Nick Detrich started out working at nearly every restaurant bar in Bloomington, Indiana, during college, but when he moved to New Orleans to delve into the food and cocktail industry, he found himself on the best craft cocktail team in the city. He's also one of the friendliest guys you'll ever meet. After apprenticing under Kirk Estopinal and co-managing Cure with Turk Dietrich (no relation), Detrich is now co-partner and head barman at Cure Co.'s Perestroika at Pravda (P@P), and aims to lead the rum-drink hotness that is certain to incite New Orleans' next cocktail movement. Here, Detrich talks to Eater about his love of rum, his major influences Wayne Curtis and Jeff Berry (fyi both live in New Orleans), and what to expect in the coming months at P@P. Complete with photos of Detrich's signature cocktail Peter's Bon Bon.
How did you come to work with Bodenheimer and crew?
Started at Cure about a year after it opened, through my friend, Turk .... Neal was looking for new blood. I apprenticed under Kirk. Just before Bellocq opened Turk and I became co-bar managers of Cure, then they moved me over here, and I'm their partner here.
It has to do with tiki though, doesn't it? You did the tiki pop-up, and weren't you looking for spaces to open a bar already?
I do love tiki, but it's only one aspect of my love of rum. One thing that always fascinated me about rum is, just like, it's influence on history as well as it's influence on building drinking culture around the world. So the program that i want to do focuses on that, on the aspects of rum and how it's kind of traveled and how it's come to vary like it does. It really varies more than any spirits category out there. It's also just a spirit that I don't think is given it's due credit. It was integral in forming the original colonial economy, and still integral in the economy of the Caribbean, traveled with sailors for hundreds of years. There are a lot of really fantastic rums out there, and as a spirit class, i want to open up a place that focuses on it and elevates it to the status I think it deserves.
Do you think rum drinks are going to become a bigger trend in New Orleans?
I think it's already coming about. It's kind of definitely followed a historic trend, where people are focusing on different aspects. Tiki is a really really cool category and it deals with huge flavor pairings and weird pairings? like absinthe, Angostura, and grapefruit juice? and I think that's something that appeals to a lot of bartenders. Just how interesting and wacky the tiki movement is. So I think a lot of people are getting into it. It's a lot more common to see now, like you go into a cocktail bar and find a tiki drink, like someone's test pilot.
Do you find a lot of misconceptions about tiki drinks and rum drinks in general?
Trader Vic and Don the Beachcomber, what they were doing, was kind of in line with the drinks of that time: dry, interesting. They did a lot of big bold flavors that accentuated the atmosphere of those places as well. I think one thing that drives people away from Tiki is that, you know, it has to be hula girls and stuff like that. Nautical themes have always played a part.
Will they play a part in your bar?
Nautical themes will play into it as much as we're in one of the oldest dock areas in the country, but it won't be a stand out theme. We'll definitely pay homage to the roll rum has played in shipping and boats, but thematically it's still being hammered out.
When do you think you'll start renovations?
Late Spring. Maybe a little later than that. We're kind of given this interesting oppurtunity where it's like, "if we would open up a Soviet block bar what would we have done?"
How did you get that opportunity?
Basically we were approached to buy the bar. I had already been looking for a place in the Bywater and St. Claude area. Not having much luck and this came about. And I was like it's kind of perfect...The courtyard is fantastic too, because if you look at the courtyard it already looks like 1920s Havana.
The location is vastly different from Cure Co.'s other locations, do you get some crazy, disgruntled people up in here?
Thankfully the cocktail scene is fully established here now, so yeah we get a lot of people who come in and don't really get it, and we still get a lot of people who come in for absinthe, but as many crazies as I've seen in any other bar in New Orleans besides Bourbon Street.
Are you guys going to gut the bar?
I think it's a beautiful room that just needs a little bit of lipstick. This is a beautiful art deco 20s piece. I love it. I definitely want to keep it. We'll definitely rebuild the bar, and need better refrigeration, and it's a formica 70s kitchen counter top bar, umm, so yeah.
What's up with the food thing?
In about six weeks we'll start a food program, small plates and eastern European food oriented.
Do you have a chef in mind?
Yes, but I can't say who right now.
Who are you biggest influences when it comes to rum drinks?
Wayne Curtis and Jeff Berry. I probably wouldn't know tiki the way I do if it weren't for BeachBum's. I remember the first time I made a tiki drink, it was from the Grog Log. I see Wayne pretty often. On my birthday he gave me a bottle of Old Young Sam's Demerara, and it ended up going into a punch that Chris Hannah and I made at Jackson Square on Mardi Gras.
Where's your favorite place to drink when you're not working?
I guess there's a couple different levels. Late night, I go to Tonique. Something super mellow I go to Faubourg Wines, they have a great selection. It's in that old hydroponics place and they put tables in there, and the owner tastes with people, so you can get a glass of wine while you walk around. I think they opened Thanksgiving day. I also go to Molly's a lot. That's one thing that was great opening here. I spend a good bulk of my major holidays on this strip. It was nuts in here on Halloween. We like to party, so we'll definitely costume. Cure closes on Halloween, and almost everybody came here for Halloween. There were a lot of people in whacky costumes.
What's the most horrifying thing you've ever seen bartending in New Orleans?
I used to bartend at a stripclub on Bourbon street, which shall go unnamed. It was, like, Endymion Saturday. I was working the back bar. It was this gorgeous antique piece at the back of the club, and it was the kind of night where its head down and looking up like what are you having got it what are you having got it. And I looked up once and saw this guy, and he had his head down like this, and he was just peeing all over the bar. I had to yell at the bouncer, and he came over and dragged him out. I could see fear in his eyes.
Speaking of strippers, What are P@P's Stripper Shots?
When I took over, we bought all the inventory too, I had a lot of stuff that i was like...I don't know what I'm going to do with this Van Gogh Vodka Bananas, so you know how a lot of bars have a roll-a-day program...the way the stripper shot goes, you come in and order the shot. It's three dollars, two go to the house, and $1 goes to the pot. If you correctly guess the three ingredients you get whatever is in the pot. I walked in here and there were three bartenders I knew with rocks glass filled with blue drink, and they were like sniffing it and studying it. No one has guessed the first drink so far. We're about to change it, so if you want to break what the first batch was: cocoa rum, blue caracao, and cranberry juice.
Sounds like a Saints and Sinners Drink.
I haven't been there yet.
They have a drink called Silk Panties.
Does it come with edible panties? It should.