Where are you from, and how did you land here?
I was born in Lexington, North Carolina. My father was a pastor, and he took a parsonage in southern Lancaster County when I was very young. Although I am not from here technically, I am proud to have grown up here.
How did you become a bartender?
I began cooking at a very young age. I started in the back of house when I was 13, then made the transition into the front of house when I was 20.
You’ve created sort of a signature style in your look, which seems to be a trend, with bartenders wearing suspenders, for example. What’s your “uniform” behind the bar? And what do you like to wear when you’re not working?
You should respect your craft. The way you dress, the way you act is a representation of how you respect that trade. You don’t wear suspenders to impress someone; you wear them to be appropriate. You are letting them know that you have taken the time to iron your shirt and to prepare for service because you respect your guests and the interactions you have with them. And also because sloppy is gross. Gross is not a word I want to associate with eating and drinking.
I wear a long tie clipped low, dress shoes, slacks with braces, and a pressed shirt with a collar.
I actually hate shoes. I love being outdoors in sand or soil. I’m living in a very casual, printed tee kind of world.
How do you manage the rush?
With a controlled calm. Don’t ever let it be in charge. You have to manage it. “You want drinks and food. I want you to have that too. I’m going to work as fast as I can to give you that.” You find small games even in the heat of a Friday press, where you try to see just what you’re capable of, how efficient you can be, how few steps you can take. What can I do better? What did I do worse? You can’t get lost in those moments. Be cool, work fast and be efficient.
What’s your favorite drink to drink?
Something hand crafted. Something you care about and are willing to share with me. Or whiskey. Whiskey is fine too. I don’t need a conversation to enjoy whiskey.
I have been bouncing between Victory’s Hop Devil and Bell’s Two Hearted. But I’ll take a Natty Bo or a lager any day.
Box. So worth it, and there’s great quality there. Bota Box is an ecofriendly purchase, and Black Box offers many great wines at a great per-ounce price. I suppose, though, varietal-wise I would say I prefer the more food friendly reds, like Pinot noir or Sangiovese.
How do you stay trend savvy?
Set the trends. It’s paying attention to your peers around the country and working to be aware and informed. Our industry is closely tied to so many others, not just in hospitality. There are so many ways to be inspired. Trends are a unique monster, though, and have a life cycle. It’s best to set your own path and allow your ripples to become tomorrow’s trend.
Favorite/most interesting ingredient/liquor/spirit to mix with?
Aquafaba, cacao juice and other unique, sustainable and healthy ingredients are important for the long-term sustainability of our craft. Cardamaro is also nice in a pinch.
Would you say you have a “signature” style to your cocktails? What would that be?
Honest. I don’t cut corners. I prefer to make it from scratch because it’s usually better. Being deliberate in your actions and methods produces the best example of an idea or creation for delivery to a guest. My style of creating a cocktail is to know enough to know how to experiment.
What’s something people might not know about you?
I’m an avid metal detector and history enthusiast. I backpacked through Mexico. I don’t like shredded coconut. I play several musical instruments. I used to make my own cheese.
Ports of Call
A tiki-inspired, Manhattan-esque cocktail utilizes trade spices and Port wine. Spicy and sweet, it has a comfortable balance: enough strength to get you through the cold weather, while reminding you of warmer climates and festive evenings.
2 ounces Old Forester bourbon
½ ounce Ruby port
½ ounce Velvet falernum
2 dashes Bittermens
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Stir and serve over pebble or crushed ice. Garnish with dehydrated lime and grated nutmeg.
Benjamin Hash is a bartender at:
The Horse Inn
540 E. Fulton St.