Dig Baton Rouge

Cocktail King

By Holly A. Phillips
@OrangeJulius7

Baton Rouge bartender and chef George Krause was waiting for the book to drop. At eight years old, a cocktail book fell from the “booze side” of the cabinet to the “game side.”

“It was now fair game to grab it and read it, and I did,” Krause said. “I enjoyed it.”

His parents found the book and wanted an explanation — via drink.

“The first drink I pulled out was the old fashion,” he said. “We had all the stuff to make it, so I followed the recipe, and tweaked it the way I thought it needed to be tweaked. The book said to dissolve sugar into water, and I ended up making simple syrup.”

DIG’s Best Bartender Competition
Thursday, January 15
XO Nightclub, 7-10 p.m.

Krause learned one drink each week, and started accompanying his mother to the liquor store for ingredients.

“The guy at the liquor store looked at us like we were nuts,” he said. “But my mom explained the situation, and he was really nice and started explaining things to me. Over time, I learned all the spirits.”

Krause started bartending at 14, on New Year’s Eve. Since then, he’s hit his 15-year bartending anniversary, become the executive chef and bartender at Doe’s Eat Place, and he holds several titles and trophies in the cocktail world. He’s even perfected his old fashion, making it his most popular cocktail, given he’s got a recipe for gumme syrup.

Recently, he won Koval’s Cocktail Competition using Lion’s Pride Rye Whiskey, and Baton Rouge’s Best Bartender Contest in 2013 with his Bulleit Proof (a root beer float rendition, minus root beer and ice cream).

“Most people have simple palettes, it’s got to be right in the middle, that’s the tough part, but it’s also the fun part, you’ve got to keep tweaking it until it’s perfect, and then being able to duplicate it.” – George Krause

With the Restaurant Week Contest returning this year, Krause is determined to keep his title.

“It solidifies me,” he said. “I have a bit of an ego, but it’s well-earned, as everybody tells me, and I don’t brag – I let my drink speak for itself.

“If I don’t win it, I feel like I’ve let customers down; people coming in here and saying nice things to your face is one thing, but when people come in and say they’ve heard it from someone else, people who are in question… if I don’t win, it doesn’t matter how many titles I have or how many trophies are on the wall, if they’re not all first place, I’ve let somebody down.”

Krause never makes the same cocktail twice for a competition. He’s mum on the current drink he’s whipping up, but he’s following his rule of keeping it simple.

“The drink I’m working on right now is four ingredients, including the garnish, and that’s the one I’m probably going to enter,” he said. “And four including the garnish is still going to be better than 15 in a glass.”

While Krause is appreciative to see the return of cocktail culture in the local scene, he doesn’t like the opportunity for muddying flavors.

“A cocktail shouldn’t have 10 ingredients, maybe six at the most, if that, and usually you’re getting really crazy experimental with some stuff,” he said. “When you’re cooking it’s three flavors, and then accent flavors behind it, keep it simple.”

Being the chef and bartender at Doe’s is a big job, but Krause makes the menus blend — so the food complements the drinks, and vis versa.

“When you spend as much time in a kitchen, and behind a bar as I do, there’s no more line between the two,” he said. “There’s no reason the two don’t mix, so a lot of my spirits and beer end up in a lot of food, because I know how they’ll work together.”

Krause recently created a cocktail menu at Doe’s based on Louisiana area codes, using the numbers as the portions. Titleholder or not, Krause will continue to push creativity in his cocktail game.

“I always try to find something that nobody’s done yet,” he said. “I want to make it interesting, to be one step ahead.”

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