Welcome to the first installment of TLLW Bartender series, where I get to interview some local bartenders in the Jersey City scene, with a lean towards “whiskier” topics.
For the first of this series, I wanted to cover a bartender at one of my favorite places to drink in Downtown JC. The Archer opened back in November 2015 and basically looks like a lumbersexual’s dream home. It’s got a definite masculine, log cabin vibe and is a great place to drink when it’s cold outside. The long hallway entrance gives the feeling of transporting you away from a city, and into a different place (in this instance, a mountain cabin) which I think is pretty clever. Throw on your sexiest flannel and check it out.
I was able to get an Old Rip Van Winkle 10 year, for $65 which if I wanted to, the secondary price is roughly $285, but I'm going to drink it.
Vince is one of the bartenders at Archer that I usually try to get a drink from. He’s friendly, knowledgeable, and has been in the restaurant industry (in one form or another) since he was 14. After watching him make an old fashioned the first time, I knew he took his craft seriously. You can usually find Vince making said killer old fashioneds every Wednesdays-Saturdays.
Here’s what we talked about:
What is your favorite whiskey drink to serve?
One of the drinks I like to go to is an Improved Whiskey Cocktail. It’s an old school cocktail with a lot of different flavor profiles. It’s a Whiskey Cocktail [basically an Old Fashioned] with absinthe, lemon and maraschino. And it goes well with bourbon or rye. For people who are new to cocktails or are unfamiliar with the old repertoire, that’s a really old cocktail that I like to give and people are usually pleasantly surprised. It might be in the old Jerry Thomas book. *Note* The Archer serves old fashioneds for happy hour with Old Forester.
What whiskey(s) do you keep at home, if any?
This is a personal grappling question because I always find myself gravitating to liquor stores and shopping even though I know I don’t need it [whiskey]. I stop at Bottle Kings because they always have limited releases and if you’re not there to get it, you’re not there to get it. I’ve always had this collector bone in my body. So I like to hunt. Just whiskey, I think I have 17 or 18 bottles: 2 Japanese, 2 Irish, 7 or 8 bourbons, 3 rye, and maybe a few more. They’re all cracked except for 3.
Do you agree that there is an increasing interest with whisky now?
Yes. There’s this exceedingly high demand for whiskey. Now there’s [even] this secondary market for whiskey. Whiskey like Pappy Van Winkle for example, is the primary one that everyone knows about. For years, they [the distillery] would only make 7000 cases of it. And it would sell at a modest retail price. What people don’t realize is that those things are still sold at retail prices, except they’re snapped up quickly. More liquor stores have caught onto that secondary market and now, there’s a secondary price for them and it’s 300%, 400% and 500% higher than what it would be retail. There’s another collection called the Buffalo Trace Antique collection that is inflated dramatically as soon as it comes off the shelves [at retail prices]. You’re lucky to find something [like that] at retail. It’s almost impossible. But I got lucky this year. The Glen Ridge Bottle King had a raffle and I was able to get an Old Rip Van Winkle 10 year, for $65 which if I wanted to, the secondary price is roughly $285, but I'm going to drink it.
Do you see more women drinking whiskey?
I think I do...especially in cocktails. With cocktails in general, people are more open to it now than they were 5 or 6 years ago. In Jersey, it’s kind of a new frontier still. It’s not like New York, even though we’re so close here in Jersey. Jersey City has a population that goes back and forth so it's still primed [for the cocktail resurgence]. I used to work at a bar in Verona, where people were coming to the bar who were pretty unfamiliar and we had a great time introducing them. We saw them rise to the occasion rather than turn away from it. I saw that and I’d like to see more of it. I’d like to stop thinking of alcohol and cocktails with predefined gender roles: men aren’t suppose to drink cocktails with stemmed glasses and women aren’t supposed to drink whisky. I hate that. Since when is lime juice, sugar and gin in a cocktail glass not masculine? And why is corn, rye and barley, aged in an oak barrel, not feminine? I don’t get it. Anybody who wants to put the effort in or wants to shake off whatever it is they think they’re suppose to feel, they should try it, regardless of gender.
What whiskey do you find yourself recommending the most to people at work?
If I had to say, it would be Green Spot. It’s great, very approachable. It’s 40% alcohol which is low proof for a whiskey. A lot of bourbons are at 45% ABV and above for the most part. It’s drinkable, elegant and nuanced. I also recommend Old Weller Antique a lot for 2 reasons. One, because it’s good. I love wheated bourbons. And two, it’s hard to find and we offer it (when we get it). It’s tricky to get in stores at a non inflated, crazy, marked up price and we don't beat you up in the price here. There are bars that will sell that for $20-25 for 2 ounces. We sell it for $12.