“Patience and fortitude conquer all things—duh,” says Giuseppe González.
Unclear is whether González, the always frank and occasionally cantankerous bartender behind New York’s Suffolk Arms, is talking about the virtues themselves, or referencing the pair of marble lions that famously guard the city’s public library. Named Patience and Virtue, the statues have most recently been adopted by González as the bar’s mascots, their images appearing on menus and in a large-format portrait that hangs on Suffolk’s back wall. Situated alongside sketchings of influential New Yorkers, the lion is a nod to the city’s history. So is the bar itself.
It’s here that González pays homage to the people that’ve inspired him, among them: Julie Reiner, Audrey Saunders and historic New York restaurateur, Bernard “Toots” Shor, whose portraits close out the bar’s leather-clad menu. With a selection of off-centered originals, modern classics and an entire chapter devoted to vodka drinks, the cocktail program is a testament to the third-generation bartender’s masterful knowledge of drinks history, billed in a format that doesn’t care much for preconceived notions. It’s a menu that, as González might put it, doesn’t give a shit what you think.
So what happened when we asked the creator of the Trinidad Sour about the one ingredient he’ll never put behind the bar? And what drink does he wish would disappear from lists forever? Here, we learn about his childhood dreams of becoming a Jedi Knight, the obsession with Fallout 4 that almost ruined his life and his foundering quest to create a Hot Ramos Gin Fizz. –Lizzie Munro
I am the owner of Suffolk Arms. So that makes my occupation a hybrid of bartender, general manager, barback, host, server, line cook and dishwasher. My business card has me listed as “Principal Barback.”
What do want to be when you grow up?
Seriously? A Jedi Knight. I wore a cape to school from the age of five until I was about eight. That’s when kids started to point out that I was not as cool as I thought I was and that the Jedi were not real. I still hate those kids.
Best thing you ever drank:
Sometimes I have things that are incredibly memorable, but I can’t honestly explain why. Weird moments where a drink just transcribes permanently to your memory. My best friend, Dev Johnson, from Employees Only, made me a Tom Collins once. This was before we even knew each other. I literally was like, “Holy Shit. That’s fucking awesome.” I asked him about how he made it and he looked at me with this face that clearly said, “Is this guy fucking with me? He orders a Collins and doesn’t know what’s in it? Fucking weirdo.”
Worst thing you ever drank:
I despise lemongrass. The odor. The smell. The taste. I do not even like looking at it. I avoid going to restaurants that have curries because they might have lemongrass. I can’t explain why, but my personal reaction to it is a cross between fear, loathing and disgust.
First time you ever got drunk:
I was 18. Cornell University had an end of semester party called, “Slope Day,” where we could basically drink all over campus starting from early morning until we passed out. This was not responsible drinking. It was awesome. I was drinking Malibu and Pineapple, Sapphire and Tonics and a shitload of Cuervo. I almost lost my virginity that night but got so drunk I could not find the girl’s dorm room. When I did find it, they would not let me in because I was obviously a drunk mess and text messaging hadn’t been invented yet. I would have to wait a year and half to seal the deal with my girlfriend. Alcohol giveth and it taketh away.
If you had to listen to one album on loop, for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Nothing. I’d stop listening to music. The idea of only listening to one album over and over again forever is torturous.
What’s the weirdest hobby you currently have?
I am currently taking a few free edX classes. Teaching myself carpentry. Learning how to build my own lightsaber. Creating a cocktail app that makes all other cocktail apps obsolete. Running every day like a maniac because I like how calm it makes me.
Weirdest cocktail experiment you’ve ever attempted:
My head bartender, Nick Wright, is constantly working on a Hot Ramos Gin Fizz. It’s absurd. However, he has drawn me into his black of silliness and we are constantly trying to figure out how to create a quaffable version of this horrible drink.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not eating, drinking or drink-making?
When I am alone, I like playing Fallout 4 and watching Star Wars. I am a simple guy. I have had to stop playing Fallout 4 because it was effectively ruining my life. I was losing the ability to live in the real world. Living in a future post-Apocalyptic earth is pretty intense. So for now, it’s just watching Star Wars.
Your life mantra:
Patience and fortitude conquer all things—duh.
Weirdest drink request you’ve ever gotten:
An 80-year-old man asked me to make him a Vodka Old-Fashioned with “Sweet and Low.” I do not judge anyone on their cocktail. I really do not care. That’s a personal preference and people can do what they want. But, when I saw the service ticket I had to walk up to him and confirm that this was exactly what he wanted. It was.
Your favorite bar:
In NYC, Pegu Club. It’s the best job I have ever had. I miss it sometimes. In London, Portobello Star. Jake Burger is the owner and he’s one of my favorite people on earth. Currently, I have a crush on Sweet Liberty in Miami. The second I walked in there it felt like home. John Lermayer is a fucking genius.
Best meal you’ve ever had:
Anything my grandmother makes.
What’s your go-to drink in a cocktail bar? In a dive bar?
Water. Diet Coke. Coffee. I do not drink anymore.
Your preferred hangover recovery regime:
Read above. Hahahahaha.
The one thing you wish would disappear from drink lists forever:
I don’t honestly give a shit.