Try the fail-proof punch this top bartender makes at home

Top bartender Max Green surprisingly doesn’t make drinks at home. — AFP pic
Top bartender Max Green surprisingly doesn’t make drinks at home. — AFP pic

NEW YORK, June 25 — “I don’t have nights off,” say barkeep Max Green. “I’m either at Coup or at Amor y Amargo.” He’s been at the latter bar since 2015 and now holds the title of head bartender, presiding over a narrow cocktail den admired for its artful touch with pours of bittersweet liqueur and dashes of cocktail flavouring. 

Meanwhile, at Coup—launched in April with AyA partners Sother Teague and Ravi DeRossi—his title is beverage director, and the direction is less sophisticated, by intention. The bar donates its profit to organisations opposed to the agenda of the Trump administration, including Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the cocktail list takes a populist approach.

“Sother and I spent hours working on drinks, but it wasn’t because we were creating them,” Green says. It was more like, “what 10 drinks can we put on the menu so that any one who walks in the door, says, ‘Oh, I’ll have that one, because I know what that is.’”

He continues: “It opened like gangbusters, but people aren’t coming for the drinks. They’re coming because they want to be charitable, and they want it to be easy.”

Green is saying all this while perched on a bar stool in his living room in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. He doesn’t have nights off, true, but he does have an ideal environment for relaxing at the end of each of them. Green and his three roommates—all of them bearded booze-biz bros in their 30s—have turned a common room in their rented duplex into a proper barroom, with promotional swag on wall-mounted shelves and barstools arrayed at an L-shaped bar top.

“We’re all bartenders or brand people,” Green says. “We get home, and we’re not ready to go to sleep because we’ve been working all night and gotta wind down. It’s comfortable. We’ll have a beer or a pour of tequila or something and settle in for the night.” 

He is saying this, one recent afternoon at his home bar, while perching on a stool picked up for a song at a flea market (six for US$105, RM405) and nursing a Budweiser. 

The liquor shelves, two bottles deep, are a kind of trophy case attesting to the roommates’ strong relationships within their professional community. Clearly, the boys are reaping the benefits of being charming, generous, and well-connected. “We have people wanting to supply us because when we have people over, which we try to do often, it’s fun,” Green says. 

A deep supply of Irish whiskey is from a friend who worked as a brand ambassador for Redbreast and Powers. “She moved back to San Francisco, but when she was leaving she had every single mark. She put together a box for us.” Likewise, the fine products from the makers of Plantation rum and Pierre Ferrand cognac arrived courtesy of a brand person who “always makes sure that our stock is full.” Green and one of his roommates, Chris Bidmead, collected a bottle of Skynos, a pinesap liqueur from Greece, at a doubles bartending competition.

Bidmead, co-founder of a bartender-education startup called Bar Methods, is nearby in the kitchen, dicing vegetables in advance of a dinner party celebrating a graduation. A third roommate—Michael Walsh, bar manager at the Aby Rosen nightclub the Blond—drifts off to the grocery store just as Max is explaining that he lines up the bitters of his home bar in the same order he does at Amor y Amargo.

Walsh: “I steal stuff from the bar and take it to work a lot.” Green: “Yeah, I noticed that. Did you take the tiki bitters?” Walsh: “Yeah, sorry. I needed ‘em.” He exits.

“We all steal each other’s stuff,” Green concedes. “My nickname is Charlie Two Scoops, because I will drunkenly come into our apartment and take two scoops of ice cream out of anyone’s pint and just like put it back in the freezer and wash the spoon.”

Eventually, roommate Eric Job, who is a brand ambassador for Altos Tequila, comes home and explains that the group bought Green a robe embroidered with that nickname, mostly because they wanted him to cover his boxer shorts when walking around the house.

