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Move Over Home Cooks, This is the Year of the Home Bartender

Elliott Clark knows a thing or two about a good drink.EXPAND
Elliott Clark knows a thing or two about a good drink.
Apartment Bartender
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Elliott Clark didn’t go to culinary school. In fact, he earned a business marketing degree from Arizona State University.

But during a visit to New York City in 2015, Clark took a Cocktails 101 class that sparked his passion for mixing drinks, which ultimately became his career path.

Later that same year, Clark quit his full-time job at a software company in Chandler and started Apartment Bartender, a lifestyle and drink culture blog (the name came from a comment Clark made about being a home bartender).

Early on, Clark focused on the classic cocktails.

“You’ll find that with classic cocktail recipes, not only are they really good drink recipes, but they’re also templates for creating your own spin on the drink,” says Clark.

Once he mastered the basics, he built on those classic recipes and added other ingredients.

Clark drew inspiration for his drinks from the classic cocktails and seasonal flavors. He used The Flavor Bible, a reference book for culinary cooking, to help him construct drinks.

“For me, nowadays it’s not so much about throwing all this booze in a glass and seeing how it turns out. It’s more about understanding the building blocks of a good drink, and based on those building blocks, playing with different flavors,” says Clark.

This year, something happened that put Elliott on the bartending map. He entered the Arizona Cocktail Week — and won the event’s Cocktail Contest.

“I was really curious to know how I would stack up and to see if I could create something that would land on a menu somewhere,” says Clark. “Or if I could create something that the industry would validate in a way.”

The contest had a few rules: No more than six ingredients, needed to incorporate a chile pepper, and it had to have a Southwest theme.

The entry he submitted was called Zonie Land. Served in a tiki glass, his creation combined a hint of citrus, a bite of chile, and the lingering flavor of mesquite-smoked whiskey. The drink's name was a nod to his early years in Arizona.

A Chicago native, when Clark moved to attend ASU, he and his friends referred to Arizona as “Zonie Land.” As time passed, he developed a fondness for the Grand Canyon State, and eventually decided to lay down roots here.

When Zonie Land won, Clark felt like it was a win for home bartenders everywhere.

“Home bartenders are really good at what they do; we just don’t get a lot of feedback,” says Clark, who hopes to one day be on The Today Show as the voice of home bartending.

“I want making drinks at home to be so intuitive and so approachable that even somebody who knows nothing about the world of spirits can feel like they have that person they can trust to lead them down a good path,” says Clark.

To learn more about Clark and home bartending, visit the Apartment Bartender blog, Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube channel.

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