You may remember our recent Atlanta based virtual happy hour with Tiffanie Barriere, The Drinking Coach, and OneLogin’s VP of North America, Drew Prante. Who could forget the mint spanking, stirring and sipping we did together?! As part of our continued efforts to do our part in being of service by partnering with small businesses and entrepreneurs across the United States who are being impacted by COVID-19, we just finished our second virtual happy hour - this time based in San Francisco - with Adam “Boots” Brogan and OneLogin CEO, Brad Brooks.
Born in San Francisco, but raised in the pubs of London, it’s no wonder that Boots finds himself most at home behind a bar. Boots has collaborated with some of the biggest liquor companies, from Jack Daniel’s and Fernet to Absolut and Buffalo Trace. He’s a contributor and writer on Chefsfeed.com and Barchick.com and has been featured in commercials for Jameson and The Golden State Warriors.
While his most recent work has gained him a reputation in the craft cocktail world, Boots maintains that he is, and always will be, a bartender over a mixologist. Far more than knowing the art and science of crafting the perfect cocktail, Boots credits the years of growing up in the back of pubs for teaching him the ever more important lesson of service and hospitality. We sat down with Boots to learn more about his background, his vision of the future of mixology and to see what cool bartending stories he had.
OL: How did you start your career in mixology/beverage director?
Boots: My first real “mixology” job was back in 2015 at a bar in San Francisco called, Lord George. We specialized in what bartenders call “dealer’s choice” cocktails where we mix original drinks given only a few ingredients from the customer. Think of it like a Chopped Challenge for bartenders. This training of having to make dozens of new and original cocktails nightly helped me understand theory, technique, and most importantly – speed. It doesn’t matter how fancy your drink is if someone has to wait 10 minutes to enjoy it. Two years later, I went on to be the Beverage Director for Tyler Florence’s restaurant, Wayfare Tavern, and began competing in cocktail competitions to try to make a name for myself in a very competitive and very talented market like San Francisco. I’ve been fortunate enough to be handed many opportunities since then and currently manage Louie’s Bar which is my absolute dream job. Think of Louie’s as the bar your favorite bartender goes to after their shift. It’s where I always went after work, and now I get to serve all of my friends when they’re off the clock.
OL: What are some of your favorite bars in San Francisco
Boots: Oh, I have so many. I’ve even created an in-depth “Bootsy Guide” to the best bars in SF, organized by district type of bar. Whether you want a cocktail bar in the Mission or a dive bar in Chinatown – This list has got you covered. Just make sure you pop by my bar to begin your bar crawl, mention OneLogin, and I’ll happily buy you a shot on the house!
OL: We will take you up on that shot! So, what future trends do you see happening in the bartending world?
Boots: I think this is the year of craft RTD’s. RTD’s are “Ready to Drink” cocktails that come in cans and bottles and can be enjoyed right out of the fridge. Technically, White Claws and Truly’s are a form of RTD’s and I think they opened the door for consumers to be more open to enjoying a canned cocktail. As bars and restaurants fight to serve customers who are more accustomed to eating and drinking at home, to-go cocktails are a big source of income. As for bartending, mark my words - Gin Milk Punches will be more prevalent than ever. It’s a bartending technique that we use so citrus doesn’t oxidize. The science behind it is boring, but what it means for customers is a cocktail that doesn’t go bad or expire. I’m already working on four different Gin Milk Punches and many of my peers are doing the same.
OL: What has been your favorite experience as a bartender thus far?
Boots: My favorite experience is not one single experience but more so a repeated experience, which is meeting other bartenders around the world. It doesn’t matter if you bartend at a dive bar in Austin, Texas or a Top 50 cocktail bar in Paris, France; bartenders take care of bartenders. It’s like a secret society of booze-loving brothers and sisters that go out of their way to make you feel at home wherever you are in the world. I’ve gone to bars by myself not knowing a single soul and left the same night feeling like part of the family. The best part is you don’t necessarily have to be a bartender to get this treatment. My advice to anyone traveling is to go out to the closest bar and ask your bartender where they go to drink. Find out that person’s name and mention it at the bar they recommend. Chances are they’re friends with each other and you’ll get a little “special treatment” of your own. Bartenders can be your best friend. Take advantage of it.
OL: What is a great underrated cocktail that we might not know about?
Boots: Not so much an underrated drink, but under-ordered, is the “Paper Plane.” It’s equal parts Whiskey, Aperol, Amaro, and Lemon juice. It’s the perfect in-between cocktail for people who like spirit-forward cocktails (Old-Fashioneds, Martinis, Manhattans) and citrus-forward cocktails (Margaritas, Sours, Gimlets). A close cousin to this drink is a relatively unknown cocktail called a “Naked and Famous.” I love N&F as it switches out Whiskey for Mezcal, Amaro for Chartreuse, Lemon juice for Lime, and leaves the Aperol. Same concept as it’s very spirit-forward but light enough with the added citrus to soften it up and a nice, soft, smoky flavor throughout the drink. Either of these drinks can be enjoyed with a meal or happily by itself.
OL: What drink trend do you wish would go away?
Boots: I wish White Claws and Truly’s would go away, or at the very least away from, and out of, bars. As mentioned earlier, these drinks are called “RTD’s” or Ready to Drinks. They’re perfect for the park, the beach, or the lake when you don’t have tools or ingredients to mix your own cocktail but when you order one at a cocktail bar it’s like ordering a DiGiorno pizza at your favorite Italian restaurant. Why order something pre-made when we have all of the ingredients to make you one fresh?
OL: That’s an excellent point… fresh is better! Do you have a go-to signature cocktail?
Boots: I do! It’s called a “Siesta.” It’s an easy spin on a classic Margarita made from Tequila, Lemon juice, Agave syrup and a splash of Mezcal and Habanero bitters. It’s one of those drinks that you can order all night and never get tired of. I originally created it while on vacation in Mexico, during a siesta, and I ended up making big batches to drink all night. I’ve since tweaked it since that first day, but any drink that you can drink all day/night is a winner and go-to for customers.
** OL: Okay, we have to try out your Siesta cocktail this weekend! Final question: if you had to pick a theme song for your bar, what would it be?**
Boots: More than a theme song, I have a playlist that I play every Friday night. I’m a huge Hip Hop head and what started out as a best-of-the-90’s playlist, later evolved into an all-around Ultimate House Party mix. This playlist has everything – from Bell Biv Devoe, Outkast, Usher, Mariah Carey, Rihanna, and Montell Jordan to the ultimate party starter - Missy Elliott. When you come into my bar on a Friday night, I want you to feel like you’re at an old-school house party. We sing along at the tops of our lungs, we dance behind the bar, and unlike that DJ at the club – we take requests so you can join in on the fun!
OL: Thank you Boots for hosting an awesome happy hour and introducing us to some new cocktails! We look forward to visiting your bar in San Francisco. For those of you who are interested in connecting with Boots you can find him on Instagram, YouTube or his website.