- interview by Sara Gorelick
Sara from BarNoneDrinks took the opportunity to interview the very busy Marshall Altier following his visit to New York to launch the Airstream Speakeasy. These days, Marshall is leading up two spirit brands, consulting on spirit portfolios, writing, and managing a special project he fondly calls Road Soda. Read on to find out about how Marshall fills his days and his unprecedented favorite drink for Sin City.
Who are you and what do you do?
I'm Marshall Altier and I wear a lot of hats; really. I also have a few different things that I do with spirits, cocktails and the bar business. I am a founder and partner in two spirit brands: Denizen Rum and Bar Keep Organic Bitters, and also work in the capacity of a consultant to a handful of large spirit portfolios. I write about drinks sometimes; I am the co-author of "How to Booze: Exquisite Cocktails and Unsound Advice" and a contributor to sites such as Mr. Porter, liquor.com, Serious Eats and a number of other outlets where I am lucky enough to share my opinions on drinks and stuff.
I like to keep myself from rusting behind the bar; I currently tend the bar of The Study at Rose.Rabbit.Lie in Las Vegas, where I head up the cocktail program. I've also been working for a number of years as a consultant for 5 Star clients like The Mandarin Oriental Group and Four Seasons on a number of bar programs all over the world in places as far as Taipei, Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, just to name a few in the last year or so.
Last but not least, I am also the proud co-founder of a dream come-to-fruition, Road Soda; a 1967 Airstream Landyacht that a couple of friends and I completely customized as the world's best cocktail bar on wheels. We are launching our first nation-wide tour in just a few days...
Wow, you're just a little busy. So, how did you get started in the cocktail world anyway?
I was a proud food and wine geek and restaurant bartender and waiter for some time before I really went down the rabbit hole with cocktails. I began to catch the bug back in school in Columbus, Ohio while working at a "Martini Lounge" and being introduced to things like Chartreuse and a properly made Manhattan while learning the ropes of doing high volume, multiple step cocktails. It wasn't long before I was making my own bitters and glued to copies of "Joy of Mixology," "The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks," "The Savoy Cocktail Book," and the like.
At the same time we saw a huge resurgence of great American craft spirits and long since disappeared ingredients to recreate all of those great classic cocktails and we saw blogs and e-discussion forums create a more globalized conversation about drinks. The rest is history...
Tell me one word to describe your career currently.
Evidently! What is the Airstream Speakeasy?
Road Soda: The Airstream Speakeasy is 1967 Airstream Landyacht trailer that has been completely customized as a mobile bar and showcase for spirits and cocktails. We put the trailer on a new chassis and put in all of the best of bar design that you would find at the world's temples of mixology. It has a "craft-on-draft" custom tap cocktail system where we can push garden fresh drinks through four different lines to deliver a bespoke cocktail experience in a high volume setting.
Sounds incredible. What is your favorite part about what you do?
Everything. I am truly blessed to get to travel and create and do something I love. I have seen my dreams come to reality with projects like Road Soda, Denizen, and Bar Keep. It's a completely unique path that I've been lucky enough to be able to forge and we are just getting started.
What's the best cocktail you have ever made?
I have to say that is in the eye of the beholder; I am less concerned these days with making good drinks and more concerned with making drinks good.
Favorite ingredient to work with?
The right one for the occasion.
Please complete this sentence. "I can't live without xxx behind the bar because xxx...."
I can't live without people to serve on the other side of the bar because delivering hospitality and an experience is what makes it all worthwhile.
Go-to drink. Go.
What is most challenging about your job? Most important?
The most challenging and exciting thing about my job is not knowing what lies ahead tomorrow, next week, next year....
What's something you are really proud of about your work?
Being able to create things that can inspire creativity in others and have a life of their own. Having one of my very own bitters recipes and a blend of rum that I helped create on the backbars of so many creative people that I respect around the world is one of the most fulfilling things I can imagine.
What's something we shouldn't know about you but you'll tell anyway?
My guilty pleasure: Malibu and Pineapple, poolside. Vegas, Baby.