As Bar Manager of Clyde Common, adjacent the Ace Hotel in Portland, OR, and Pépé le Moko, just around the corner, Jeffrey Morgenthaler caught the cocktail world’s attention with barrel-aged cocktails—specifically a barrel-aged Negroni he created at Clyde Common in 2010—and bottled sodas, ready-to-drink low-alcohol bitters-based concoctions he created using a carbonator and classic drink recipes, also at Clyde Common.
In 2002, while serving as the bar manager of Red Agave in Eugene, OR, he began writing about spirits and sharing cocktail recipes with patrons and fellow bartenders on his namesake blog. In 2014 he published his first book, The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique. His second book, Drinking Distilled: A User’s Manual comes out June 2018 from Ten Speed Press. Morganthaler knows all too well the education-starved atmosphere of tending bar in a small town, and much of what he shares in his books and on his site are with the off-the-beaten-path mixologists in mind.
So, what does Morgenthaler like to do when he’s not drinking or drink-making? Here, he takes a stab at our Lookbook Questionnaire to talk about his first time getting drunk, the one thing he wishes would disappear from drink lists forever and the weirdest cocktail experiment he’s ever attempted.
Bar manager at Pépé le Moko and Clyde Common, full-time bartender, and weekly columnist for Playboy.
What do want to be when you grow up? Retired. I mean, I kind of already am. My degree is in Interior Architecture, so every day I don’t spend in an architecture office is kind of a vacation.
Best thing you ever drank: Best anything? Oh man. A pitcher of Mug root beer with a Round Table pizza after swim practice when I was a kid. Kinda hard to compare to that.
Worst thing you ever drank: Right after high school, my best friend and I decided we needed to know what alcohol was. So we stole a plastic jug of gin and mixed it with our favorite beverage at the time: Mountain Dew. I think pretty much everyone has the exact same story. I’m pretty sure I barfed in a trash can at work the next morning.
I didn’t touch gin for another five years until someone made me try Bombay Sapphire. And I was back.
First time you ever got drunk: “And describe”—that’s awesome. “Tell us what an idiot you are, and all about the worst you’ve ever felt in your life.” See above.
If you had to listen to one album on loop, for the rest of your life, what would it be? What the fuck kind of question is this? If I had to listen to one album on repeat for the rest of my life, or drink and eat only one thing for the rest of my life, I’d kill myself after a week. So really, this question is “What do you want to listen to while you’re taking your own life?” You guys are fucked up.
What’s the weirdest hobby you currently have or have had? My friend Adam Dove and I used to collect barf bags when we were on swim team in middle school. Like, from all over the world. We both had rivaling barf bag collections. Think about that for a second. I got rid of mine a long time ago. And now it’s the sort of thing I could sell on eBay, vintage barf bags from the ’80s. Jesus.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago? I deleted my Facebook account last year and have never felt better now that I don’t have that poisonous presence in my life every day. I wish I’d gotten rid of it long ago.
Weirdest cocktail experiment you’ve ever attempted: Nope. If I try something and it doesn’t work out, I don’t share it. There’s enough garbage out there in the world. I don’t need to add to it with my dumb cachaça and carrot juice cocktail or whatever.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not eating, drinking or drink-making? My hobby is cooking. I cook every day, all types of things. I just love it. But when I’m not working, or cooking, or sleeping, I usually go for long walks by myself. I’ll do at least five miles every day while I catch up on podcasts, or stand up comedy, or whatever. I love coffee, so I always incorporate that in my routine. And in the summer I swim. Every morning at the local outdoor pool. But that’s kind of it. I play video games.
Weirdest drink request you’ve ever gotten: We had this guy at the last bar I worked in who drank what he called a “Beef and Pep” – it was Beefeater gin and Pepsi. He was an older guy, and I always assumed it was the first thing he ever tried as a teenager, and that he just never tried anything else. He’s dead now.
Your favorite bar, and why: My new favorite is Robert’s Western World in Nashville. Great music, great food, cheap drinks, fun crowd. If I’m going cocktails, though, it’s got to be Buck and Breck in Berlin.
Best meal you’ve ever had: I don’t know. They’ve all been pretty good.
What’s your go-to drink in a cocktail bar? Negroni, probably. I can always tell the difference between a bartender I like and a bartender I don’t. When I ask for a Negroni and the bartender is happy about it, that’s awesome. When I order a Negroni and the bartender gets all bummed out because I didn’t order his housemade bullshit or whatever, now I hate you. Don’t make me feel bad because I just want a regular drink. I’m sure your Fernet Margarita on draft is great and everything, but I don’t feel like having that right now.
Wine bar? Sparkling wine. Wait. Is there another type of wine?
In a dive bar? Bourbon and Cranberry. I don’t know why everyone doesn’t drink them. It’s such a great drink.
Your preferred hangover recovery regime: I don’t get them any more. It’s really nice.
The one thing you wish would disappear from drink lists forever: Credits. I get it, you think I’m going to get all bent out of shape if you don’t put my name on your menu under one of my drinks. And a lot of people do. But hey, I’ve got news for you: Nobody cares who invented the grilled cheese. Chefs don’t do that.
The last text message you sent: “Test”—I was seeing if my iMessage was working.