On a recent trip to Colorado we hit up a speakeasy called Williams & Graham on the advice of our buddy, Charles Guerrero. The drinks were awesome and the bartenders were amazing, mixing, shaking, cutting, peeling, straining, and pouring like pros. Fast forward to a few weeks later when we finally made our way to Walrus + Carpenter in Black Rock and got to see Adam Patrick “behind the stick.” Not only were his drinks impressively delicious, but he had those same skills that the bartenders who amazed us in Denver had. One of the moves that got us hyped up was shaking the cocktail in one hand then stirring a drink with the other hand. We both argued if we could actually do that, trying to pat our heads and rub our stomachs…we couldn’t even do that, but he made it seem easy as breathing.
We talk about him with you today because Adam Patrick was chosen by Chef Matt Storch of Match to create a brand new drink program as the Bar Manager. And, it’s pretty easy to see why Chef Storch would choose him to help bring about the new iteration of his landmark Match in the heart of SoNo. He’s got drive, he’s got heart, he’s got mad skills, he’s got some sass, and he’s got some serious smarts. Case in point: his blog *just add alcohol that takes you through how to make cocktails, the origins of drinks, bar philosophy, and more.
So, let’s dig a little deeper into the world of Adam Patrick, his role as Bar Manager at the soon-to-reopen Match, some hints about the changes to come at Match, and his evolution in the restaurant and service industry…
We know that Chef Matt Storch has closed Match for renovations and to bring something new to Norwalk in its place. How do you see yourself fitting into his new plans as Bar Manager?
A decade and a half ago, Match was crucial in helping to make SoNo into what it has become. It was a pioneering restaurant. But SoNo is changing, the idea of traveling to another city to enjoy nightlife has changed. For the most part, every city has their own little downtown now, with great restaurants and great chefs. SoNo is reinventing itself as a place to live, a self-sustaining community. Matt sees this, and just as Match was at the forefront 14 years ago, it will be again as the city modernizes. But now there’s another element to what makes a restaurant great, and that’s a modern beverage program. It’s not just about trendy wine and craft beer anymore. Great bars serve great cocktails, use fresh juices, have a liquor selection comprised of products chosen for a reason (not just because the liquor company said to buy it) and use culinary techniques in the crafting of drinks. As progressive craft bartenders, we follow national and international trends, attend conferences, take part in competitions, and basically live and breathe this stuff. My plan is to help showcase these talents in an approachable way, to one of Connecticut’s most loyal customer bases.
How did this union of awesomeness of you and Chef Storch begin?
I had taken some time off from managing to simply tend bar and focus a little more on the craft, itself. A mutual friend, Jeff Marron took over the bar at Luxe in Westport, and we are both avid about modernizing and changing the beverage industry in Connecticut. We worked together for a bit, and he knew I had been basically fielding offers for a couple years but had been hesitant about getting back into running a program. It had to be the right place at the right time. I had kind of hit a wall as to what I could accomplish without taking on more responsibility and when he mentioned Matt was interested, I decided it felt like the right time. I’m thankful that Matt thinks enough of what I do to include me in something that is clearly his passion and life’s work.
It’s never easy to leave a job. So, we were wondering what are your thoughts on moving on to a new experience at a new restaurant in a new city?
I’m not going to lie, it’s never easy, and no matter what anybody says, you’re always going to be anxious. I loved working at Walrus + Carpenter, and those guys really gave me the freedom to be myself and let go, so that I could come to the point I’m at now. However, I’m super confident in myself and what I do, and have a great support system of the best restaurant people and the best customers in the world, so I’m not at all hesitant. I think the biggest challenge will be breaking a decade and a half of routine. We are going to be different. Markedly different. Maybe not all at once, but slowly, over time. All I ask is that people give me a chance to show them what’s possible, because I don’t think there’s a lot of education out there right now in Connecticut. Customers may not even know what’s possible, and it’s my job to change that. You might be scared of Gin, for example (bad night in college, anyone?) but I’m going to make you like gin. I’m going to serve it in a vehicle that makes it taste good to you, based on what you DO like. That’s the difference.
You’ve bartended at some great places in CT and we’re sure that along the way you’ve learned new things and have grown. What are some things that you’ve picked up along the way that you feel are invaluable?
Number one, it’s not about me, it’s about you. If there are no guests, there’s no Adam. I spent the majority of my career working in bars and restaurants doing very much the opposite of what I’m doing now, and what I learned over the past few years was how to take the product knowledge, recipes, and technique that I’ve acquired, and apply the basics of speed, efficiency, and hospitality to them. You have to always be working. If it’s slow, you talk (we love to talk.) If it’s busy, you get to it. If you look at the best bartenders in the world, it doesn’t take them five minutes to make a Manhattan (which, consequently, is always the argument I hear from people AGAINST craft bartending), it takes them thirty seconds. In fact, I can make a drink correctly, faster than someone can make it incorrectly. That takes focus and practice and it helps ensure that proper technique doesn’t alienate people who just want to come to a bar and drink. Not everyone needs a history lesson on rye whiskey and where the Manhattan cocktail originated and when. Sure, I can provide that information, but I can also shut up and give you a drink. That’s hospitality, what I’m doing FOR the guest, not TO them.
Number two, I certainly don’t know everything. I go to shows and conferences where I am literally blown away by what I see other bartenders doing. It’ll humble you quick. So, every day, I try to learn something new, and teach someone else something new, so that we can all grow together. It’s simply a matter of wanting to learn, of wanting to improve. I’ve always said that if I had to clean toilets for a living they would be the cleanest toilets in the world. This is what I do, it’s what I love, so you’re going to get the best I can give you every day when you come to see me. That’s a promise.