Welcome to Up and Comers, a look at New Orleans hottest up and coming bartenders. Earlier this month, Eater asked some of our city's top bartenders for their suggestions on the best young crop of mixologists in town. All Cocktail Week long, Eater will be spotlighting the best of the bunch. Read on to find out about Barrel Proof's Thomas Thompson.
Dallas native Thomas Thompson was such a fixture at Sylvain on the drinking side of the bar, that when Barrel Proof opened up earlier this year, the management team decided to bring him on board as a bartender. "Apparently, if you hang out at Sylvain long enough, they'll give you a job," Thompson says. Nick Detrich of Cane & Table says of Thompson, "He's a great guy. I met him on the other side of the bar at Sylvain and he's a great host and a lot of fun." Here now, Thompson talks about building flavor profiles and keeping things simple.
What ingredients and flavors in cocktails are you obsessed with right now?
Pastis is always my soft spot. But I've always been - food, drinks, whatever - just keep it simple. Choose the right ingredients and stay out of their way. It's really not that complicated, you know? My classic fallback flavors are stuff like, lemon, almond, star anise. Those are my sweet spots.
What cocktail books have influenced you the most?
None, really? When I started messing around with cocktails, because my bartending up until then was much more casual, I took the same approach as when I was cooking, just building around flavors. You put flavors together the same way, it's just a different medium. I've done some good and some bad experiments, some savory elements. Ultimately, your palate works the same way, no matter what's going in.
What do you see as the next trend in cocktails in New Orleans?
It's in a weird spot right now. I think simplicity is coming back, it's a pendulum, it'll eventually swing the other way and people will want something more complex. But right now, keeping it simple, keeping it clean. Getting a good drink, you get it quickly. I think ultimately people love the bar much more for having a good time than whatever ingenuity is going into their cocktail.
Best hangover remedy in three words?
Advil. Coconut water.