R Bar with Matt McCullough: In this Week's Behind the Bar

Matt McCullough will make anything his customers want, but he really hopes that they don't ask for something frozen.  

He doesn't mind working hard to prepare a drink, he'll mix a Ramos Fizz, a drink made with egg whites that can take 3 - 4 minutes of vigorous shaking.  

He doesn't even mind making pink hued girlie drinks.  Last year he was a finalist in a GQ contest for Most Inspired Bartender for a pomegranted based drink he invented called Sonoran Summer

He just isn't wild about starting the up the blender, because the jarring sound of ice being whipped around the blades completely disrupts the relaxed resort vibe at R Bar, the bar at Camelback Inn Resort

What is your favorite secret ingredient?

I add bitters to most drinks.  They enhance the flavors and round out the drink, giving the cocktail a little more depth.  I'll even add them to Bloody Marys.  There is a company called Bitter Truth that makes several really interesting flavors I really like to experiment with.

What is the best drink you've ever had? 

What cocktail trends are you seeing? People are going back to classic cocktails with natural flavors, drinking vodka less and getting into whiskies.  The classic recipes are usually good, we did it right the first time.  There is a big trend towards using fresh, real ingredients, squeezed lemons instead of prepared lemon juice, things like that.

What is your hangover cure?  There isn't one really.  Hydrate and avoid tequila. One of the worst hangovers I have ever had was trying to impress a girl by drinking tequila.  Was she impressed?  Probably not.  A big greasy breakfast feels good, but doesn't really help.

What is the worst drink you have ever tasted?  Probably the Pledge.  A guy I know makes it for really annoying customers at another bar.  It coats your mouth like Lemon Pledge and you can't get rid of the taste.  It isn't the kind of thing we make here.

Any weird customers?  There was this one guy who would come in with his drink request written on a preprinted business card.  The first time he came in and slid the card across the bar, I didn't read it.  Then he pointed to the card and I realized it was his order. I made him the drink and he was happy. I see him around town and he always does the same thing.  At least he knows what he likes and he gets it.

What is the hardest thing about being a bartender? (Laughs) Having to try everything.  The long hours of research.  Really, it all comes down to memory.  You need to remember the recipes for the drinks and you need to remember what the customer likes.  I can remember drinks and faces more than I can remember names.

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Cheri Biggs