Bar at Clement wine and spirits director Jared Fischer spent the best summer of his youth working at a cherry factory in Oregon. “I wanted to save money for a year of study in Kassel, Germany, but ended up in the drinks realm by paying my way through college to obtain a very non-lucrative degree in philosophy from the University of Colorado at Denver,” he says. Post graduation he headed to NYC, where he landed a job at a sommelier-staffed restaurant and began learning more about the wine world. He spent time as a sommelier at Le Bernardin and a resort in the Maldives before he returned to NYC and began working at the Peninsula. Here, the New Mexico native shares how he works wine into cocktails, the hospitality superpower he craves, and why spice is everything when it comes to our palates.
BoozeMenus: What’s your approach behind the bar?
Jared Fischer: My approach to cocktail creation is similar to my approach to food pairing, but with reversed priority on structure and flavor. When pairing a beverage with a dish, the food is primary and defines the structural characteristics of beverages being paired with it. After the appropriate structure is established, the next priority is harmony of flavor. Food however, contains structural elements like lipids, proteins, and starches that are largely absent from beverages. When creating a cocktail, harmony of flavor is the primary consideration because the elements of the cocktail are more structurally homogeneous; the task is to balance the structure of the cocktail through the proportions of its ingredients while maintaining the intended harmony of flavor.
BM: What cocktail do you find yourself making the most of these days?
JF: The One Inch Punch. It’s comprised of New York Distilling Co. Perry’s Tot Navy Strength Gin, Darjeeling tea-infused Wray & Nephew Overproof Rum and lemon oleo-saccharum, stirred with ice, strained into a sherry glass, and garnished with a kinome leaf. Punch is derived from the Sanskrit word for five, and the original five ingredients are alcohol, citrus, sugar, spice — originally tea — and water. It’s surprisingly supple for a drink that’s essentially comprised of two overproof spirits barely diluted with sugar, citrus oil, and ice melt, but it’s a punch — both literally and metaphorically.
BM: You know a great deal about wine - do you ever work it into your cocktails?
JF: I believe that unadulterated table wine is too subtle and complete a beverage to be complimentary to cocktail creation, but with some tinkering, wines with particularly bold aromatics can be made to play well in cocktails. To produce my favorite creation, we took an aged Alsatian Riesling and reduced it to concentrate the intense aromas of development characteristic to Alsace, then combined it with Chopin vodka and Monkey 47 gin to create “La Résistance,” which bears apparent similarity to a classic Vesper, but is entirely unique in character.
BM: Which cocktail on the menu is the one you’d reach for time and time again?
JF: The Berkshire. It has Hendricks Gin with muddled cucumber and chili, lime juice, and Q tonic. I’ve come to realize that using spice in cocktails is essentially cheating; it’s the fourth corner of the salt-sugar-fat foundation of deliciousness, and it stimulates our endorphins to a degree that biases our perception of all other associated flavors. I happen to be especially susceptible to that stimulus and the cocktail is simultaneously formidable and refreshing.
BM: Who serves a role model in your life?
JF: Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards. Not only is he a fellow Philosophy diplomate who has contributed to the scholarship of wine and wisdom, but he was at the forefront of every ethically-founded wine movement — from sustainability to non-interventionalist winemaking, to truth in labelling — before these movements even had names, because he knew they were the right thing to do. He pursued his vision to produce a balanced, food-friendly, supremely age-worthy, distinctly American wine, and in doing so created what we now know as Montebello, the finest collaboration of grapes, yeast, and genius to have ever emerged from the United States of America.
BM: Where can you most likely be found post-shift?
JF: I can most likely be found at my favorite Astoria bodega selecting a new craft beer to drink on my couch like the hermit I am.
BM: What’s the last amazing food or drink experience you’ve had?
JF: Fung Tu is a really phenomenal restaurant not only in the composition of its dishes, but in its ability to defy expectations of ethnically-influenced food while simultaneously expanding the culinary vocabulary of its guests.
BM: Where would you like to travel to next for a dining or drinking experience?
JF: I’d love to take a distillery tour of Scotland. Grab yourself a glass of Glenlivet, search Google Images for Scotland, and no further explanation will be required.
BM: If you could have a bartender superpower, what would it be?
JF: The gift of gab. I tend to specialize in my areas of interest rather than maintaining a diversity of ready topics of discussion.
By Nicole Schnitzler
(Photos from left: Lost In Shanghai; Sassafrass Cobbler; Jared Fischer)