TLLW Bartender Series #3 - Ray @ The Kitchen Step
Welcome to the TLLW bartender series, where I interview a local Jersey City bartender with a lean towards “whiskier” topics.
Our 3rd featured bartender brings us to The Kitchen Step, a lovely restaurant that opened up just under a year ago in Downtown JC. The bar program is headed up by Raymond Keane, a trained pastry chef that fell in love with the bar world. Ray has consistently made great recommendations every time I go there. If you’re feeling special occasion-y, The Kitchen Step is the place to go when you want to treat your favorite spooning partner to a well made cocktail.
Find out more about Ray below:
Do you agree that there is an increasing trend with whiskey now?
I think there has been [a trend with whiskey] for a while. When I first started bartending in 2011, there was a big brown liquor boom. Everyone was getting into bourbon. Bourbon was huge. Lately, I’ve noticed a big increase in rye and Scotch.
I noticed that bars that make good cocktails carry more than 1 type of ice. Usually, it’s about 3 types of ice. But you carry 6!
Yeah, we go a little farther here with ice and carry several types. We have the snow ice, crushed ice, the big cubes we serve whiskey on, the small cubes that we shake with, flavored cubes, and Collins cubes (which fit into a Collins glass). Ice can make up about 30% of a cocktail and is an integral part of the cocktail making process.
I always hoped that more women would get into that “I’ll outdrink any man” mentality. I was raised by my grandmother and she was like that.
My grandmother could hang.
What whiskey do you keep at home?
Usually I keep only 1 bottle at home and I go through [a bottle] one at a time. I actually don’t have any whisky at home right now, but the last whiskey bottle I had was High West Campfire. It’s a blend of Scotch, rye and bourbon. *TLLW Note* We enjoyed a shot of this delicious whiskey during the interview and now it’s on my shopping list!
What is your favorite whiskey (based) drink to enjoy yourself?
Moment of Silence - a cocktail that’s on our menu. It’s one of our forgotten classics. It’s rye whiskey based and the ratios are extremely weird. There’s actually a whole half ounce of angostura bitters in it. But it’s not overpowering and it’s delicious.
Do you see more women drinking whiskey?
Yes but not so much here. When I was [working] at Battello, we had a lot of women drinking Scotch which I always thought was cool. Finally I just asked why and I got a couple of different answers but one that really stood out to me was a girl that said, “When I drink whiskey, I always think of my dad. And I love my dad.” And the more women I asked, I started to get similar responses like, “When I went to my grandpa’s house, I’d sit on his lap and he would have a Scotch.” We have men who drink Scotch here and when I ask them [why they order it] they’ll say they got a bottle for their graduation, liked it, and it kind of goes from there. Most of the time, it’s harder to sell men on something new. With women whiskey drinkers, they are very open to trying new things if they’ve haven’t tried it before.
How do you feel about women drinking whiskey?
I think it’s awesome. I always hoped that more women would get into that “I’ll outdrink any man” mentality. I was raised by my grandmother and she was like that. My grandmother could hang. It’s nice to see that women aren’t afraid to drink whiskey anymore. Before, the girls I hung out with all drank Ketel clubs. Now they’re asking if there’s a Scotch list! My girlfriend will take shots of 151 like a champion *TLLW Note* There was distinct pride in Ray’s voice when he spoke of his lady drinking 151.
There you have it! A pastry chef turned bartender with a grandma that can hang. What more could you want in a bartender? Check out Ray’s IG @raymondkeane1 to see more pictures about the Kitchen Step and cocktails or stop by and get a great drink recommendation.