October 2012 Bartender of the Month: Jason Brown

Name: Jason Brown

Establishment Name: Bar Manager for Txoko Restaurant in San Francisco, CA

Recent Gigs: Born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, Jason Brown began bartending at the rightful age of 21.  Working in both Louisville and the nearby town of Lexington, Brown joined Louisville’s Z’s Oyster Bar in 2003 as Bar Manager, a position which he held for three years.  In 2003, Brown set his sights west and relocated to California, joining the bar team at San Francisco’s Hawthorne Lane. 

Hawthorne Lane, surrounded by the bounty of the Bay Area’s fresh, seasonal produce, expanded Brown’s understanding of the possibilities of what goes into a drink.  He quickly became a lead bartender.  Brown left Hawthorne Lane for San Francisco’s Thirsty Bear Brewing Company, hoping to challenge himself with the rigors of managing and tending a high-volume bar.  After almost two years there, and the realization that his passion lay with crafted cocktails, Brown began bartending at Restaurant Michael Mina. 

After a stint at Michael Mina, Brown spent a year in Boston, where Brown helped to open a Guy Martin restaurant as Resident Mixologist, expanding and refining his knowledge of classic and crafted cocktails.  In 2010, he returned to San Francisco, and Brown began work in the fine dining atmosphere of Kokkari Estiatorio. 

Most recently in 2011, Ian Begg and Ryan Maxey approached Brown about their new Basque venture, Txoko restaurant, and Brown joined their team as the restaurant’s Bar Manager.  His attention to technique, respect for ingredients, and interest in championing local, lesser-known spirits and distilleries continue to make up his signature style: using as many local and house-made ingredients as possible and being continuously inventive while pulling inspiration from classic cocktail recipes.

What's in the Mixing Glass:  “I have a strong love and understanding of bourbon.  I tend to lean towards it as the initial base spirit.  Gin comes in as a close second.  I'm so pleased to see barrel aged gins becoming available.” Some standard cocktail menu offerings are:

Bridgetown Milano:
2 oz. Woodford Reserve Bourbon
.5 oz. Noilly Prat Sweet Vermouth
.5 oz. Falernum (house made, but Taylor's Velvet Falernum is a good substitute)
¼ oz.  Fernet Branca
Stir, serve up with a lime twist

1.5oz. Beefeater gin
.5 oz.  Apricot infused Torres 5yr. brandy
¾ oz. Lillet blanc Bar spoon of St. George absinthe.
Stir, serve up in a worm wood tincture rinsed coupe.
Orange oil squeezed on top of cocktail.
Discard orange peel.

“The Self Starter is a takeoff of a recipe from the Savoy Cocktail Book.  The recipe jumped off the page at me, but called for Kina Lillet which is commercially no longer available.  Utilizing the Worm wood tincture I was able to tame the Lillet Blanc and dry it out to balance with the other ingredients. The original recipe also calls for apricot brandy.  The brandy on this rendition is not distilled from apricots, but infused with apricots. Our apricot crop this year was completely mind blowing so I wanted to prolong the usage of them.  The Torres 5 yr. brandy plays wonderfully.”

Caliente Sunrise:
1.5 oz.  Serrano pepper infused el Jimador Blanco tequila.
.5 oz. house made Grenadine
Build in a Collins glass.
Top with house made sparkling orange juice. This is made by fresh squeezing OJ, double straining it, and charging it in an isi charger with co2.
Swizzle grenadine and serve.

What Are You Sipping and Why:  “I'm very fond of Trumer Pilsner.  They are making such a ridiculously great product. As far as actual sipping.  Evan Williams Single Barrel bourbon, or Del Maguey ChiChicapa Mezcal .”

What Are You Dancing to While Mixing: “I tend to wake up with a song in my head most days.  Usually it will stick with me into service.  Yesterday was Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon always a favorite of mine.  I'm not making this up I recently had a week of Fishbone songs in my head!  It was awesome. Other than that I do tend to make up my own songs.  Dirty limericks I suppose you could call them.”

Quirks & Quotes: “My quirks are simple to me.  Respect the products you’re using, if you don't then don't have them in your inventory. I also want my bar tools cared for and left where I left them.  I work very organized and clean to stay efficient.”

“I feel as if I have some wonderful quotes from my years of talking to thousands of people over the bar.  However I'm going to go with my favorite bar joke told to me by an older bar man named Doug Dietz.  A giraffe walks into a bar and says high balls on me.”

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