After winning third place in the Indoggo Challenge for his cocktail Young, Wild & Free, we caught up with Columbus, Ohio based bartender Jesse Hubbard to learn more about his career, inspiration, and what he thinks is next for bartending.
Jesse recently released his first cocktail book entitled “Punk Rock & Cocktails” and is a co-founder of Saint Russell Productions, a Columbus, OH based consulting and event company known for their creative themed pop-up bars.
What inspired you to become a bartender? Tell us about your background.
I was working in radio in NYC back in 2008 and took on a bartending gig as second job because it’s so expensive out there and let’s just be honest, radio didn’t pay enough. I started picking up a couple shifts a week, which then turned into managing the bar I worked at. I quickly fell in love with the bar industry and as time went on, I started working less and less in radio and more in the bar industry. I’ve been at it ever since and have run bar programs in Princeton, NJ – Eugene, OR – Louisville, KY – Columbus, OH. It’s been the best career change I ever could’ve made.
Where do you tend bar now? What makes it unique? Distinctive drinks, décor, a certain vibe?
I’m the bar lead at Rye River Social. It’s a great spot with a fantastic cocktail menu and expansive bourbon selection tucked away in the Grandview neighborhood of Columbus, OH. I’m incredibly fortunate to work with a very talented bar team who continue to inspire me!
Who has been most influential in your development as a bartender? A mentor, a parent, a fellow bartender, and why?
My father. He encouraged and inspired me to be the best I could possibly be and gave me the confidence to believe in myself as I set out to accomplish my goals in not only the bar industry, but life in general. He was my biggest fan and greatest supporter and most certainly my hero.
Do you have any advice for novice/at home bartenders?
I would say that it’s important to experiment and to not be afraid to get weird with the ingredients in the kitchen. Have fun with it and get your reps in. We all started out as nervous, novice bartenders at one point and it’s only with practice, practice, practice that you can then start to see the pieces come together. But trust me when I say that we’re all always still learning.
What is your favorite ingredient right now and why?
I’ve been really enjoying making my own shrubs and butters lately. While there are certainly a ton of great bitters and shrubs on the market, it’s just such a satisfying feeling to know that every last ingredient of your cocktail was made from scratch. So, if time allows, I’m certainly going the house made bitters and shrubs route.
How do you go about creating a new cocktail? Is there a specific process or simply a moment of inspiration?
It varies, to be honest. Sometimes it’s a moment of inspiration where I have to stop what I’m doing and start writing down ingredients and names and the ideas are just flowing. Other times, I like to put a record on and start whipping up different concoctions and just see where that process takes me.
Do you have a special technique you use or a tip for making a particular drink?
When using egg whites in a drink, instead of doing a dry shake or reverse dry shake, I add all ingredients including the egg whites with two 1×1 cubes and shake for about 15 seconds. The result is a more efficiently made, wonderfully fluffy cocktail. Works every time.
Where do you see the bartending/cocktail culture headed?
I truly hope that it continues on its current path of being respected as a real, viable career and not one of a stepping-stone. Bartending has been so good to me so it’s very satisfying to see it gets it’s due. It’s a wonderful profession filled with impressive talents across the globe and I’m damn proud to be a part of it.
Sunny Side of Despair
By Jesse Hubbard
- 1 oz. Plantation 3 Star Rum
- 1 oz. Cruzan Aged Rum
- 3/4 oz. Maggie’s Farm Falernum
- 3/4 oz. Brown Sugar Banana Syrup
- 4 oz. Pineapple Juice
- 1/4 oz. Lime Juice
- 2 dashes Toasted Almond Bitters
- 1 dash Smoked Cinnamon Bitters
Preparation: Add all ingredients into a shaker tin, add ice, cap and shake vigorously. Strain over pebble ice into tiki mug and garnish with mint, a dehydrated lime wheel and pineapple leaves. Mug by Don Hobo Tiki.