What do you like to drink after a shift? “So much seltzer water. I’ll have a whiskey or a beer sometimes after work when I get home, but I make sure to consume as much water as I possibly/comfortably can before going to bed.”
What is the all-time best dive bar jukebox song? “‘Can’t Fight This Feeling’ from the 1984 Wheels Are Turnin’ album by REO Speedwagon.”
After all these years bartending and creating drinks, do you still enjoy going out to bars? “Absolutely! Trying new things has always been a highlight with this career and there are so many new bars staffed by talented young bartenders working amazingly creative recipes out there. Not to mention all the quality spirits that people are discovering or producing now.”
Name the first good drink you ever drank and where you had it. “The first one that I can accurately pinpoint is the VEP Last Word I had at Cure in New Orleans. I remember just being blown away by the flavor. That was also [during] the Tales of the Cocktail conference that I met my now wife. That was a good summer for me.”
What book on cocktails or spirits is your go-to resource? “That is a tough question. I really enjoy The Cocktail Codexby Alex Day, David Kaplan, Nick Fauchald and Devon Tarby because it breaks down basic categories of cocktails in a way that encourage creativity. I am also a huge fan of I’m Just Here for the Drinks by Sother Teague because you can practically hear Sother speaking through the pages. But I think my favorite book is Drinking Distilled by Jeffrey Morgenthaler. This is the book I wish I had been given before I had ordered my first drink at a bar. It would have saved me from a lot of regrettably embarrassing moments. Well, might have.”
What’s your favorite cocktail and food pairing? “A tall, cold Rebujito, a sherry highball made with 7UP, Sprite or Fanta, while picking at a Costco rotisserie chicken. I dare you to prove me wrong.”
Who is your favorite fictional bartender? “There is this puppet bartender named Bennett on YouTube that I really like…”
Is there one person (dead or alive) you’d like to make a cocktail for? “Dead: Mark Twain. Alive: David Sedaris. A conversation with either of them would, I believe, be hilarious and memorable.”
What’s your favorite shot-and-a-beer combination? “Balcones Baby Blue Corn Whiskey and a pilsner. Texas bar owner Travis Tober got me into this combo, and I am still amazed at how delicious it is.”
What is the one tool that you always make sure to pack when you’re travelling for business? “My notebook. I always have a notebook in my back pocket and it’s where I keep my itinerary organized along with any recipes I might be working on, notes on people I meet along with their business cards, and all the inspiration from any bar I might have sat at.”
Nicholas Bennett is the beverage director of New York’s acclaimed Porchlight bar.
Interview has been condensed and edited.