February 2017 Bartender of the Month: Eric Hobbie
Name: Eric Hobbie
Current Bartending Gig: The Dorsey (Las Vegas)
Previous Bartending Gigs: Giada, Carnevino, Charlie Trotter’s, JET, Playboy Club, Club Quo
Eric Hobbie started bartending at a very young age in New York at family owned restaurants. Bartending was, at first, just a weekend gig for extra cash. Hobbie was always in some sort of sales.
“I have the gift of gab,” says Hobbie. “My wife says I never shut up.”
When he moved to Las Vegas 12 years ago to open JET Nightclub at The Mirage he was 23 years old and a complete maniac. Hobbie says he had a lot of fun but quickly realized that he had to grow up fast or his life would be short-lived in Vegas. Hobbie was keen to keep bartending because he loved the grind and the interaction with people from all over the world; there’s always someone new to meet every day, which means there are always new stories to be heard and new experiences to be had. So, he decided to get back into the restaurant industry.
Hobbie was hired at Charlie Trotter’s but only had the pleasure of working there for two years before the economy crashed and the venue was forced to close. However, he really started to love bartending while working for Charlie for those two short years. He was then lucky enough to be picked up by Mario Batali, and that's where Hobbie met two of his long-term mentors and friends, Pascal Balduc and Victor Pinkston. Our Bartender of the Month for February 2017 credits both sommeliers with teaching him most of what he knows about hospitality and flavor profiles, how to build flavors, and always being professional.
“I owe all my success to those two gentlemen,” Hobbie says.
While working at Carnevino he was able to serve Chef Giada De Laurentiis at the bar, and he managed to impress the celebrity chef with his knowledge of food , wine, and cocktails. She offered Hobbie a position at her first restaurant on The Strip. He says he felt honored to have someone of De Laurentiis’ pedigree ask him to be a part of something so special.
What made you want to work at the bar/bars at which you’re currently bartending?
After 3 years I felt a little void in my career. Although I love food and wine, cocktails are my passion. When I heard Sam Ross was opening The Dorsey my ears went up like a puppy hearing its owner pull in the driveway. I have followed him for years. Going to his bar Attaboy in my home town of NYC...what a place.
How do you think bartending in Las Vegas is different than in other major cities?
Las Vegas is a different animal than most other big cities. It’s such a melting pot and constantly changing, so “the norm” isn't the norm. Vegas is its own animal, and it always will be.
Which drink or drinks on the menu where you work is/are your favorite, and why?
My favorite drink on our current menu is the Harajuku: mole bitters and Japanese whisky, Byrrh Quinquina, and Gran Classico (a Swiss liqueur). It drinks like a Boulevardier with hints of dark chocolate. I could drink it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
What are some fun flavors you’re working with?
Every juice is fresh squeezed at The Dorsey. One of my favorites is the fresh ginger. It makes our Dark and Stormy and Moscow Mule very unique. The juice has a great spice element instead of being all sugar like most ginger beers on the market.
What are some of the unique spirits and ingredients you’re playing with?
We have a range of Compass Box whiskies which are sought out by most Scotch lovers. Our beverage program right now is second to none.
What do you feel is the next hot trend in mixology?
The cocktail trend is reverting back to classic 3- to 4-ingredient cocktails. That's what our menu offers. Every ingredient shines, every ingredient has its place, not one ingredient is lost or muddy. A few years back people were putting 6 to 7 ingredients in their cocktails, and even though it tasted good, some of those flavors were masked or hidden.
What’s in the mixing glass or shaker for your customers?
Anything that goes in our tins you are gonna taste.
What are you sipping on and why?
When I'm imbibing I'm usually cracking an Italian wine or sipping on a little whiskey. I taste cocktails all day long. We taste everything before it leaves our well to make sure the guest is getting the high-level cocktails we intended from the beginning. I will have a cocktail when I'm out on the town, especially if it has an ingredient I’ve never tried before. As bartenders we have to stay up and ahead of the curve, and constantly be learning and expanding our knowledge of products, and the guest deserves it. There is nothing I hate more than someone who doesn't know the product they’re trying to serve or sell me. Any of my guests can tell you: with me it's dinner and a show. I look at the bar as a communal table, and by the end of the night everybody will know everybody. We as bartenders have the best job in the world – we host parties every night. That's how I look at it.
What are you dancing to while tending bar?
What is also great about The Dorsey is our atmosphere. While sipping on the best beverage made in Vegas you will be listening to some of the greats. We play ‘90s hip-hop and R&B. We have a DJ every night, so it's always a party at The Dorsey. And the space is sexy.
What are you are known for?
I am known as the garnish king around town. I love to make beautiful garnishes. You eat and drink with your eyes first. Some people call me Origami Hobbie or Bar Wizard. I like to think of myself as a Startender or just an Intoxicologist.
Can you share your process when training new hires for their role behind the bar?
When I'm training new bartenders I try to focus on the hospitality side of our job. It's going above and beyond. Anyone can make a cocktail – it's not rocket science. But what makes it special is the service you deliver with that beverage. I have personalized napkins made with my contact info. I offer guests my recommendations for restaurants and shows in Vegas. It's the personal touch; I even offer to make their reservations. It takes me two minutes out of my day and I know they will be back, and if they have friends come into town they will send them my way, so it all pays off.
What advice do you have for anyone out there who wants to become a bartender?
The advice I give to new bartenders is, if you don't like talking to people, pick a new profession beause the guest isn't just buying a beverage. They are also buying your friendship and your opinion and your ear for a story. You have to be personable. Knowledge of product comes with time but you have to be a Bar Maestro right out the gate.