elaborate for their shift drinks. They’ve earned it.
Steve Walton, High West Saloon, Park City, Utah
Sundance is controlled madness at our saloon on Park Avenue—300 people through the door in the first 15 minutes we’re open. We crank, crank, crank all day, and because we’re a whiskey brand, and handling it all day, our staff will move away from whiskey for their shift drink. Enter the mezcal-based Naked and Famous. Constellation [Brands, which owns High West] bought El Silencio mezcal, so we have it on our back bar, and it’s in a couple of our cocktails this winter. This one is an equal-parts cocktail: ¾ ounce mezcal, ¾ ounce yellow Chartreuse, ¾ ounce Aperol, and ¾ ounce lime juice, shaken with ice until well chilled and strained into a chilled coupe glass, no garnish or anything. It sits in that light and refreshing category, with that interesting element of earthy smoke from the mezcal and herbaceous flavors from the Chartreuse. One of the great things about the Naked and Famous is its versatility. You can do a small batch and put it in a shot glass, so when everyone’s together at the end of the night, you can do a quick “Cheers!” and head off home to your family. But it’s also a great cocktail when you sit down with the team at the end of a crazy night and reflect on how bad you got your ass whipped behind the bar.
Julius White, Gaijin, Chicago
My shift drink, the Hamani, is modeled on the Vesper, the original James Bond martini: two parts gin, one part vodka, half part Lillet. It’s light, aromatic, easy drinking, but stirred, unlike Bond’s forever-famous instructions. Going with the Japanese flavor profile of Gaijin, I combine 1 ounce Suntory Roku gin, whose botanicals include yuzu, sencha, sakura leaf and flower, and sansho pepper; ¾ ounce melon vodka; ¾ ounce delicate, super-floral cherry blossom vermouth; ½ ounce lychee liqueur; ½ ounce Baltamaro Szechuan Amaro; and 2 dashes orange bitters in a mixing glass with ice. I stir for 30 to 40 revolutions, pour it over a perfect 2-by-2-inch cube in a rocks glass, and garnish it with orange peel and these beautiful snapdragon flowers we get from Mike Werp, a farmer up in Buckley, Mich. I named it Hamani, which translates to “watching blossoms.”
The gin and vermouth are light and floral; the melon vodka and lychee liqueur provide a tropical component; and the orange bitters and amaro bring spice and depth and cut through any sweetness. The drink balanced out perfectly the first time I made it, which is why I’m so enthralled with it. At the end of the night, all I want to do is sit down at the bar and make this for myself.
Lola Hushin, Getaway, Brooklyn
We don’t serve alcohol at Getaway. We’re not trying to do a wellness thing or tell people they shouldn’t drink; our focus is on providing an alternative for people who don’t want to drink or be around alcohol but still want to enjoy the social aspect of drinking. I’m the head bartender and work four nights a week. A shift drink is a little different for us. Because there’s no alcohol involved, we can pretty much drink whenever we want, and there’s no danger of being drunk on the job.
A lot of my coworkers will start their shift with a latte, but I don’t drink coffee, so I started mixing myself the Second Date. I love tart flavors, and this is very refreshing. In a Collins glass filled with ice, I combine 1½ ounces Som turmeric shrub, an intensely sour, strong Thai drinking vinegar, with ¼ ounce lime juice and 5 dashes palo santo bitters, then fill with seltzer. People have very few expectations for nonalcoholic drinks, so I think it’s important to include interesting and different things and not just serve someone mixed juice. You’re trying to replace that slow sipping aspect of an alcoholic cocktail, so I’m always trying to think of the slow-down factor: What bitter, sour, spicy components can I add to make a cocktail people will want to sit with and chat for a while.
A version of this article appears in the January 2020 issue of Fortune with the headline “Shift Drinks.”
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