Previous: Plaza, Fyfe's Corner Bistro, Café Montmartre; Taste and Daddy-O, New York City
Drink of choice: Vermouth on the rocks
Conversion experience: Lillet Martini at Daddy-O
Makes his own: cordials, aromatized wines (wines to which spices, herbs, honey, flowers, nuts, and fresh fruits have been added - vermouth is one, as is sangria)
What's shaking: "I like my drinks wet," says Mendez, when asked about his personal preferences. "I like lots of vermouth in my martini." He goes on to explain: "I had a customer at Daddy-O who liked Lillet in his martinis, and that really got me started on vermouths."
At 35, Mendez is a veteran Madison bartender who also completed a drink-slinging tour in New York. After returning, he became the wine buyer for Café Montmartre before it closed. Then he became a server at L'Etoile, moving to the bar when the business moved into its current space. "But I am still looking for a wine gig," Mendez confesses. "My ultimate goal is to be a sommelier."
In order to match L'Etoile's local and seasonal ethos, Mendez crafts new cocktails almost weekly depending on what's available at farmers' markets. Despite the tremendous latitude for creativity at the restaurant's bar, his motto is "Simple, good cocktails."
An important note on making a Manhattan as Mendez does: Any brand of vermouth will make a decent enough cocktail but not if you have abandoned it unrefrigerated for months. Vermouth, like wine, goes bad - throw out your old bottle and keep your new vermouth in the fridge!
- shy 3 ounces Willet Rye Whiskey
- 1 ounce Carpano Antica Vermouth
- dash Bittercube Cherry Bitters
Pour ingredients into a mixing glass with ice, stir, and strain into a cocktail glass