Welcome to our Happy Hour Question & Answer series, where we ask questions to interesting people in the alcohol world.
This week’s spotlight is on author and bartender Bryan Paiement, whose latest offering The Little Book of Whiskey Cocktails is now available. The Little Book of Whiskey Cocktails sets out to share the stories of the whiskey-making world and recipes suitable for whiskey enthusiasts of all expertise levels. Paiement takes a practical approach to exploring the various ways in which the spirit can be mixed and enjoyed. Beginning with a brief history of whiskey, Paiement answers many questions that even aficionados can’t help but stumble over: What is the difference between “whiskey” and “whisky”? Does bourbon have to come from Kentucky? How many times does Irish whiskey need to be distilled?
Hops & Spirits: You’re a bartender by day, or night, what drew you to that?
Bryan Paiement: I bartend at night at The Cache, a restaurant that is part of Ginger and Baker in Fort Collins, Col. I am also teaching cocktail classes in the teaching kitchen at Ginger and Baker. I started bartending when we moved to Estes Park for my wife’s job. She was a sales manager in Roanoke, Va., and took a job at The Ridgeline Hotel in Estes Park. They needed a bartender at Latitude 105, the restaurant in the hotel, and I was more than happy to start bartending!
HS: How did you get into writing about cocktails?
BP: I first developed an interest in mixing cocktails while I was teaching special education in Roanoke, Va. I read all the cocktail books I could get my hands on and began trying the recipes myself at home. A few staples that I have in my cocktail canon are The Craft of the Cocktail by Dale Degroff and Death & Company: Modern Classic Cocktails. I learned from the great mixologists and had a base knowledge of the classic cocktails prior to moving to Colorado and starting my work as a professional bartender.
HS: How does The Little Book of Whiskey differ from Sports Bar: Cocktails and Sports Trivia?
BP: My first book, Sports Bar: Cocktails and Sports Trivia, is a collection of original cocktails that are all inspired by the major sporting event they represent. For example, I have a cocktail called “Augusta on my Mind,” which pays tribute to The Masters golf tournament. Every cocktail is connected with a particular sporting event and is accompanied by sports trivia. The Little Book of Whiskey Cocktails is a collection of 40 classic whiskey cocktails and 10 original cocktails. All of the delicious drinks in The Little Book incorporate whiskey – bourbon, Scotch, Irish, etc. – as the base spirit. The book is an easy-to-use reference guide to encourage everyone who enjoys whiskey to try their hand at mixing cocktails at home.
HS: Why break the book into three basic parts: History, Glassware & Tools, and Cocktails?
BP: Prior to delving into the world of whiskey cocktails, I think it’s helpful and super interesting to learn a bit about where the spirit came from, how it made its way around the world, and how it is made. I included a brief section on glassware and tools as a user-friendly reference that will make the act of mixing at home more enjoyable and stress free.
HS: How much fun did you have writing this book?
BP: My favorite part about writing the book was researching and learning the histories behind some of our most beloved whiskey cocktails. Take for instance the Old Fashioned, perhaps the most famous whiskey cocktail of all, was actually made popular by whiskey patrons’ disdain for all of the new modifiers that were seen as ruining the purity of the spirit. Customers, wishing to stay clear of the new liqueurs that were making their way into cocktails, soon asked for drinks to be made “the old-fashioned way,” that is with just whiskey, sugar, and bitters. This, along with creating my own original drinks, made the process of writing The Little Book of Whiskey Cocktails a blast!
HS: How did you go about finding the classic recipes and picking those?
BP: I chose the whiskey cocktails in the book based on their occurrence and re-occurrence in the cocktail recipe books I used to learn how to make cocktails. Popular culture certainly aided in the process and working as a bartender I learned first-hand which whiskey cocktails are most requested by bar patrons. I enjoyed including a few cocktails that people may not have heard of, and their presence in the books of the most highly revered mixologists solidifies their place as classics that deserve to be more well-known.
HS: What was it like to create original recipes or showcase your original recipes?
BP: There is nothing more fun than creating your own cocktails at home. The inspiration can come from a variety of places – maybe there is a combo spirit/liqueur you’re dying to try, or maybe you’re working more from a concept, like a cocktail intended to be enjoyed during The Super Bowl, or your favorite TV show. I hope that readers will not be intimidated by mixing drinks at home – the world of spirits and mixing is vast and wide open to creativity.
HS: Who would you say this book is for?
BP: The Little Book of Whiskey Cocktails is intended for anyone who enjoys whiskey in any form and has an interest in mixing cocktails at home, while learning a little bit about each cocktail. The book is user-friendly and pocket sized so it travels well (maybe for mixing a few drinks at a friends house) and makes for a great gift!