They all moved in about 20 months ago, and the room that would become their bar lay fallow for a while as they kept delaying plans to build a big dining-room table. “It was just empty,” Green says. “At a certain point, we’d been lagging, and we were like, Why are we trying to build a dining-room table when what we enjoy is sitting at bars? So we decided to build a bar.” 

“It made sense,” he continues. “Also, you just have all these spare bottles of things. Every kitchen cabinet was stuffed with booze we’d picked up some place or another, and we said, Why don’t we build a bar and then we can actually put that booze some place besides in a cabinet?”

Assembly was quick. “We probably spent 15 hours total. The biggest thing was driving back and forth twice to Nyack,” where Chris’s family lives and his father keeps a workshop.

The bar is oak, beams and plywood. Its top is cement, sealed with dense polyurethane. “You can do anything to it,” Green says with expletive emphasis. In fact, one gets the sense that they have done everything to it. “We’ve drunkenly blown fire with overproof spirits at 5pm. We’ll do it with anything. Absinthe. Chartreuse works. We probably ran out of Chartreuse because of it. It’s probably not advisable.”

Later, when asked to fix a drink, Green will use cachaça—the Brazilian liquor most familiar in capirhinhas—in a variation on Ti Punch. His enthusiasm for the earthiness of Novo Fogo aged cachaça is quite sincere, but his friendship with one of its bubbliest brand ambassadors also influenced the decision. 

Meanwhile, each of the roommates keeps his private stock of precious bottles in his own bedroom. In Green’s, you’ll find an early-1900s bottle of Old Overholt rye, for instance, remnants of a case that he and Sother Teague sort of accidentally bought at auction for US$9,000, plus Christie’s 22.5-per-cent service fee. “It’s a pre-Prohibition whiskey that’s amazing,” Green says. “It’s unlike any American whiskey you’ve ever tasted. We take little nips of it.”

What do these guys drink on the regular?

“I do not make drinks at home,” Green says, a statement that might seem shocking until he reminds you: “That’s the bartender thing—shitty beer, good spirits.” When drinking at home, he is probably working on a can of Bud or some similar lawnmower beer, “anything that’s light and crisp and you don’t have to think about.”  

Sounds refreshing. But wait—they built a bar at home but don’t make drinks? Green clarifies: “We’ll make the same drinks that any bartender makes—Old Fashioneds, Manhattans, Martinis, Negronis—because those are things that are easier. Occasionally there’s a daiquiri that’s whipped up. But mostly we drink the cocktails that people put in bottles. The whole thing is, “Do we have to make any [ingredients]? Or do we have to clean up a bunch afterward?” 

Despite this self-imposed limitation, the group has grand plans. There is conversation about installing a sink to make it a wet bar and a firm plan to rejigger the projector-screen situation for the sake of elevating Mario Kart tournaments.

“We’re also building a bar in the backyard,” Green says, modest but impishly grinning. “We have pieces. There’s a sink that we picked up on the street. There’s a bunch of wood and pallets and stuff. It’s gonna be our tiki bar, essentially.” Thatched roofs and everything. “We just need a day to build it.”

Shifty punch

When Green was thinking about the drinks that he makes at home, it’s usually kind of a blanco tequila or rye or beer. But for this, he says, “I wanted to make something that was interesting and dynamic but certainly accessible, because there’s nothing worse than trying to make some complex cocktail at home. We’re not set up—even here, where we’re set up more than anyone—so it’s still a mess.”

“So I was like Ti Punch,” he continues. “It starts in a glass, it’s essentially an Old Fashioned, so you don’t need that much crazy stuff.” This is a riff on that.

Ingredients

1/8 of a lime 

one bar spoon cane syrup 

1/2 oz. Lairds’s 100-proof apple brandy 

1/2 oz. Giffard Caribbean Pineapple rum

1 oz. Novo Fogo Barrel Aged Cachaça 

Muddle lime and sugar in the bottom of a rocks glass, add other ingredients to glass, add ice, and stir. Garnish with wedge of lime. — Bloomberg

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