Name: E. Carter Wilsford
About the Bartender: E. Carter Wilsford was born and raised in Central Texas, near San Marcos and Austin. He has always worked in the food and beverage industries and loved it. Three years working in kitchens and grocery retail followed by three years in spirits retail helped E. Carter Wilsford to acquire a fairly unique set of skills and knowledge for working behind the bar. He previously bartended at Freedmen’s, Hopfields and Peche in Austin. This highly skilled bartender and self-proclaimed whiskey geek moved to NYC a year ago to further challenge himself, and he says the experience has been pretty fantastic so far.
Astute readers will recognize E. Carter Wilsford from the dark and black cocktail feature we published last week. Read on to learn more about our October 2016 Bartender of the Month.
Why did you become a bartender?
Getting behind the bar full time was always something I thought about. I grew up in a family that is very social and embraces eating, drinking and socializing. It also helps that I've been a serious night owl my entire life.
What made you want to work at the bar/bars at which you’re currently bartending?
I moved to NYC specifically with the idea that I would find the right place for me. A place with a disciplined and nuanced cocktail program, but that’s also encouraging of spontaneity and creativity. Not a dive bar, but not Michelin-level fine dining. And certainly a place with a good whiskey list for me to geek out over.
What are some fun flavors you’re working with?
I've done a lot with vinegar lately. We're using sherry vinegar in one of our current cocktails [the Marshall with rum, cinnamon demerara syrup, hellfire shrub, bacon garnish], and I made a pretty awesome pineapple shrub recently which is working with an Amaro Julep. It's a cool way to add acid without always falling back on citrus.
What are some of the unique spirits and ingredients you’re playing with?
Our current menu has Scotch in more than a couple of recipes. I feel like that's a category that always needs more love when it comes to cocktails. I personally love Genever and I'm working to try and get that on our winter menu.
What are you doing different from the norm in your beverages?
I'm loving that we use uncommon base spirits, or multiple base spirits. So many recipes start out with a hefty pour of your base liquor and then just have added modifiers. Using multiple complimentary bases, or something that's usually a modifier (like a liqueur or amaro) changes the whole game.
What do you feel is the next hot trend in mixology?
I'd like to see more ethnic flavors and concepts making their way behind the bar, especially in a regional sense. Pick a base spirit and work with the flavors present where that spirit is produced to provide a sense of terroir in cocktails like you can in wine.
What’s in the mixing glass or shaker for your customers?
I unquestionably use more rye whiskey and gin than anything else. Brand to brand variation means there's so much character to play with so that the same recipe with different bottles or slightly different proportions can yield hugely different results.
What are you sipping on and why?
Scotch is nearly always the answer, usually Highland Park. I rarely drink the same thing twice in a row, and I honestly drink everything, but in the end I always circle back to Scotch. How do the same simple three ingredients create so much variety and tastiness?
What are you dancing to while tending bar?
We play a lot of jazz and blues at Analogue which is actually pretty great to work to. And James Brown always puts the crowd in a good mood on a busy night.
What are some quirks/quotes you are known for?
Knowing a little bit about everything. In the past week working behind the bar I've had conversations about my favorite operas, how the transmission in a Formula 1 car works, and the legal battle surrounding the trademark of a certain Cuban rum brand. I'm also hugely nerdy about food, wine, spirits, cocktails, travel, and history (among other things), so when we get in-depth questions I relish the chance to step away from the well and talk to customers about things I love.
What’s your take on beer in the bar industry?
I love that it is becoming more accessible and common for bars to have a legitimate beer program. With the proliferation of craft brewers, it's easier than ever to make it matter in your bar instead of being an afterthought. Now if beer could just make it into more cocktails...