Jonathan Pogash knows a thing or two about booze. He's a man about town, developing cocktails around the city, teaching classes, and happily mixing drinks for morning newscasters (not a bad way to start the day). When he's not doing all that, he serves as President of the New York chapter of the United States Bartenders' Guild. Jonathan was able to take a moment from his busy schedule to answer a few questions for Serious Eaters.
When did you decide to go for a full-time career in the cocktail world? I never really planned on it. I moved to New York to become an actor and my father, who is "in the biz," suggested that I get a job in a bar—so I did. I was also introduced to a gent called Gary Regan, who taught me most of what I know when it comes to classics and technique. After a few years behind the stick, I began really taking it seriously; studying classic books, experimenting, traveling. I formed my own consulting company four years ago, with the intention of always remaining behind the bar weekly. I've realized that what I do now satisfies any creative urge I may have had back in my actor days.
You are the president of the New York chapter of the United States Bartenders' Guild; tell us a little about what the USBGNY is/does and how you got involved? The USBG is non-profit organization consisting of bartenders, bar/restaurant professionals, and enthusiasts who all have the following common goals: education, preserving the craft of the cocktail, and encouraging and maintaining bartending as a profession. We gather regularly for our once-a-month mixers, hold field trips, organize events, attend educational seminars, lunches, and dinners, as well as compete on a local and national level.
Where can we find your cocktails around the city? I develop the cocktails for a group called Hospitality Holdings. Our locations include The Campbell Apartment, The Carnegie Club, The World Bar, Bookmarks Lounge, Madison and Vine, and the newly opened Empire Room. As a side project, I've recently developed the beverage program for a farm-to-table restaurant in Harlem called 5 and Diamond. We have been open for two months now.
You also teach classes regularly at the Astor Center—what do you like the most about teaching? I like following in the footsteps of my mentors, mainly Gary Regan, whose "Cocktails in the Country" course I took three times (unfortunately these classes are no longer being held). I model my classes and teaching style after Gary's, and it gives me great satisfaction to share techniques and play with ingredients along with my students.
What's your go-to summer drink? Margarita, salt, rocks.
What are your favorite local hangouts or places you might be considered a regular? I consider myself a transient frequenter of bars. I try to visit as many different places as I possibly can—and we all know how long thay could take in NYC. More often than not, if I'm craving a well-made cocktail, I'll head on down to Clover Club, not too far from where I live.
What is in your liquor cabinet that you'd be embarrassed to tell us about? A couple of fluorescent, unnaturally colored liqueurs that shall remain nameless. It's for experimentation purposes only... I swear.
What's the last drink you had that knocked your socks off (and where can we find it)? I had some great cocktails recently at Pio Pio. They specialize in infused Pisco cocktails.
What's your favorite hidden gem in NYC (food or drink)? Freeman's. The perfect food to go along with the most perfect cocktails. It's basically a marriage made in cocktail heaven.