When the stars align at the Sanctuary resort’s annual Lunch & Learn series, the stars are usually chefs. A mere two weeks ago, for example, the resort hosted an event with celebrity chef Robert Irvine, the fiery kitchen personality and the face of the Food Network’s Restaurant: Impossible and Worst Chefs in America.
There aren’t any mixologists with Food Network shows yet, but there are certainly mixologists who's names cocktail enthusiasts will recognize — one of whom led the Lunch & Learn this past Saturday. Jillian Vose is the Bar Manager at Dead Rabbit, an Irish bar and cocktail parlor in New York City that was recently voted World’s Best Bar and World’s Best Cocktail Menu at the 2015 Tales of The Cocktails Spirited Awards. We were invited to attend her appearance at Lunch & Learn on Saturday, August 22.
The Dead Rabit menu is long — like 60 pages long — and imports some serious Irish-American history with accurate and playful libations from the Gangs of New York era.
Vose might not have wound up speaking and presenting on cocktails at a Scottsdale resort if it weren’t for the fact that the her career began at Four Peaks in Tempe, and really got launched from the Sanctuary resort’s own Jade Bar. That was before she made her big career moves, first as a manager at New York City's James Beard award-winning Clover Club, then at Maison Premier, and next to Death & Co before finally landing at Dead Rabbit.
Since the mid to late 2000's, Jade Bar has produced a swath of industry talent, both local and national. Among them is Death & Co. talent Tyson Buhler, whom Vose originally hired at the acclaimed New York bar. In June he was named the 2015 U.S. Bartender of the Year by Diageo World Class and the United States Bartender’s Guild. If you go sipping cocktails at Crudo, one of the Valley's best credited cocktail programs, owner Micah Olsen also spent time slinging drinks alongside them and the likes of Jason Asher, the Director of Mixology at spirit distributer Young’s Market, from which many of your local bars get their spirits.
"Everyone always asks me, ‘Remember when,’ or ‘Remember 2006,' or ‘Remember when your drinks were…’. Okay guys, we get it,” joked Sanctuary chef Beau MacMillan on Saturday. “Okay, it’s 2015 now, they’re all super successful, get over it.”
MacMillan went on to introduce Vose, who he says he remembers as the scrawny girl behind the bar.
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Beyond giving great insight on the premise of what's it like to manage the World's Best Bar, Vose demonstrated three Dead Rabbit cocktails, each paired with a matching food course. The cocktails included the False Prophet (cucumber and honeydew-infused botanist gin, dolin blanc, Velvet Falernum, Boston bitters, lemon oil garnish); the Death Knell (Orinoco bitters, Cynar, lime juice, togarashi syrup, Oloroso sherry, Nikka Grain Japanese Whiskey, nutmeg garnish); and the Pirate Queen (strawberry, creole bitters, lemon juice, "pirate biz" syrup — ginger, honey, cinnamon, cane sugar, nutmeg garnish as well).
Here are some highlights from Vose's speaking portion of the event:
- "If I’m going to make it in this industry I need to move to New York... When I visited it reminded me of something you’d read about in the 1800’s — the suspenders and just knowing about sports and politics and seeing how they interacted with the guests. It was incredible. I said I want to be like them. I want to be successful. I want to be better than them. How can I do that?"
- "There are many educational opportunities in this profession. That’s really where I’ve gotten to meet a lot of my network that extends to today, and some of my best friends. The opportunities are endless. It’s like chefs who are constantly traveling and learning, its a lot like that with cocktails at this time."
- "From there [Clover Club] I opened up a little place called Maison Premiere, which has since won a couple James Beard awards, and then I got a job offer at Death & Co. where I really started to make a name for myself... This is where I learned a lot of bartending skills. I learned about a lot of spirits I’d never heard about. I learned a lot about mise en place — a very big one — and learned about making your own syrups, and doing them yourself, and really having bar team that worked together and made this 60 cocktail menu that changes constantly. I was there for three years."
- "When we had an opportunity to hire a bartender — going back to that OG crew at Sanctuary — Tyson Buhler was the first person that came to mind. He was young, he was eager, he had a culinary background. He was at a point at Sanctuary where a lot of people had moved on and he needed something more. I called him and said, 'Want to come try out at Death & Co.?'" (At which point Chef MacMillan jokingly blurts out, “So it was you who stole him!”)
- "Tyson arrived at Death & Co. to try out. We did this thing called GDT, which is Gangster Daiquiri Time, where we’d all have a small daiquiri before service, like a “let’s have a good service,” cheers. We told Tyson to make the GDT. He was all frantic, like, 'How do you want me to make it?' And we said 'It’s Gangster Daiquiri time. Figure it out.'"
- "So at Death & Co. they're known for having a lot of stuff in their cocktails. Teaspoons and dashes and quarter ounces and like thirteen ingredients, so I’ve been really challenging myself to make very complex cocktails, or maybe the prep is complex and takes a little longer, but are easier to execute."
- "A lot of people ask us, 'What is your signature drink?'... Or, 'what’s your favorite drink? What’s the best drink?' And the best drink, or the signature drink is the one that’s best for you. The key is in the interaction, and that’s what really makes our bar, it’s about the entire experience."
Following three drinks and a three-course meal, Vose conducted a Q&A, and then McMillan raffled off prizes of the alcoholic sort. For those lucky enough to get the invite, or who might've heard through Instagram, Vose also ended up serving cocktails on Saturday evening at Counter Intuitive in Old Town Scottsdale, including five drinks from Dead Rabbit's menu.