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Sunday, March 15, 2009

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Jonathan Pogash, Cocktail Consultant

Jonathan Pogash is currently a cocktail consultant and bartender for bars, restaurants and spirit companies. From the point of a Whom You Know reader of Movers and Shakers, he is more of a cocktail shaker!

He grew up in suburban New Jersey, son of a Native French teacher and a Wine and Spirit Importer. Bilingual in French and English, Jonathan was constantly surrounded by liquor - not in a bad way. In the spring of 2001, upon graduating from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY with a double major in Theatre and English, Jonathan moved to the big city - New York. Almost immediately upon arrival in NYC, Jonathan's father suggested they take a cocktail course together entitled, Cocktails in the Country, held in Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY. Under the leadership of Master Mixologist Gary Regan, this is where Jonathan learned the basis for his career in the bar business.

Jonathan had much experience with restaurants - nearly ten years worth - but never as a bartender. Now with enough courage to go out there and look for a bartending job, Jonathan happened upon the Russian Tea Room, a NYC landmark, with Steve Olson-created cocktails. The nice folks at RTR took him in with open arms - as a barback. It only took Jonathan three months of barbacking to be promoted to full time bartender. Upon the Russian Tea Room's closing in late 2002, Jonathan roamed the streets looking for a gig. He was pleased to find Town, in the Chambers Hotel on W. 56th St., and even more pleased to be taken in by none other than Albert Trummer, Bar Chef extraordinaire. Mr. Trummer introduced Jonathan to the concept of modern mixology and fresh fruit purees. Albert soon moved on, and Jonathan followed, helping Mr. Trummer and his likewise extraordinary brother, Stefan, open their summertime bar/lounge concept on the up-and-coming North Fork of Long Island, Trummer Home.

In the off season, Jonathan bartended at Flute, a Champagne lounge in the Gramercy neighborhood of NYC. In 2003, Jonathan began his bar consulting career, aiding the Trummers in promoting Navan, a vanilla-infused cognac from the house of Grand Marnier. Jonathan traveled to Miami and all across NYC, bartending and creating cocktails at hotels, private homes, bars, and restaurants in the name of Navan. Jonathan had a short stint at chef David Bouley's (of Bouley and Danube) new venture, Upstairs @ Bouley, where he joined Stefan Trummer behind the bar. This is when Jonathan also helped open Solo, on Madison Ave., where he was a bartender and cocktail consultant.

In early 2005, Jonathan moved to Solo's sister restaurant, The Prime Grill, on E. 49th St., where he also bartended and consulted. At this same moment, Jonathan began his cocktail consulting business, Jonathan Pogash Consulting (, creating a client base with such brands as Navan, Belvedere, Hennessy, Grand Marnier, 10 Cane Rum, Kahlua, Bacardi, Skyy Spirits, Mt. Gay Rum, and others. Currently, Jonathan is Director of Cocktail Development for Hospitality Holdings, owner/operators of The World Bar, The Campbell Apartment, The Carnegie, Bookmarks Lounge, and the newly opened Madison & Vine. He also teaches Mixology at NYC’s Astor Center. Jonathan has been mentioned in such publications as Sante Magazine, The New York Times, The New York Sun, EntrĂ©e Magazine, Trump Magazine, Bartender Magazine, The Wine Enthusiast, Plate Magazine, Northshore Magazine, Playboy Magazine, Connecticut Cottages & Gardens and others. Peachy Deegan chatted with Jonathan Pogash recently for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: How did you begin becoming a mixologist? What were you making in the sandbox?
Jonathan Pogash: I started out working in local restaurants as a 15-year old in suburban New Jersey. Then I went to college for Theatre and was urged by my father to, upon graduation, get a job in a bar or restaurant if I wanted to pursue acting in NYC. So I was introduced to Gary Regan, the best classic cocktail mixologist there is, and he taught me the basis behind classic cocktail-making. I then got my first bar gig as a barback at NYC’s Russian Tea Room.

The only thing consumed in the sandbox was sand.

What restaurants are the best to work at and what makes them that way?
The best restaurants to work at are those that appreciate the craft behind cocktails, and use fresh juices, ingredients, and quality spirits and liqueurs. Fellow staff, managers, and owners must be open to furthering their business with a great cocktail list and proper training, realizing that most of the time the bar is what generates the most revenue.

If you were to name the top ten bars in Manhattan, what would they be?
Of course, I’d have to include the 6 locations that I direct the cocktail program for: The Campbell Apartment, The Campbell Terrace/Parlor, The World Bar, The Carnegie Club, Bookmarks Lounge, and Madison & Vine. If I were to mention a couple of others, they’d have to be The Clover Club, PDT, Employees Only, Pegu Club, and Flatiron Lounge.

Is there any alcohol you stay away from?
Low-quality cheap stuff.

What qualities make a good bartender?
Open to experimenting with new cocktail ingredients and flavors. One who not only strives towards quality service, but also towards promoting the idea of quality, artisanal cocktails. Also, one who is neat and organized behind the bar.

What is your favorite kind of audience at a bar in terms of customers?
Guests who enjoy watching the “show” of preparing cocktails, and those who are open to new spirits they may not have tried before.

If you were on a desert island with 3 bottles of alcohol, what would they be and why?
Tough one…
Can’t answer this one – just wouldn’t be able to pickJ

What is your favorite place to be in NYC?
In Prospect Park in Brooklyn with my wife.

What is your favorite shop?
LeNell’s Wine and Spirits Boutique (now closed), because it had the best selection of whiskies and bitters in the city. Tear L

What is your favorite drink?
Margaritas and Manhattans. I have to count them as one because I can’t discriminate.

What is your favorite restaurant?
Al Di La in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

What is your favorite NYC book?
“The Epic of New York City” by Edward Robb Ellis

What is your favorite thing to do in NYC that you can do nowhere else?
Walk to wherever I’m going.

What do you think is most underrated and overrated here?
Overrated – ice skating in the park
Underrated – carriage rides in the park

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
It seems they already know quite a bit about me after this. Where’s the mystery in knowing more?

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?

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