The Cocktail Guru, Jonathan Pogash is an expert in cocktail development, bar consulting and events coordination. He grew up in the spirits business with his father, Jeffrey Pogash, a highly regarded sommelier, author and recently retired director of communications for Moët Hennessy, USA. His dad would teach him, encourage him and repeatedly try to spark his interests in mixology. Although Jonathan initially rejected his father’s attempts, he eventually found himself behind the bar working as a barback. Flash forward to Jonathan now, a well-known name in the industry and an expert in the hospitality world including training staff and creating bar menus for establishments across the country. He has also instructed culinary students at Johnson and Wales University in the art of mixing and creating cocktails.
What does it take to be a star behind the bar?
When I teach classes I pose that question to my students. I tell them that not all bartenders are mixologists, but all mixologists are bartenders. There is a time behind the bar that you start to get creative and find yourself reading up on the history of cocktails and trying out new recipes and then something in your head just clicks and you start to think of this job as a profession and that is when the bartender can transition to becoming a mixologist or bar innovator or a star behind the bar. My father introduced me to Gary Regan, one of my mentors, and he taught me about the classics and how to maintain a bar and gave me the confidence to get behind a bar so I got my first job as a barback at the Russian Tea Room and then worked my way up to becoming a bartender. I always suggest to people who are interested in getting into the game to start off as a barback and then you’ll be able to see what goes on behind the bar, learn about the different spirits and how they are made and their different flavors, plus learning bartending techniques and educating yourself is incredibly important. The key is to make sure you really know your stuff behind the bar and eventually you’ll be able to shine and be a full-fledged bartender. Remember to always smile and kill them with kindness. I found out years ago that I could do something I love and get paid for it, which is always a challenge in people’s lives. If you love it, bartending can be very fulfilling.
During the MCC this year, Jonathan ran an informative seminar on the use of fresh fruit in a cocktail. He mixed up the Oxley Southside to demonstrate the difference fresh lime juice makes in a cocktail- It becomes more clear with every sip!
Must Mix: Oxley Southside
- 2 oz. Oxley Gin
- 3/4 oz. Fresh lime juice
- 3/4 oz. Simple Syrup
- Club Soda
Shake first three ingredients very well with ice and strain over ice into a highball glass. Top with club soda and stir briefly. Garnish with a mint sprig.