We challenge you to introduce us to a nicer, more modest and gentlemanly bartender than this guy.
When we told Alex Ettinger of Vino Nadoz (16 The Boulevard, Richmond Heights; 314-726-0400) that we wanted to interview him for this column, he was so honored. He began to worry if he was dressed nicely enough. He apologized for giving answers that he thought weren't interesting enough. He laughed genuinely at our stupid jokes.
It's refreshing to meet a guy like Ettinger in a field where being cocky sometimes seems like a prerequisite. Not that we mind cockiness either. We just want a good drink, and Ettinger delivers.
He's been bartending for three years, but he actually started out as a chef. He even went to culinary school and worked at a restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona, for a while. Eventually, he wants to open his own restaurant, but for now, he's pretty content to serve up taste drinks to thirsty patrons.
"I like dealing with people, and I like making people happy," Ettinger says. "In the kitchen, you're back there away from everyone. Out here behind the bar, you get to actually see everyone who's happy."
Welcome to Girl Walks Into a Bar, a weekly Gut Check feature that spotlights local bars and bartenders. This week, Kaitlin Steinberg profiles Alex Ettinger of Vino Nadoz. Below is a Q&A with Ettinger, followed by his recipe for "The Alejandro."
Describe your bartending style in three words. Modern flavor profiling.
A girl walks into a bar and orders _______. She has just earned your undying admiration. A Maker's Manhattan.
Where do you go to drink other than your own place, and what do you get? I go to Blood & Sand and have the bartender, Jane, call it. Or I have Wilson call it at Basso. I like it when people come to me and say, "Hey, why don't you make me something?" My favorite drink at Basso now is called "Green with Envy." It's gin, maraschino liqueur and cucumber water.
What is one thing that most people don't realize about crafting cocktails or bartending? How one ingredient can change an entire drink. Like elderflower liqueur. You only need a quarter of an ounce of it, and it can change the entire drink.
Who would you most like to have a drink with and why? My dad. He's just always good conversation. He's a Bronx Jew named Ira. We both drink Manhattans. And we look alike.
What is the most bizarre or worst drink someone has ordered from you? Macallan 15 and Diet Coke. It's an expensive scotch. You don't mix it with Diet Coke.
What's the coolest or weirdest thing that's happened while working at Vino Nadoz? Honestly, we're more fine dining, so I don't really see anything crazy. I've seen people order three bottles of wine out of the library where we have the $300 to $400 bottles.
What do you think is the next big bartending trend? Crème de Violette and Cynar, which is an artichoke liqueur. And also vegetable juices in drinks. Like kale or cucumber or parsley. That's big in New York right now.
What's your favorite ingredient to use in cocktails? Bitters. We all love the Hellfire bitters, and I really like the Burlesque bitters, which gives drinks a smoky taste. Anything by Bittermens is great.
What's your favorite drink? Maker's Manhattans.
1.5 oz. silver tequila .5 oz. Grand Marnier .5 oz. jalapeno simple syrup dash of Hellfire bitters fresh watermelon juice
Mix all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake, then strain over ice in a lowball glass. Garnish with pickled balsamic watermelon rinds.