Tag Archives: Brian MacGregor


On Fatherhood and Tending Bar

I have been bartending for a long time. For fear of dating myself, I won’t say quite how long, but it is up there–I have been in the food service industry since before I could drive, and behind the stick for about half that time. For those of you who know me, I will allow you to do the math. Working in restaurants has taught me a great many things, and has prepared me for more real life situations than any schooling could have. But of all the things that bartending has prepared me for, being a father to a newborn is the least expected.

Here are the top five things bartending has inadvertently trained me for, while dealing with my new born child:

1. Patience: Dealing with people who are intoxicated and have lost their sense of logic is not dissimilar from dealing with a crying newborn. Neither will listen to you; both are going to do what they are going to do, whether you like it or not; and, in the end, you have to make sure you are the one in control.

2. Dexterous Fingers: Working in the kitchen, serving, and bartending have taught me how to work with both hands at the same time. Whether it is pouring multi-bottles in a club, or using a jigger, or changing a diaper, being able to use your left hand almost as effectively as your right hand has become an indispensable skill that I was never formally taught.

3. Staying up late: In the bartending world, we, as bartenders, keep late and irregular hours. As a father to a newborn, I have to be willing to be active and ready for anything at any time of night. After years of doing this (bartending, not parenting) I find this a less daunting task than if I worked a nine-to-five.

4. Eating Fast: When you are working, you might have eight minutes to steal away from the bar to shove a burger in your mouth while simultaneously talking to a co-worker and making a cup of espresso. It’s the same when my baby just went to sleep, my wife is sleeping, and I need to shove a turkey sandwich in my face before I go crazy. This may be the most unhealthy way to eat, but I am accustomed to it.

5. Standing for Long Periods of Time: Every good bartender worth his sweat should be able to hold down his bar standing for eight hours. As a parent to a newborn there is a whole lot of standing (and patiently bouncing your baby with your left hand while shoving food into your mouth with your right at four in the morning).


The Manhattan Project

The Manhattan. How many articles, blogs, Tweets, Pinterest pins, Facebook updates, and Friendster posts (yes, we’re counting Friendster!) have there been on this most holy of cocktails? More than I care to count. So instead of boring myself to tears writing about it, I offer up a new perspective:

In every complete home bar you should have a few whiskies from the Americas: Three bottles of bourbon, three bottles of American Rye, some great Canadian Whiskies (Yes, they do exist; you’re a fool if you think otherwise). Not to mention, vermouth and bitters. The problem is many people don’t know how to combine this holy trinity properly–let alone how to distinguish between a whisky that should be mixed into a Manhattan and an expression that should be drunk neat.

We are attempting to take all the guess work out of that with our newly minted “Manhattan Project,” a designated area in our Wingtip bottle shop devoted to the mighty Manhattan cocktail. Found in this refined area are multiple bottles of American Whiskies, with a slew of different vermouths to play with as well. You can use the Manhattan Project recipe cards as a guide, or pick up any number of each to take home and start creating your own Manhattans.

Don’t forget to grab a few different bitters as well. Bitters is to Bartenders, as Salt is to Chefs. (Not an SAT question, but it should be.)

A final note: Don’t forget the brandied cherries for the garnish. The neon red maraschino cherries only have one place in this world–and that is top of a Turtle Sunday from Kopps frozen custard in Milwaukee [at left].


This Friday: Bourbon + Boots (A “Thought Piece” From Brian MacGregor)

When I think of Bourbon and Boots, I conjure up images of days past, wearing a pair of Doc Martens and slugging back cheap whisky on the way to a punk rock show. Really: In those days, the only way to avoid an ass-stomping was to wear the biggest boots. Now-a-days, as I settle into a more mature state of mind, I still love my whisky–as any reader of this blog knows–and I still love to wear a nice pair of boots, but the ass-stomping days are behind me as I wade into eternal adulthood.

Now I tend to sip on a great bourbon or scotch as I unwind at the end of the day (usually still listening to the punk rock [See: NOFX, at left], I am not giving up on all things youthful after all). As far as the boots go, while I still have a pair of Doc’s, I now prefer the comfort of a well-made, worn-in pair of American-crafted boots, in particular, the Wolverine 1000 mile boot. They work well for sloshing around behind the bar, or just running around doing weekend errands–Gag! I sound so much like an adult when I utter such fuss. But, hey, it’s the truth. As we all get older, our tastes tend to refine.

While this may sound like a middle-aged man lamenting his lost youth and the newfound comforts of adulthood, there lies an ulterior motive beneath my memoir, to encourage you to enjoy Bourbon and Boots this Friday.

When was the last time you bought a great pair of boots and got a free bottle of great bourbon?

Well, that is just what is happening this Friday, February 28 at Wingtip. For every pair of Wolverine boots you buy, you get a complimentary bottle of bourbon–either Elijah Craig 12 Year or Henry McKenna Bottle in Bond, both of which we sell in the club, and both of which are outstanding bourbons. You can also learn a little bit about the brown spirits that accompany each purchase by chatting with Tracy, the Bay Area’s local representative of Heaven Hill Distillery. Not to mention, you’ll be able to sample (read: sip) while you shop.

So, get off you duff and upgrade both your footwear and your liquor cabinet. (And don’t hesitate to still skank the night away, even if you are older and nursing one bad knee!)


