This week we learn all about veteran “Barman” Brady Weise, followed by a 5-question interview that should interest those that want a rewarding bar career and those of us that just like spending time in a bar.
Brady Weise, Barman
With a flare for the flavorfully dramatic and the keen instincts that gift top‐notch bartenders, Brady Weise has carved the perfect spot for himself among L.A.’s cocktail elite by creating memorable cocktails, many of which find their base in beer.
It’s no surprise, considering Weise started brewing his own beer at 15 and won his first award for it at 16. The journey to becoming a professional bartender started in Chicago, where a marketing company hired Weise to launch Yellowtail Wines in Japan. When that venture was a success, Weise moved on to creating his own alcohol import/export business, which inspired him to step behind the bar and that is when he realized there was much for him to learn.
He moonlighted at a few spots in Chicago and San Francisco, and then moved back to Los Angeles, where he split his time between building cocktail programs in Hollywood and working the bar at the famed Library Bar at The Roosevelt Hotel. After the Roosevelt, Weise moved to Pasadena where he was a lynchpin of the 1886 bar at the Raymond. Staying loyal to his roots and his market, Weise was one of the principal architects of the cocktail program at the Rathskeller. Still creating and always challenging conceptions with his work, Brady has moved into the event area where he spends his hours educating consumers and restaurant staff alike about new products and their space in the marketplace.
And as Weise shares his unique cocktails with his dedicated clientele, his passion for liquid creations continues. Says Weise, “One of my favorite things is stepping behind the bar. It’s always changing, it’s always interesting and there’s never a dull moment. It’s such an interesting place to be!”
Q and A With Brady
Where do you see the future of spirits leading?
The spirits industry is going through an unprecedented shift with massive consolidation of brand portfolios, huge multi-billion dollar mergers, and a marketing storm that we have never seen before. Part of this change is due to a failure of the current distribution model, and part of this is a function of attempting to broaden choice through the opportunities created by that system failure. In California for example, we have three major distributors; one of whom controls close to 80% of all major brands. This has allowed smaller labels to take advantage of holes in the market that large producers can’t fulfill.
A great example of this would be the explosion of whiskey, gin, tequila, and rum brands. While vodka is still the most popular spirit, consumers these days are interested in well-balanced drinks that include ingredients that are unique with a range of flavor profiles. This has given rise to the bartender asking for more ingredients from producers that meet these taste requirements; whether it be bitters, unique syrups, or exotic herbs and spices, the bartender of today is a much different craftsperson from the bartender 20 years ago.
What is your biggest challenge?
I’d say one of the biggest challenges today is keeping up with trends and demand. It used to be even 10 years ago that one new restaurant a month had a cocktail program. Now it seems like there’s one a week! Bartenders have been really pushing new trends and keeping up with them has been part of the everyday challenge of the business.
It used to be that a well-made Old Fashioned was enough to keep people excited. Now you have to have infusions, house syrups and tinctures, large block ice, etc. to get people to come and see your bar.
I think this is great for the industry as a whole, but keeping up with all the changes can be exhausting sometimes. I find that it’s best to look at what changes are coming down the pipeline and to examine the trends as a whole rather than what’s hot and new this week.
How were you trained?
I was trained by some of the best in the business. Marcos Tello is a great teacher, and gave me a lot of the tools I still use when creating cocktails. Part of the reason his program is so successful is that he has templates and formulas for everything; you don’t need to guess at what you’re doing. This helps you to focus your energies on working within the formula, and not trying to reinvent it. The other training I’ve had comes from some of the best minds in the Los Angeles restaurant scene. Working with talented and determined people is always a joy; especially if it’s with the kitchen AND the bar. I think any bartender that refuses to work with their kitchen in menu creation is missing out on a huge chance to succeed.
Part of my training also comes from the guests themselves; as you become successful their expectations of you changes. This forces you to keep evaluating your decisions when creating a menu. I think that is one of the most important lessons for me in recent memory.
What advice do you have for a budding mixologist?
Read a lot. A LOT. There are so many books out there that have technique and tips from some of the top talent around; they are basically giving you their bar programs for the cost of the book. Don’t watch YouTube unless it’s for fun; most of the information out there is incorrect and won’t explain execution to you like a book will.
Another thing to learn about is the financials of a bar program. This is one of the points I can’t stress enough. If you can’t understand how the money is being spent, then you can’t be an effective asset to the business. Anyone can make an amazing cocktail with a $100 bottle of liquor and expensive produce. The trick is to make it taste expensive even though what’s in it is not.
What events can drinkers find you next?
I’m usually at events all over Los Angeles lately. I work with the MYM agency and they are great! I’m currently not behind any bar at the moment, but I’m always pouring something people enjoy. If you catch me at a bar, it’s usually in Pasadena. I live there and have great relationships with most of the restaurant staff around town. There are some great gems in Pasadena if you know where to look.
Contact Brady: firstname.lastname@example.org
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video, authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits. You can also seek her marketing advice via Eve@EveBushmanConsulting.com