After studying sociology and business management, Montana’s Trail House bartender Colin Nugent was touring in various bands and working as the buyer for a skateboard shop. In between playing, attending, and booking gigs, he began bartending at a venue downtown, where he was gradually exposed to drinks beyond cheap beer (though he’s quick to admit he still loves the stuff.) “I eventually found a love for whiskey — bourbon in particular — and the vast possibilities of the food and beverage world,” he says. “I haven’t stopped eating and drinking since.” Here, the Baltimore native shares the ingredient he’s tackling now, the lessons he’s learned behind the stick, and the bars he can’t wait to return to.
BoozeMenus: What's the last cocktail experience you had that really impressed you?
Colin Nugent: The city has no shortage of amazing programs, but my last truly standout experience was having Sam Anderson's "Mood Ring" at Mission Chinese. It was cool to hear about the research and development process, the drink is not overly complicated but is interesting and refreshing, and the sheer spectacle of being served a color-changing drink on a light-up coaster was really fun.
BM: Who's a mentor for you in this industry? What's something you've learned from them?
CN: Two people I learned a great deal from and respect very much would be Doug from Rye in Baltimore and Carlo who heads up the Mina Group in San Francisco. They showed me to never not push the boundaries, to not be afraid to keep it simple, and to keep everything clean!
BM: Where's somewhere that's been on your drinking bucket list lately?
CN: It's already been checked off, so I don't know if it counts, but it's been way too long since I've been to Angel's Share. Checked off Canon in Seattle recently, too, which was beyond impressive.
BM: What's one of your favorite recent memories behind the stick?
CN: It's always nice when people come in and order a drink of yours from a previous season. Having a bit more of a lasting impression feels pretty cool.
BM: What local distillery are you really loving right now?
BM: What's been your favorite cocktail to make this season?
CN: The Soothsayer Sling, for sure. It's the most delicious glass of iced tea, but with booze, so it's even better.
BM: What's a favorite cocktail and food pairing at the restaurant right now, and why does it work so well?
CN: A house staple I think is always going to be the Curse Thrower with the brisket. A good, stiff drink stands up to the dish, and the subtler flavors are still really complementary.
BM: What did you consider most when creating the drinks there?
CN: It's a collaborative process, which rules, so there's a lot to take in when we do our cocktail lab. I've been really into trying to work more savory elements into drinks lately.
BM: What’s an example of that?
CN: I'm trying to incorporate a green garlic and honey concoction. It's such a strong flavor though, so it's been a fun challenge.
BM: What time do you set your alarm for, and what's for breakfast?
CN: Lately I'm up around 8:30am or 9am to walk the dog. If anything, breakfast is coffee and some kind of bagel or breakfast burrito.
BM: What's your favorite day of the week?
CN: Sunday. I'm off work, and Game of Thrones is on.
By Nicole Schnitzler
(Photos from left: Flawless Victory; Colin Nugent; Interior)