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It's Sasha's world, we just drink here (if we're lucky)

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

Sasha Petraske mixing it up.


The first San Antonio Cocktail Conference premieres next week, running from Thursday through Sunday, January 26-29. Based on the popular Manhattan Cocktail Classic and New Orleans' Tales of the Cocktail, our town's event is the first of its kind in Texas, bringing in top bartenders and spirits experts for four days of seminars, classes, guided tastings, and parties. The conference launches on Thursday with an opening night party at Bohanan's, the downtown fixture that has hired cocktail maven Sasha Petraske as consultant.

Petraske, a New York City native, made his bones with Milk & Honey, a tiny hole in the wall in lower Manhattan that launched the speakeasy cocktail craze in 2000. Many of the guest speakers at the conference are affiliated with Petraske in one way or another.

Dutch Kills, in Long Island, NY, was designed by Petraske's team, as were Hundredweight, an artisanal ice company, and the NYC catering and beverage firm Cuffs & Buttons. The Varnish Bar in L.A.? Also with Petraske. As is Little Branch of NYC. The Randolph on Broome is held by Matty Gee, who tends bar at Milk & Honey. The Everleigh in Melbourne, Australia, is another Petraske design. Then there's Milk & Honey, London, and Attaboy, a Petraske property that now occupies M & H's original spot. All are sending talent to present at the conference.

We caught up with Petraske at Bohanan's last December to talk about San Antonio, his ambitions, and all things in between.

What's the most important trait for a bartender to have?

Being humble is important in being a bartender. It's a simple thing, not a question of skill; it's a question of character. Anyone can, literally, in a ten-minute lesson, make a martini as good as me or anyone else. But how many people will go to work for eight hours and every single martini they make is made as good as they can make it? That's a rare person. You reach into the freezer, and the glass that you are touching is not exactly cold, and your back hurts. Will you reach that much further to reach the glass that has been in the freezer longer and is cold? No amount of skill or knowledge will replace character. Bartending is a service position, you're here to serve people. You put your ego aside for eight hours, and make other people's interests more important than yours, and it is a wonderful thing, it's a freeing thing. I find it far more interesting than distilling whiskey. Bartending is simpler and easier than other things, but it is more rewarding. It's what I want to do.

Texas is beer country. How is the reception to cocktails here?

I would like to think that the kind of drinks we make are workman-like, that there is nothing effete or pretentious about mixing alcohol and fruit juice together, but cocktails do fight is an uphill battle against the perception that they are elitist or in some way too fancy for their own good.

Any plans for your group to open a place in Texas?

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