Build Your Own Home Bar: Brian Hawthorne’s Mixological Essentials

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The farmers market is no longer just for goat cheese, blueberries, and apple cider donuts. These days it’s a foraging ground for every restaurant’s unsung chef – the bartender. Among the veggies, a carrot margarita lies in wait, or a green kale smoothie … with gin. Creatives like Brian Hawthorne, the mixologist behind East Village’s homey bar and eatery The Wayland, hits the market all the time for fresh cocktail ideas and the farm-fresh ingredients needed to make them. With a few essential tools, you too can shake and stir up organic finds at your very own home bar. Bowtie and mustache optional.

Hawthorne’s six years mixing in city bars – plus his co-founding of Cocktails in Motion on-demand mixology – have taught him a thing or two about prepping bars of many sizes. When not enjoying neighborhood company among the Wayland’s upright piano and farm-forward menu (think crispy cauliflower and pork shoulder), he’s looking for local produce, biking in Fort Greene, and hitting up his favorite spots. With his home bar essentials, you’ll soon be pouring your own urban adventures into a glass and sharing them with friends.

Tell us about your mixology career in NYC.

In 2010, my best friend was running (and still runs) Tanteo Tequila in Soho (the office headquarters of the spirit company). I started out pressing limes and washing glasses at some of their office parties, but pretty soon started mixing margaritas and meeting folks in the craft cocktail scene. Among them was Jason Mendenhall, who set me up with a job at Ofrenda, a Mexican restaurant in the West Village. I spent a year at the Summit Bar with Gred Seider, getting schooled in far-out flavor combos and classic cocktail technique. In 2012, we opened The Wayland, and that’s where I’ve been since.

What has been your favorite moment at The Wayland?

Near the end of our first year, we were hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, and to make it worse, we were in the middle of construction on an expansion of the bar. The first night the lights came back on, we reopened, and our friends the Syncopators (a six-man ragtime band that plays every Wednesday night) came out. It was snowing like crazy, but our neighbors came out and packed the bar. Everybody was so happy to get back to normal life. At that point, we were truly initiated as a neighborhood bar.

Every bartender mixes differently. What is your personal style?

I enjoy a challenge. When I write new cocktails for The Wayland menu, my first goal – after making sure the drink tastes great – is to create something that we’ve never put out before. That almost always means going to the market or kitchen to find or make an ingredient that I haven’t mixed with yet. It’s a culinary approach that comes from being an adventurous eater.

What are the essentials for someone looking to set up a killer home bar?

Assuming that most people have very little extra space in their apartment, I’ll go with the bare minimum. For tools you need a Boston Shaker, a bar spoon, a 1-ounce to 2-ounce double-sided jigger, a Hawthorne strainer, and a mesh strainer. The cocktail-specific ice trays that make 2-inch cubes are pretty easy to find, and that’s a nice touch. A mixing glass is great, but in a pinch, you can always stir a drink in the shaker.

Glassware is really a matter of taste. If you have a nice cocktail or martini glass of some kind, a rocks glass, and a collins glass, you’re more than covered. But if you have to make choices, I’d just go with a nice 10-ounce rocks glass, something with a bit of heft and a nice rolled lip.

Always have a bottle of Angostura bitters and your favorite liquors, but after that there are very few ingredients that are both essential and non-perishable, so I would shop based on the drinks I’m planning to make. Freshness is one of the biggest keys to really good drinks, so buy and press citrus the same day. Trying sweeteners other than sugar is a good way to add variety to simple drinks, and the leftovers are useful to have around; maple syrup, honey, and light agave nectar can all add new dimensions to an old fashioned or sour.

Where do you like to shop for barware in New York?

Cocktail Kingdom. They have all the basics as well as some really beautiful high-end tools and mixing glasses. As soon as you start working with a wide array of ingredients, it pays to have good knives. If you let your imagination run, there is a bar application for pretty much any kitchen tool, from smokers to sieves to silicone molds.

How about fresh juices and garnishes?

For basics, Essex Market is a downtown mainstay. Reliable and fair prices. For seasonal and local produce, any of the NYC Greenmarkets is great. And for some more unusual items, I love shopping at Dual Specialty Store on First Avenue between 5th and 6th Streets.

Do you have a favorite liquor store?

Duke’s Liquor Box in Greenpoint. They always have something delicious that I’ve never even heard of, as well as an impressive selection of small batch and craft spirits.

Aside from your own Wayland creations, where do you like to head for a drink in the city?

Attaboy, Black Crescent, PDT, and Maison Premiere are all places I’ve had some killer drinks recently.

Where do you live in the city now?

In July, I gave up a five-minute commute and left the Lower East Side for Fort Greene. I can still bike to work in 20 minutes and I’ve got Prospect Park nearby. I am definitely loving the Brooklyn lifestyle.

You’re a musician (double bass and guitar) and known to sometimes break out a quick set for customers. Where do you like to play in the city?

I’ve done a couple things at The Standard and The Bell House, and of course The Wayland. I used to play at the bar more during my shifts, but we got busy, which I am definitely OK with.

When you do snag some free time, where do you like to hang out?

I am a huge jazz fan and I think the Village Vanguard is still the greatest club in the city. I also love Rockwood and Skinny Dennis.

Why do you love New York?

The intensity and passion that people bring here is apparent in every part of the city, from music and cocktails to architecture and design. There is such a long history of people doing great things that it’s impossible not to feel inspired.

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The Wayland

700 East 9th Street New York NY 10009

(212) 777-7022

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