Sean Kelly, The Modern, Head Bartender
Tell us a little about yourself
I've been at The Modern for about 2 years, and bartending in New York for about 6 years. I also spent a year bartending in Sydney, Australia. I initially moved to New York after finishing graduate school to intern with a UN affiliated non profit. I was able to get a job barbacking at the Blue Water Grill to pay the bills, only to realize that I really loved working in hospitality.
What is your favorite recipe you have come up with using an AJC product? What was the inspiration behind it?
We made a delicious autumn cocktail last year with Cognac, