Radio Bar is a favorite amongst the residents of Mid City. It offers a chill atmosphere with high-back booths for privacy, music voted on by clientele, shuffleboard, and darts and ping pong on the patio. While local beers and happy hour specials are a big draw, lately they’ve seen craft cocktails gaining popularity. DIG sat down with JP Richey, a bartender there, to get his take on this new trend.
When I asked Richey what people are ordering these days, he smiled and answered “a little bit of everything.” But digging deeper, he admitted that he has noticed an upswing in the popularity of unique cocktails. Thursday nights at Radio Bar are even dedicated to some of these, offering seven different classic cocktails for only $6 each.
“People are excited about trying new cocktails,” Richey said. “I think they’re more accessible now, more places are offering drinks like these.”
While Radio Bar offers a large menu, Richey said they are happy to concoct something just for you. The staff loves to play with all the unique ingredients (like Italian artichoke liqueur—what?!) at their disposal. So, if you’re not sure where to start on your cocktail adventure, just let them know.
“If they don’t know what they want, I always begin with an easy question. ‘What spirit would you like?’” Richey said. “Once I have that answer, I have a starting point and can build something from there.”
When discussing specific drinks, I was quickly lost in the jargon and brand names of cocktail building. A lot goes into learning the trade and I found myself impressed by the staff’s knowledge and passion for their craft.
“The secret to making any cocktail is consistency,” Richey said. “A lot of people look down on the jigger for measuring, but it’s key. It’s a way to make sure that I’m being precise, so that the drink tastes the same for every guest.”
Richey mentions that another important factor for a great cocktail is having fresh ingredients—and Radio Bar does. From the bowl of citrus fruits on the bar, to the agave nectar and hand-squeezed lemon juice, everything is as fresh as possible.
After our chat, Richey invited me behind the bar to school me in the ways of the cocktail. He took me step by step through the process of five different drinks and I can tell you that it’s a lot harder than these professionals make it look. The number of ingredients, the tools, the correct glass—all of these things are important for the taste and presentation of each cocktail.
Here’s a quick breakdown of what I learned. First, you determine which glass the drink goes in. After choosing the correct one, you usually fill it with ice and water to chill the glass. Use a separate tumbler to pour your ingredients in, measuring each one precisely for consistency. If your cocktail includes bar sugar and foamer (superfine sugar that dissolves quickly with powdered egg whites to produce a bit of frothiness), you stir with your bar spoon until dissolved. Fill the tumbler with ice, wedge your metal shaker over the top so that it’s nice and snug, and give it a good shake to blend all the ingredients together. Next, dump the ice and water from your chilled glass and strain your mix into the glass. The final touch is whatever creative garnish you’d like to include. Voila! You’ve created a cocktail like a pro.