We sat down with Sother Teague of NYC’s Amor y Amargo and Coup to chat about his work and his drink for November’s That’s Amaro! Box, the Slippery Slopes!
S&S: You’re most well known, at least to us, as an expert on all things amaro, but you’ve worked at bars ranging from tiki to molecular. Is there anything you don’t do?
ST: That’s flattering of you to say! I definitely have an affinity for bitter stirred drinks, but I consider myself to be a technician. Meaning, I try to stay on top of all techniques and trends and stay true to the methodology they employ. Knowledge is power!
S&S: Is there an ingredient or technique you’re currently fascinated with?
ST: Technique: I’ve gone down the rabbit hole of “prepared” cocktails. Similar to a batched cocktail but with the addition of dilution. Think: bottled or kegged cocktails.
Ingredient: I’ve circled back to shrubs. They’re a great way to introduce both acid and flavor that’s got some shelf stability. I’m making a carrot-cardamom shrub for a fall menu right now!
S&S: Sounds delicious! With so many bitters and tinctures out there, do you ever find yourself needing a particular taste or flavor and not being able to track it down?
ST: There are so many and so many more pop up every day, it’s exciting. Luckily, if there’s a flavor I’m seeking, it probably exists. If not, its components do, so I can use more than one. For example, I love mixing cherry-bark vanilla bitters with Mexican molé bitters for a chocolate-cherry result.
S&S: How has having started your career in the kitchen rather than behind the bar informed the way you think about your drinks?
ST: My culinary background plays a major role in my drink design process. I don’t think of spirits as “what they are” (rye, gin, rum, etc.), but rather, as “what they bring” (spice, herb, funk, etc.). I used to be a chef, now I just make chilled soup!
S&S: Ha! What would your ideal bar look like?
ST: My ultimate goal is to be beachside so, my ideal bar would certainly involve a hammock. . . .
S&S: Any current fun projects we should know about?
ST: Two! I’m launching an app for iPhone (Android will follow) on New Year’s Day called BATCH. It’s news, education, and communication about the spirits industry. It’s currently available in beta and free for a year if you download now. Search my name in the App Store.
Plus, my book will come out in the spring. Anecdotal and confessional stories about my time behind the bar plus recipes from myself and my friends. Titled I’m Just Here For the Drinks.
S&S: Many of our subscribers may be relatively new to the amaro category—is there anything you’d like to tell them about it?
ST: The world of amari is broad and varied. Don’t be put off of the category if you’ve had one you didn’t like. Also, it’s important to note that bitter is the only acquired taste as your mind perceives it to potentially be poison. So, you may have to try an amaro a few times before your mind allows you to like it.
S&S: Is the Slippery Slopes similar to or different from the drinks you usually create?
ST: Very different! At my bar Amor y Amargo, we don’t use any modifiers, my only nonalcoholic ingredient is water. So this drink is a big departure from my normal style.
S&S: What else sets this drink apart?
ST: The use of Fernet Branca as a base for a cocktail is unique in general. It typically plays a secondary or tertiary role in cocktails. Using it as the backbone of a drink without crushing all the other ingredients was a fun thought process.
S&S: What songs/music do you think captures the cocktail?
ST: This drink is jazzy. Listen to some Brubeck or Hancock while you sip it.
S&S: Is there any specific food you would recommend pairing with it?
ST: The bitter menthol combined with coffee and chocolate make this a great dessert cocktail. Or just snack on some graham crackers as you sip it.
S&S: Yum. So what do you do when you’re not working?
ST: Does not compute. 🤖
S&S: Do you have a favorite request to hear while behind the bar?
ST: Given the specific nature of what we do at Amor y Amargo, I just love to hear that people want to learn more about the category of bitters and amaro.
S&S: Finally, we have to ask, what’s your go-to drink order when trying out at a new place?
ST: First I scan the place to get a feel for their style/ethos. If the vibe is warm and calm, I’ll order a Negroni. If it’s a lively atmosphere, I’ll order a Daiquiri. Both are simple drinks that can reveal a lot about the bar and the bartender.