M A R K   T U B R I D Y

February 7, 2020 | Photos: Aly Pentangelo of Sunny Flora Photography

Musician, innovator, and mixologist, Mark Tubridy is a trailblazer in the mixology scene and the mastermind behind over 70 recipes at one of New York’s legendary speakeasies, 21 club. Enjoying Mark’s cocktails and company, it becomes quickly evident that he’s a technician of his craft. Mark challenges himself to marry modern techniques and ingredients with classically inspired cocktails and has been featured in media outlets such as The New York Times, Good Morning America, and most recently, BarTales New York, where he collaborated with three of the cocktail industry’’s most iconic figures, Dale DeGroff, David Wondrich, and Gary Regan.

We sat down with Mark to learn about his story and walked away inspired by his philosophy on life, learning, and career. Read on to find out about Mark’s music inspired approach to mixology, tips for the at-home mixologist, and of course, how he likes to enjoy Oliverlane.

How did you become interested in mixology?

It’s always been my nature to discover and understand the inner workings of seemingly simple things. Once I began bartending, it wasn’t long before I became obsessed with the history and science behind cocktails. Whether it was learning a new recipe, researching the origin of a particular ingredient, or mastering a specific technique, I quickly found myself immersed in the curious world of alchemy, folklore, and artistry. This was when my love of mixology truly began.

What’s your favorite cocktail ingredient right now?

Right now, my favorite ingredient to use in cocktails is bitters, both in its concentrated and non-concentrated forms. Bittersweet liqueurs that act as aperitifs or digestifs make for incredibly complex modifiers in cocktails, while the intense bitters that we dash into drinks can instantly provide depth of flavor and balance to an otherwise flat recipe. Having recently begun making bitters myself, I’ve grown to truly appreciate the intricate balance of botanicals that exists in each unassuming bottle.

What’s a tip that you have for the novice, at-home mixologist?

I would encourage novice bartenders to invest time in truly learning some basic classic cocktails, as well as seeking to understand what about their ingredients, ratios, and presentations make them timeless. Just as a great musician begins by practicing scales, the versatile mixologist should understand fundamental techniques and recipes. Building that solid foundation of knowledge will allow them to later improvise and create signature cocktails of their own.

What’s your favorite place to have a cocktail?

It’s going to sound cheesy, but my favorite place to have a cocktail is at home – either watching a movie with my wife or while reading a good book. After the hustle and bustle of working at a high-volume bar all week, my ideal environment to enjoy a thoughtfully crafted drink is in the peacefulness of my own house. Plus, my wife makes a mean Manhattan, so that doesn’t hurt.

What’s your favorite mixology moment? (something funny, an epiphany you had, a unique experience, etc.)

I had the unique opportunity to be a part of BarTales New York, a documentary exploring the rich cocktail history of the city through the insights and anecdotes of three mixology legends: Dale DeGroff, David Wondrich and Gary “Gaz” Regan. The funny thing is that I knew we were filming a piece for this documentary at my restaurant one morning and that I would be preparing drinks for the featured guests, but I actually had no idea who the guests would be. As each one of these industry icons entered the room, I became further convinced that I was still asleep and dreaming… that is, until I was asked to make old-fashioneds for them (at which point, the dream became very real)! To watch these three industry veterans, whose books I have displayed in a prominent place on my shelf at home, enjoy one of my drinks and reminisce about the good old days of NYC cocktail culture was an experience I will always cherish and never forget. It was truly special.

What’s your favorite part about the craft of mixology? 

The science behind it. Behind every well-made cocktail are a number of scientific factors that come together to make it taste great. Understanding how to balance acid with sugar, and how dilution and aeration affect different types of cocktails, and even knowing exactly how ice freezes and melts are integral concepts that must be considered when executing any drink. In that sense, I think learning the “why” in regards to mixology has always been just as important for me as knowing the “how”.

Is there something in your background that you’d like to highlight as having a big influence on who you’ve become today? 

I have the support of my parents to thank for who I am today. They have encouraged me in absolutely every dream I’ve had in life. Whether it was wanting to be a professional basketball player when I was young, moving to New York to be a musician straight out of high school, or pursuing a serious career in mixology, my parents have taught me to approach every endeavor with passion, devotion, and hard work. They have truly instilled in me the belief that nothing is impossible when you believe in yourself and your dreams.

What’s a piece of advice you’d share with aspiring mixologists and those new to the industry?

The importance of remaining humble in this industry. Many times throughout my decade-long bartending career, I’ve believed 100% that I knew how to make certain drinks perfectly, only to have a customer or coworker correct me on some detail. In those moments, I’ve had the option to either choose pride and insist that my way is the right way, or choose humility and look into the suggestions of others a little more deeply. I decided a long time ago that I would always take such constructive criticism graciously and use it as motivation to do my research that much better. Every cocktail I make today, I’ve probably re-learned at least once or twice, and there are some that I’m sure I’ll re-learn again. But that’s the fun part of mixology – it’s a fast growing field, full of talented and passionate people, and a career in it will keep you on your toes and surprise you at every turn… if you let it. I for one am buckled up for the ride.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy Oliverlane? 

Oliverlane is a truly unique whiskey, in that it has all the rich oak and vanilla overtones that you’d expect, but it also features lighter botanical notes of cucumber and mint. That delicate, but complex flavor profile gives Oliverlane an incredible versatility in cocktails. As a substitute for gin in many classics, this nuanced spirit provides additional depth and richness, while still imparting noticeable fruit and herbal notes – making for some truly amazing cocktail variations. My favorite way to enjoy Oliverlane is in a Boulevardier: its mint and cucumber flavors dance brilliantly with the sweet vermouth and Campari, placing the flavor profile closer in some ways to a classic Negroni, but with more depth and an intriguing hint of melon.

Cheers to you, Mark!

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