Last Word head bartender Ciaran Wiese grew up in the service industry. “My first job was in bussing tables, and I've worked every job in the front of the house, as well as a stint as a line cook and some time spent expediting,” he says. In 2006 that all changed he was serving tables at a bar in Brooklyn Heights, when a fellow bartender turned him on to some of the industry’s best books and bars. “From then on, the fire was lit,” he says. “I took the first bartending gig I could find and worked my way up to bar manager.” After 10 years bartending in Tucson and Portland Wiese finds himself helming the program at The Last Word, a serious cocktail joint that landed in Astoria just this August. Here, the Tucson native shares his go-to ingredient of the moment, the beauty of the classic cocktail behind the eponymous bar, and the perks of Astoria’s drinking scene.
BoozeMenus: How do you prefer to tend bar?
Ciaran Wiese: I'm pretty straight forward — service comes first. Though I consider an extensive knowledge of all things bar-related, as well as speed, to be a part of service.
BM: What did you consider most when creating the cocktail program at the Last Word?
CW: We wanted to create something that was approachable for anyone from the neighborhood. We tried to not get too esoteric with ingredients, and we tried to stay true to the classics.
BM: For people unfamiliar with the Last Word, what should they know about this cocktail?
CW: It carries the perfect balance in equal parts — gin, green Chartreuse, and maraschino liqueur. There are three very intense flavors brought together with lime, making it assertive and herbaceous, while still being bright and refreshing.
BM: Which cocktail was the most fun to name?
CW: I love naming drinks; it's one of my favorite aspects of coming up with cocktails. On the current menu I'd have to say the Hijo de Bruja, or son of a witch. It references the Strega and the chiles used to flavor the vodka.
BM: What music is playing while you’re working?
CW: Our music is pretty eclectic. We might start with some Mulatu Astatke or Al Green, move on to some Budos Band, and finish out the night with a little Allah Las.
BM: What ingredient are you digging most this season?
CW: I went a little overboard with Ancho Reyes Verde on the current menu. I definitely feel a little biased, as I’m from the Southwest — I love that roasted poblano flavor.
BM: How would you describe the drinking scene is Astoria versus the rest of NYC?
CW: Astoria is still very new to the cocktail revival. Our drinks can be a little intimidating, but Astoria seems to be really receptive to them. Even though the whole speakeasy thing feels a little outdated, it's still a novelty to some Astorians — people love the idea.
BM: Who’s someone in this industry that you could watch bartend all day long?
CW: I've got to be honest, I don't get out too often on my nights off. I really like watching bartenders that maintain multitasking and speed while carrying on an entire conversation with a guest.
BM: Where are you heading post-shift, and what are you ordering stat?
CW: If I'm out early enough, our crew usually heads to the Ditty, two blocks down Ditmars. It’s a great environment, and it has some of the best bar food for late night. As for my order, it’s always a beer and a shot of mezcal.
By Nicole Schnitzler
(Photos from left: Interior by Oleg March; Ciaran Wiese by Francine Dominguez; 'Montgomery Mule', 'Gila River', and '16 Shells From a Thirty Ought Six' by Francine Dominguez)