Damon Boelte, Co-Owner | Grand Army Bar

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As a pre-teen, years before he was legally allowed to drink, Damon Boelte was an avid collector of cocktail books. And in retrospect, that’s really no surprise; his longstanding fascination with drinks history and culture has uniquely positioned him to work in a variety of corners within the industry. 

Having first started bartending in his native Oklahoma, Boelte has, over the course of a short decade, made a name for himself in New York. After moving to Brooklyn with his twin brother, Dylan, he began working at Red Hook’s renowned LeNell’s Ltd. spirits store before being recruited for a consulting job at Frankies 457—an opportunity that eventually lead to a position as head bartender at Prime Meats. From there, he went on to open Grand Army as head bartender and co-owner, alongside Mile End‘s Noah Bernamoff and photographer Daniel Krieger. But Boelte’s inspiration doesn’t come strictly from behind the bar; not only does he host The Speakeasy, a weekly drinks podcast on Heritage Radio Network, he plays in a band (Brothers), builds custom motorcycles and practices archery.

So what does the award-winning bartender do when he’s not hosting, collecting or drink-making? And what’s the one thing the wishes he’d known five years ago? Here, Boelte tackles our Lookbook Questionnaire to reveal his weirdest cocktail experiment, his go-to drink in a dive bar and why he wants to be a wizard when he grows up. –Lizzie Munro

What do want to be when you grow up?
Wise, travelled, in love, maybe a wizard by then. Just the old guy with amazing stories and sound advice, wearing awesome hats. 

Best thing you ever drank:
Iced tea, brewed by my mom and the sun.

Worst thing you ever drank:
Communion wine during confirmation.

First time you ever got drunk:
Communion wine during confirmation.

If you had to listen to one album on loop, for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Townes Van Zandt, Live at the Old Quarter.

What’s the weirdest hobby you currently have or have had?
I used to collect mustards. Now I collect ceramic turkeys. I have a nice lineup of them above the oyster bar at Grand Army. Oh, and hats. Lots of hats.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago?
Purchase stock in Pokemon GO.

Weirdest cocktail experiment you’ve ever attempted:
Aaron Polsky and I made gummi bottled Negronis once.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not eating, drinking or drink-making?
Playing with my band, riding motorcycles, archery.

Weirdest drink request you’ve ever gotten:
Long Island Iced Tea, from a grown-ass “man.” I usually ask for ID when a guest orders this drink, no matter how old they look.

Your favorite bar, and why:
Luckenbach, TexasIf you don’t know, I can’t explain it.

Best meal you’ve ever had:
Lately, the steak at Karasu in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. I ate steak for every meal in 2010, so I think I’m a pretty good judge of steaks. 

What’s your go-to drink in a cocktail bar?
Rum Old-Fashioned.

In a dive bar?
Lone Star.

Your preferred hangover recovery regime:
If I have to move, Campari. It’s kind of a miracle worker.

The one thing you wish would disappear from drink lists forever:
Prices. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t really give a shit about what I’m paying for a great cocktail in a beautiful environment.

The last text message you sent:
“Running 5 behind, sorrreeeeeeeeeeeee…”