If you’re on the hunt for a rare, out-of-print cocktail book from the nineteenth century, check in with Greg Boehm. It’s likely he has a copy sitting in his library, alongside 3,800 others on the subject.
Boehm’s New York-based company, Cocktail Kingdom, actually lives up to its superlative, all-encompassing name. Between manufacturing top-of-the-line bartending tools and publishing books like Beachbum Berry’s Sippin’ Safari, Boehm’s influence on cocktail culture is undeniable. His Japanese jiggers and crystal mixing glasses sit on nearly every cocktail bar across the nation—and the world.
Beyond his archives and extensive knowledge, Boehm also owns several bars scattered across downtown New York (Existing Conditions, Katana Kitten, The Cabinet, Mace and Boilermaker). Be it a mezcal-centric destination serving tamales or a Japanese cocktail joint slinging highballs in the West Village, each bar maintains its own identity, driven by the bartenders with whom Boehm partners.
During the holiday season, Boehm is busy with Miracle, his global empire of pop-up Christmas bars, which began as a yuletide pop-up at Mace in the East Village, eventually spawning 125 seasonal locations from Greece to Hong Kong. Outfitted in twinkly Christmas lights and plenty of kitsch, these limited-time locations offer Christmopolitans and Gingerbread Flips alongside Cocktail Kingdom merch, all with the intention of introducting new audiences to cocktails via the perennial Christmas spirit.
So, what does Boehm do when he’s not manning his massive library and disseminating holiday cheer? Here, he tackles our Lookbook Questionnaire to share his go-to cocktail order, the best meal he’s ever had and something he wishes would disappear from cocktail menus forever. —Tatiana Bautista
Barware manufacturer, bar owner, book publisher, Christmas promoter
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Do I have to grow up? Even as a kid, I was more focused on what was in front of me rather than dreaming of what I would be one day. I did think bookies were pretty cool, so I went down that path for a while, but it didn’t really end well.
Best thing you ever drank (and describe):
Berry Brothers 17 Year Old Guyana Rum. It was the first booze I ever put in my mouth that made me realize there were truly delicious things out there, and it started me on my journey to find them.
Worst thing you ever drank (and describe):
Moutai in China when I was 17. I still can’t get the nasty flavor out of my mouth. It is amazing that I ended up in this business after drinking that crap.
First time you ever got drunk (and describe):
The first time I got drunk, I was six years old, on vacation in the Canary Islands. There was some miscommunication about how much vodka went into a Shirley Temple. I wandered around the restaurant talking to random tables before curling up in a ball and going to sleep at my parents’ feet.
If you had to listen to one album on loop, for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Paranoid by Black Sabbath. I had the vinyl, I had the cassette and I had the CD. I don’t think I had the 8-track tape though.
What’s the weirdest hobby you currently have or have had?
I collected “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” monkey figurines when I was about eight. It was a pretty impressive collection of wood, wax and brass objects.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago?
I wish I hadn’t drank all those bottles of Pappy Van Winkle.
Weirdest cocktail experiment you’ve ever attempted:
I tried for a few weeks to make a cocktail with a celery simple syrup that was vibrant and shelf-stable. I had about a dozen versions at a time. Then Don Lee took over the challenge and ended up creating one of my favorite cocktails ever and putting it on the menu at Ssäm Bar.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not eating, drinking or drink-making?
Chopping wood. It is the most therapeutic thing I know of. I actually do “whole tree,” from cutting down the tree, to bucking it and splitting the logs.
Weirdest drink request you’ve ever gotten:
At a catered event, with limited resources at my disposal, a guy asked me for yet another different stirred tequila cocktail (he’d already had four), but this time he wanted one fruity.
Your favorite bar, and why:
Bar Doras in the Asakusa neighborhood of Tokyo is my favorite cocktail bar. The entire experience is immersive, with the low lighting, opera music, relaxed atmosphere, mesmerizing stirring techniques and amazingly good cocktails.
Best meal you’ve ever had:
When I was 16, I had dinner at Le Bernardin. I still remember the skate wing with lemon brown butter and capers. It amazed me how the flavors popped. I still think about that meal.
What’s your go-to drink in a cocktail bar?
In the colder months, I often order a Rye Old Fashioned. If it is warm, I might get a Tommy’s Margarita. But mostly I order on menu if the cocktail bar seems like it might be good.
Alsatian whites. I can’t get enough of those Rieslings and Gewürztraminers.
In a dive bar?
A nice four-ounce pour of Old Grand-Dad works just fine for me. I might need it on the rocks.
Your preferred hangover recovery regime:
Put on a knit cap, sit on the sofa, order Thai food, feel sorry for myself and wait for it to pass.
The one thing you wish would disappear from drink lists forever:
Anything “made with love.”
The last text message you sent: