Inside the Mind of Your Favorite Bartender

Nothing random about your cocktail choice

You pull up to your favorite bar or happen to be somewhere for the first time and you take a peek at their specialty cocktail list. Your eyes widen and your mouth drops at the different and various ingredients that are presented before you. Making just one choice might be kinda hard so you have to start somewhere. Your choice is made and now the bartender goes to work. The bartender reaches for this glass and pours from this bottle. You might know it, you might not. As you are watching, you start to see them pull this little squeeze bottle, or this container pouring some liquid that is a mystery to you. All of a sudden, there is this amazing looking and absolutely delicious cocktail that is filling you with joy. You are pleased and tell the bartender good job.

You might think it was easy for the bartender to make this. That might be a true assumption; but totally unaware of all of the work that has gone into filling you with joy. Someone starts the real work days or even weeks before its description is printed on the paper.

I run the bar program at Trace, a restaurant located inside of the W Hotel in Midtown Atlanta. We are a Farm to Table concept, changing our menu seasonally. So as one season is coming to an end and the next is on the horizon, my mind switches into creative mode. I start by doing a bit of research to see what ingredient will be available to me and start wrapping my brain around those seasonal flavors. The fall is upon us, so I’m starting to look towards more robust, hearty and richer flavor profiles, while keeping recipes a bit light. I’ll save the heavy flavors for the winter. I begin to think of flavors that work with whiskey/bourbon and dark rum; while still not shunning vodka and gin. Everyone in a creative role looks to others for inspiration and guidance, I’m no different. I will check out food/cocktail blogs to see what is trending right now. I also look at “classic/old school” bartending books to get ideas. And, I have many chats with my chef to see what direction he is going with the food menu. I like to ensure there is a connection between the food and cocktail menus.

I will make a long list of different flavors I’m interested in and start pairing stuff together. I will write about 2-3 different menus before I actually make my first cocktail. Once I conjure up my final idea menu, I will start preparing everything. I will spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Any flavor profile I use, I would like my hands to be responsible for. I’m making juices, syrups, purees, etc. I will spend another week or two, making all of my ideas. I will get feedback from bartenders and chefs. Once I’m happy with where I’m going, then I start my human trials. I will start to run cocktails as daily specials or present a “seasonal preview” menu with all offerings and see what the public enjoys. I try to make sure there is a little something for every pallet.

So the next time you pick some random drink from the cocktail list, know there was nothing random about what is being presented to you. Feel free to drop by the W Atlanta Midtown anytime to try our new fall menu. Look for our “Insider”, a cocktail consisting of Bourbon, house made grenadine, peach bitters and dry vermouth. Maybe the “Spiced Pomegranate Sangria ” is a better choice. It is made up of Pinot Noir, pomegranate juice and a spiced simple syrup.

Ask for me and I would love to make something especially for you. I’m happy to help you create a cocktail for a special event, bartend your private event or help your bar develop your cocktail program. Check me out on IG @dtbmixing. Or email me

Until the next cocktail……


  1. The Great Fire - Recipe of the day | - September 14, 2015

    […] the smokiness that Sykes spoke to in her article. It is The Great Fire, a cocktail created by Daniel Burger, mixologist at Trace Atlanta, located inside The W Atlanta […]