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Behind the Bar with Brian Case

by Shauna Skalitzky

Behind the Bar with Brian Case video still


blog intro

In preparation for the release of Marisol’s winter cocktail menu, we sat down with Marisol Lead Bartender Brian Case to discuss his drink-making philosophy and to find out what type of cocktails are in store next.

Shauna Skalitzky: I'm curious how one creates a cocktail. What do you start with?

Brian Case: I always start by thinking about what I like to drink, or just experimenting, like when you have two things behind the bar and you're just curious what they would taste like together. It always helps me to start with a classic recipe or a recipe that I've read about and from there start to change ingredients and proportions. I usually try to pull things away. It's more about a combination of two or three things instead of a concoction of a bunch of flavors. In some instances, like vermouth, people have spent centuries getting this right so I want to honor that. Somebody took so much time to work on this thing and has been developing it; I don't want to dump all this stuff all over it and take away what's special about it. That's where the idea with the combinations comes in, where it's like let's find some things that naturally go together instead of forcing a bunch of stuff to make it taste right.

SS: What is the reasoning behind the drink titles?

BC: All the titles are inspired by the research I did about Marisol. So some of them relate to her work, like the Six Women, which is the first piece gifted to the MCA, and the first drink that I came up with. Some of the others, like #13, is a reference to the Andy Warhol movie she was in called 13 Women. Your Silent Face is a reference to the vow of silence that she took after her mother committed suicide. Sidney J. was a gallery owner who gave her one of her first shows and also turned into her business manager. Marisol was notorious for traveling, for going off and getting lost, and he was the one who was, I think, charged with answering for her whereabouts. So he kind of helped take care of her and helped her navigate her personal life and her art career. Found in Photo is a reference to an article that was about women in pop art—it was not really Marisol specific, but fit the drink so we went with it.

SS: How do the flavor profiles draw from your research on Marisol?

BC: The drinks are all based on a style of drink called suppressor, which is where the spirit is lower in quantity than some of the other ingredients in the drink. It's the way that cocktails were first made when they were becoming fashionable in the early 1900s. Vermouth was usually the main ingredient and the spirit was just the kick underneath it. So I was more interested in doing combinations of things as opposed to building some crazy cocktail. Marisol was really straightforward and direct and we wanted the cocktails to reflect that attitude, so a lot of them are just a combination of one or two things as opposed to a crazy build where we spent months infusing a gin or something like that.