This is part one of a series featuring Tony Abou-Ganim, the Modern Mixologist.
Tony Abou-Ganim is one of the finest mixologists in the world. Named 'the poster boy for modern mixology' by Mario Batali, Abou-Ganim earned his moniker "The Modern Mixologist" through developing major beverage programs, including the Bellagio (with Steve Wynn) and Harry Denton's Starlight Room, where he developed the Bellagio and Cable Car Cocktails, respectively.
More recently Abou-Ganim has focused on the development of a barware line, Modern Mixologist. The line was developed for professional use and can be seen in use in Fleming's and other fine restaurants. Luckily, despite the professional grade status of the line, Modern Mixologist Bar Tools are now available direct to consumer.
Amusespot spoke with Mr. Abou-Ganim about the line.
The line started out of necessity, dating back to the beverage program developed for Steve Wynn at the Bellagio in 1998 and coincided with a number of mixologists having similar issues with the current 'technology.'
As he explains, "The line all started with the muddler. There was a lack of all bar tools of quality. Especially muddlers. Dave Mepove (Mister Mojito)makes muddlers, so I sent him some designs and made my first muddler. Lime squeezers, same issue. Julio Bermejo, of Tommy’s in San Francisco was bringing in good lime squeezers from Mexico, so we started T&J Lime Squeezers."
The line has continued to develop since that time, culminating in a series of bar tools under the brand "Modern Mixologist." The overall design period was over a year. Abou-Ganim was "evaluating what was available in the marketplace, realizing there wasn’t much and filling the need. On the heels of that I said I’m going to hire a designer and take everything I could get my hands on and say what I liked about it, what I didn’t like about it. What I would like to see in a tool."
What we (Amusespot) find in the Modern Mixology line is that, although the line was designed specifically for professionals, it is affordable and should also be used by the general public. It has an innate quality and an attention to detail. The series of tools is notable for their design: angled, flat-edged bar spoons, hawthorne strainers (the ones that look like coils) with better straining capabilities, beautiful flat headed wooden muddlers, hefty citrus juicers, and well-made moscow mule cups with proper lining and brass handles.
Despite being at the top in his field, Abou-Ganim seems to get the most happiness through education and making drinks. His working mantra comes from his cousin, Helen David, who told him years ago as a budding bartender at the Brass Rail in Port Huron, Michigan, "For a nickel more, you go first class." That aphorism applies to everything that Abou-Ganim does. There is no substitute for excellence.
"You only get out of a cocktail what you put into it: the glass, the ice, the freshest juice, the premium spirits, the garnish, the linen it sits on, the sterling silver olive pick that you skewer your olive with.. all of those little details. You don’t have to make lavender foam and gold dust to make a great drink- pay attention to the details and use the best ingredients that you can find. "
When asked where someone curious about making cocktails should start, he quickly rattles off some good advice:
"First master the things you like to drink. Take care of those first. You can't be everything to everyone but if you master a handful of drinks and you have the ingredients, glassware, tools, and garnishes to make the drinks... once you have the foundation- you build on that foundation.
A sour is 1:1:2 fresh lemon juice/simple syrup/whiskey
It's pretty close every time.
try a stirred drink: manhattan
try a muddled drink: mint julep
That's the foundation.
Then have fun. Eating Cuban food? Go on Google. Mojitos... watch a video. You have a muddler....
People try to do too much too fast. When I do a cocktail party. I generally have 2 or 3 things to serve. When you are entertaining you want to impress people. A cocktail will be more memorable because its a new experience to a lot of people."
At Amusespot, we're here to help.