“Clover Club is the only bar I’ve ever worked at—so it’s where I’ve learned everything,” explains Tom Macy. That means he’s an acolyte of the Julie Reiner school of cocktail making: classic, but with a spin; artful, but never too esoteric. “We want to keep things interesting but approachable. If we do a variation of a classic, we want to find a reason to earn that variation.”
Since the Old-Fashioned is such a simple formula, Macy finds that bartenders often get too caught up in doing “that Mr. Potato Head thing,” swapping in, say, tequila or mezcal in place of whiskey and, voilà, new drink. But in a cocktail where the base spirit is the star of the show—according to Macy, it’s responsible for 95 percent of the drink’s flavor—he believes you really have to figure out a way to maximize your modifiers.
Macy does that by creating what is known as a “biz,” industry parlance for a minuscule batch of non-spirituous ingredients that helps bartenders make drinks faster and more accurately. As Reiner once explained to him, back when the Singapore Sling was gaining popularity, bartenders would batch its small-quantity ingredients like Cointreau and grenadine. Then, when making the drink, they might yell at a colleague to pass them the “Singapore Sling business,” and eventually it got shortened to simply “biz.”
In his Brugal Biz, Macy uses three parts demerara syrup, one part oloroso sherry, one part banana liqueur and two dashes of Angostura bitters. The cocktail uses only a quarter-ounce of the biz, total, so that only a tiny amount of each ingredient—often less than a teaspoon—makes its way into the final drink. But the synergy between those ingredients is crucial. Macy has become famous for how meticulous he is when it comes to finding the perfect ratio for his bizzes, methodically testing any and all possible combinations.
“[Fellow Clover Club bartender] Jelani Johnson calls it my ‘tried and tried and tried and tried and tried and true method,’” he jokes.
This particular biz is perfect in an aged-rum Old-Fashioned, especially one that uses a Spanish-style offering like Brugal 1888. Since the Brugal is very dry, it allows Macy to control the exact level of sweetness himself, which he does with the demerara. In an ode to the rum’s secondary maturation in sherry barrels, the oloroso sherry in Macy’s biz helps bring out the rum’s oxidized nuttiness. Likewise, the whisper of banana liqueur—barely detectable at first sip—gives the drink a delicate tropical flair, and the bitters introduce baking spice notes to help round out the whole enterprise.
“Mainly, the drink tastes like one complete, symbiotic flavor,” explains Macy. “Because the Brugal 1888 is a cane sugar [spirit] instead of whiskey, the biz helps me lean into that decadence, without ever becoming too cloying.”