Mezcal: A Brief Introduction to an Oft-Overlooked Spirit

I was looking through the selection of spirits we have here at the Club at Wingtip, and as I was sifting through the mezcals, I realized we have amassed quite a bit of that liquor, considering it is so peculiar and usually not well represented. In fact, we have 20 different expressions of this amazing spirit for our members to choose from and enjoy.

At first, all I could think to myself was, “My Lord, what have I done?” Because there is really no need to have so much mezcal in a bar that specializes in whiskies and cocktails.

But then a second thought occurred to me, “This is awesome.”

Yes, we have mezcals that range from deep and smoky and inky to delicate and seductive, and such a wide range of expressions is what all well-curated spirits selections should be.

I want our members to experience new flavors, and sometimes it is a challenge when all you have is the big beast of particular spirit. For example, imagine introducing a first time mezcal drinker to the complexity of an El Jolgorio Tobala [Pictured above left, as well as in Brian’s hand]. It’s one of my all-time favorites, an expression of mezcal at the top of its game. But this intense, smoky titan is not for the faint of heart. Surprise an uninitiated mezcal drinker with this stuff and they may never take another sip.

That being said, for a pleasant gateway mezcal, there’s Fidencio Unico [Pictured above, center], an amazing soft and subtle mezcal that teases and tickles. Plus, it’s ideal for cocktails. And for a totally different animal, there’s the Vago Cuixe [Pictured above, right], created from a breed of agave that grows as a cylindrical tree (I like to think of it as a Collins glass), rather than a spiky, bulbous pina.

If you’re still wondering why we have 20 mezcals, I answer, “Because it deserves the respect that any cognac or whisky gets. It is a crafted spirit that is unique and should be sipped by those who want to enjoy what truly great spirits are.” As Ron Cooper says on the back of every bottle of Del Maguey, “Sip, don’t shoot.”

Truer words have not been spoken about this exceptional spirit.

Members can now try the 20+ mezcals solo, or in these two featured flights available at the club. Mezcal Flight Espadin: a throw back spirit re-awakened for a the modern age, with Wahaka Joven Ensamble; Mezcal Vago; Del Maguey Chicacapas; Fidencio Peychuaga ($29). Mezcal Flight Tobala: all of the wild agave has to offer in four different Expressions, with Marca Negra; Pierde Almos; Findencio; Del Maguey ($38).


New Summer Sippers at Wingtip’s Private Bar

Notes on three recent cocktails from Wingtip Bar Manager Brian MacGregor:

The Boothby: a San Francisco classic created by local bar legend Cocktail Bill Boothby, this is the West Coast answer to the manhattan, we start with equal parts bourbon and sweet vermouth, add a dash of bitters and top it off with some sparkling wine.

Ferdinand’s Draw: Pilsner, Suze, nothing else. A complex layering of flavors rarely found in such simplicity.

Wingtip Grog: If ever stuck out at sea and needing a classy remedy to freshen you palate look no further than this blend of Denezin Rum, Lemon peel syrup, lime juice and angostura bitters. Simple, refreshing and ever so good.

Highland Park Exterior

On Pour: 100 Years of Highland Park

First things first: Highland Park Whisky isn’t a Highland whisky. The distillery earned the name for being on a plot of land called High Park, which happened to be higher than the surrounding land. The distillery is actually even further north than the Highlands, in the Orkney Isles off the northern tip of Scotland (like the neighboring Shetland Isles of Shetland sweater fame).

Geography is one thing, but to help our members get better acquainted with Highland Park, we are pouring 100 Years of Highland Park, that is, 12yr + 18yr + 30yr + 40yr, which equals a veritable education in the aging of Scotch. The flight is available to Wingtip members for $100.

Bartender Brian MacGregor notes that, “Where we may not be the only place in northern California to try the Highland Park 40 we are the most reasonably priced. You can try it three different ways in the flight, by the ounce, or by the full 2 oz dram. It is a rare treat to be able to find all four Highland Park expressions and even a rarer treat to try them in a flight.”

And for good measure, here are a few tasting notes from the distillery:

12 Year: The core expression of the Highland Park range and is a smooth, balanced single malt, with a rich full flavour and a gentle smokey finish.

18 Year: Perfectly balanced single malt with a toffee sweetness and a mouthwateringly smokey finish.

30 Year: Fudge sweetness together with complex aromatic spices and dark chocolate orange.

40 Year: Spicy and aromatic with a background of rich dark fruits, Nutmeg, cinnamon, lemon zest and darkest chocolate. The use of refill casks, allows, Highland Park’s trademark smoke to be retained, even after 40 years in wood.

New at the Wingtip Bar: Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon

Beginning next week, Wingtip members will be able to enjoy a single barrel bourbon from Four Roses distillery of Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. The bourbon was selected by the Wingtip Bourbon Committee, who were tasked with tasting 10 different barrel selections from Four Roses before making their judicial decision.

They picked a barrel of bourbon that had been waiting for nearly nine years to become the flavor of Wingtip circa 2013.

The bourbon has only been tasted by the committee so far, but Wingtip Bartender Brian MacGregor tells us that the bourbon has a strong spice content, and was among the younger bourbons tasted. It is made up of 75% corn, 20% rye, and 5% malted barley. It’s also a whopper at 59.3% ABV.