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 a bartender with his hands in many pies, Mark Schettler.
Mark Schettler started his career as a bar back in Chicago and made his way to New Orleans when he decided to take a chance on moving to a new city for a fresh start. Before his current gig at Tonique, he worked at the Swizzle Stick and most recently, ran the cocktail program at Appoline. His self-professed goal is to be "the best bartender on the planet." Twelve Mile Limit's Cole Newton recommended we talk to Schettler, and Steve Yamada from Latitude 29 knows him well from Schettler's work with the United States Bartending Guild (USBG) - Schettler has devoted much of his time to USBG events, such as organizing the New Orleans' Top Mixologist Competition earlier this month. Below, discover why he thinks New Orleans is slow to change, his recommendations for progressive cocktail education, and what his vision of a perfect cocktail is.
What ingredients and flavors in cocktails are you obsessed with right now?
Right now, at Tonique, the spirit selection here is massive, but the mixer selection is limited. So you have to think carefully about the right thing in the right place with creating cocktails - it can't be all about all the other stuff. I'd say my current obsession is a clear spirit in a sweaty glass.
What cocktail books have influenced you the most?
It's a professional progression, really. When you start, you want an overview like The Joy of Mixology, by Gary Regan, which breaks everything down into cocktail families, which is really useful. Also you want to have some recipes in your repertoire, so having a copy of Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh is practially mandatory, and it also gives you the history of what you're making in an easy to read and retain way. Once you have a job and you want to learn more, then it's time to move on to Imbibe! by David Wondrich, which really delves into the how and why of things.
What do you see as the next trend in cocktails in New Orleans?
Tiki, for sure. Tiki Tolteca has blown people away since they opened - it's awesome to see the success they've had. Then you have Cane & Table, which I really consider more of a rum bar, and of course, Latitude 29 is probably the most anticipated bar or restaurant opening in the country right now. Tiki has also led to a conversation about presentation in cocktails. You know, we're a city that punches way above our weight class as far as cocktails are concerned, and this is just solidifying that. I'd also say that taco joints with extensive tequila and mezcal selections are another trend just starting - New Orleans, for whatever reason hasn't really been an agave spirit town.
I think we're slow adopters here because we don't want to attach ourselves to a "trend." We want to make sure that whatever it is has staying power. There's a meritocracy in cocktails here, and you need to be coming in hard at all times, as a cocktail professional.
Best hangover remedy in three words?
Juan's Flying Burrito.