Though he didn’t anticipate a career in wine, it’s no surprise that John Paterson wound up in the industry. His first job was working at his parents’ Alabama restaurant, and by his early 20s, he was already running the wine program.
Shortly after, following a stint at McCrady’s in Charleston and an internship at The French Laundry, he made his way to New York. There, Paterson went on to work in wine at both Craftbar and The NoMad, both of which maintain very different—and more exhaustive—wine lists than the ones that he now oversees as wine director at Frankies Spuntino Restaurant Group. But the opportunity to curate shorter, more succinct lists, both at Frankies and at Brooklyn’s Prime Meats, was a welcomed challenge. “I don’t want to have a pretentious program,” he explains. “Obviously, I want the aspects of service to be practically perfect, but this is a neighborhood spot, and the lists are small, they’re concise, they change often.”
So what happens when you ask this sommelier for his go-to drink in a dive bar, or the one classic cocktail he wishes would disappear from drink lists forever? Here, Paterson tackles our Lookbook Questionnaire to share his weirdest hobby, his preferred hangover recovery regime and the one thing he knows now that he wishes he’d known five years ago. —Lizzie Munro
What do want to be when you grow up?
A rock and roll guitar player—specifically a member of The Heartbreakers.
Best thing you ever drank:
I was on vacation with my wife recently in Chablis. The drive should have taken an hour to get to dinner but it took three and it was pouring rain. We ordered a couple of bottles of wine, one being ’08 Dauvissat Les Preuses. It was perfect.
Worst thing you ever drank:
I was in Ios, Greece, about 10 years ago and befriended a bartender named George who proceeded to make me multiple Harvey Wallbangers. I haven’t reached for a bottle of Galliano since.
First time you ever got drunk:
At my buddy Simbo’s house in Alabama when I was maybe 14. I think the four of us split a case of Bud Light cans. Nobody puked, but we all had bitter beer face.
If you had to listen to one album on loop, for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ The Live Anthology.
What’s the weirdest hobby you currently have or have had?
I have a weird obsession with aviation. I’ve been known to go plane spotting at JFK. What makes this whole thing odd is that I am terrified of flying.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago?
That the tag on the bed sheet belongs on the bottom right corner. Life hack!
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not eating or drinking?
Playing guitar and going to Phish concerts.
Weirdest drink request you’ve ever gotten:
Tequila Rose and orange juice.
Your favorite bar, and why:
Shameless plug, but I love the bar at Prime Meats. Specifically B1—I love posting up, having a Negroni or a Folksbier Helles after a long night. The lighting in the bar is spectacular.
Best meal you’ve ever had:
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in 2008. I was backpacking through Europe with my girlfriend, now wife. We weren’t even 21 and had no business dining there, but it changed everything. I took notes (and still have them). It was the first time we had foie gras. And those potatoes. Woah.
Riesling does the trick for me almost all the time.
Budweiser bottle. Painfully cold. Maybe a shot of rye if it’s been one of those days.
Your preferred hangover recovery regime:
I take two cat’s claw when I go to bed. Next day, cold Mexican coke and a hamburger.
The one thing you wish would disappear from drink lists forever:
The last text message you sent:
War Damn Eagle.