The Craft of Everything
A Chat with The Mascot’s Head Bartender Ian Moores
Ian Moores appreciates the craft. Whether it’s the craftsmanship behind a perfectly-mixed cocktail, a perfectly flavoured beer, or just a perfectly chosen pair of socks, Ian believes the secret is simple: just give a damn. We sat down with him to get his take on the craft of classic (and not-so-classic) cocktails, and to find out where you can get a Negroni in a paper cup. He also threw in a history lesson on bartending, because he’s just that nice of a guy.
What do you think are the elements that make a great cocktail or craft beer?
Ingredients, technique, and love. I think simplicity is a beautiful thing. With cocktails, you’re usually dealing with four or five ingredients, and with beer you’re sometimes dealing with just three or four ingredients, tops. When things are simple, you have to put so much more care into them, and I think that’s really where craftsmanship stems from. Caring about preserving the quality of something you want other people to enjoy, using the techniques you’ve learned and applying them as well as you can. That goes for cocktails, beer, food, shoes, socks. Just give a damn.
Some cocktails are ‘classic’ and feel historic. Do you ever feel like some cocktails are untouchable?
Every cocktail has its fingerprint or its DNA. Say you divide it into ‘sours’, which would be Daiquiri, Margarita, Whiskey Sours. Then you divide it into prototypical ‘cocktails’, those Old Fashioned or Manhattan-style drinks with a lot of bitters. Then the ‘shaken’ cocktails, those are gonna have citrus in them. So in that way, you’re always stuck making the classics to a certain degree.
But, then again, cocktail history is a foggy one. If you go back and read cocktail books from the 1870’s forward, there are so many inconsistencies from one book to the next. But I think it all comes back to craftsmanship, and applying that to the classic recipes. Take the Manhattan: It used to be an equal parts drink, but cocktails had much sweeter tastes back in the 1900s. So, now it’s still basically an equal parts drink, but we’ve dialled back the sweet vermouth to cater to modern palates. As long as it tastes good, I never knock a different approach.
Can you elevate classic recipes while still paying homage?
As far as cocktails go, it’s always good to make something new. Just respect your elders. Respect the past.
Let’s talk about ‘mixology’. Buzzword? Trend? Here to stay?
In a way, it’s always been around. People don’t really realize that bartenders were local heroes back in the late 1800s, early 1900s. They wouldn’t ever use the word “mixology”, but they had to make a lot of their own ingredients, they were making their own bitters, they had to handchip a lot of their own ice. Some guys just elevated it, and then a couple guys like Jerry Thomas started writing stuff down.
Now, bartending’s a little more respected as a craft. With the cocktail revolution in the 2010s, you had people doing those old school things like making bitters, bringing these crazy syrups, and hand chipping their ice. I think nowadays, bartenders are finding that style that will be permanent, but that still hearkens back to that 1930’s timelessness.
What’s the next big trend in beer?
I think we’re going to see a lot more lighter lagers. People have been trying to make huge beers, crazy IPAs, and fruit sours, and it just got all highfalutin and super-trendy. Now, I think people are really dialling it back to making lighter lagers and Italian-style lagers. Lager’s actually a very difficult beer to make, because you can’t hide behind the flaws with a beer like that. It’s very challenging.
"When things are simple, you have to put so much more care into them, and I think that’s really where craftsmanship stems from"
What trends do you wish would go away?
Big beer being the norm. Adjunct light lager’s owning all the space, because they have the purchasing power to buy all the space. I don’t care if they’re around, and some of them are great beers. But people seek so much quality in other areas. They come to a restaurant and they’ll expect quality from the food, they’ll expect quality from the service, and then for some reason they forgot that there’s quality beer that isn’t just adjunct lagers out there. People will come in here asking for what’s basically the McDonald’s of beers, and it’s like, “No, we have beers in that style, it’s just craft beer.” You shouldn’t have to call craft beer, “craft beer.” It’s just beer.
Are there any cities you find really inspiring, cocktail-wise?
New York is amazing. I’m way overdue for a trip to New York.
New Orleans will never die. You could get a negroni in a paper cup there in the 80’s!
Singapore has an insane cocktail scene.
Moscow has a great cocktail scene.
London’s hotel bar scene is legendary.
And Toronto! Toronto is often overlooked for these things, but it has an amazing cocktail scene.
Okay, bartender’s choice. What would you drink...
After a long day (beer)?
If was a hard day, a big-ass imperial stout. Give me as much ABV in a glass as you can and we’re good. On a casual day, it’d be a clean, crisp lager.
After a long day (cocktail)?
I’m a Negroni fiend, so it’d be a Negroni. Or a triple rye ginger with lemon in it.
For a big celebration?
Bubbles! Or get a whole keg of beer. It’s super unique, super fun. But always go back to the bubbles.
At drinks with a new boss?
If we’re Mad Men-ing it, then we’re doing scotch after dinner. Or an Old Fashioned. But — and this goes for when friends are in town, too — I like to get a nice bottle of wine. You don’t have to go too rich, but I always go with a nice bottle of wine during the meal.
To impress a first date?
On a first date, order whatever the f*** you want with confidence. Order a strawberry daiquiri. Order a glass of rose. Just do it with confidence, because that’s the most attractive thing, right?