Chris Bostick is one of the guys you'll see poised behind a fleet of beakers at the Varnish, bathed in dim, syrupy light, shaking a cocktail shaker in the way that a great drummer teases a snare, conjuring chaos with calculated precision.
An Austin native with a taste for strong but beautiful drinks, Bostick has made cocktails an intellectual pursuit, attending cocktail conferences, inventing new drinks and perfecting vintage ones, and writing posts for his cocktail blog, Blueprint Cocktail. After meeting him at Jonathan Gold's cocktail fundraiser for Zócalo last weekend, Squid Ink invited Bostick to ruminate on the current nature of cocktails and bartending in Los Angeles.
Squid Ink: How long have you been blogging about cocktails?
Chris Bostick: I started my blog in March of this year. I severely fractured my collar-bone in January and had to have it surgically repaired. Needless to say I wasn't able to bartend and had some extra time on my hands and started it up.
SI: What's your favorite little-known food blog?
CB: I'm kind of a geek at heart and I love the Cooking Issues
SI: What's unique about food blogging in Los Angeles?
CB: Well, I think food blogging in LA is directly related to the food scene here.
It seems that something special has been happening in LA's foodie world for the past few years and the number of food bloggers has risen along with it. I think LA is starting to be recognized more for its culinary endeavors based on what's on the plate as opposed to how much buzz a place has, and the bloggers are on the front lines relaying their findings. Same with cocktails. We're finally getting our reputation back as a world class cocktail city. No longer is it all vodka Red Bulls in Beverly Hills, it's hand crafted cocktails made with fresh ingredients, love and attention to detail in the most unlikely of places around town.
SI: What's your favorite cocktail?
CB: Right now I'm really into old fashioned style cocktails, with three to four ingredients at most, including garnish. I really love the “less is more” approach. Some of the ingredients we use are very well crafted by people who spend a lot of time making them. I like to honor that and not fuss up the flavors.
SI: What's the most difficult cocktail to make and why?
CB: A traditional Ramos Gin Fizz. It involves many ingredients including egg whites and cream and traditionally would have to be shaken by a line of restaurant employees to achieve the desired texture. It's one of those drinks that even the most seasoned of bartenders will offer a small cringe (even if well hidden) when ordered.
SI: How many drinks do you consume per week?
CB: Depends on the week. On a good week 25-30, just don't tell my doctor that.
SI: Wow, that's a lot! Do you actually drink 25-30 whole drinks per week? Do you taste and spit, when you're on the job?
CB: As far as tasting at work is concerned, we test a lot of cocktails and most of the time we don't spit. We're not necessarily drinking the whole thing either. The only time I'll spit is if I'm doing a blind tasting of around 30-40 spirits in a day. Then it's absolutely necessary.
SI: Do you drink and blog?
CB: Absolutely, it's part of the fun.
SI: Are you a beer drinker?
CB: Couldn't live without it. It's a nice change of pace from hard liquor all the time.
SI: Most memorable cocktail you've ever had?
CB: I was just in NYC for the Beverage Alcohol Resource seminar and the Manhattan Cocktail Classic and had never been to Milk and Honey, which Varnish is a direct descendant of. Considering the pedigree and the exalted status of the place, I knew I was in for a treat. Mickey McElroy made me a Greenpoint and it was delicious. It was a perfect example of how environment, timing, and flavor combined into a complete sensory awakening. Very memorable indeed.
SI: What is unique about the cocktail culture in Los Angeles?
CB: Right now we have an incredible community of bartenders who care as well as avid enthusiasts in LA and it continues to grow.
Los Angeles was once a fertile ground for cocktails and I feel Hollywood was one of the driving factors. Somewhere along the way it got dumbed down by people wanting less flavor from their drinks. Alcohol became a means to an end and vodka became the vehicle in which to deliver it. Now I feel people are starting to enjoy experimenting more with spirits and there are a number of bars with bartenders committed to helping scratch that itch for people. Also here in Southern Cal we have an incredible farmers market scene and the bounty that it provides. Fresh ingredients to use in cocktails are abundant.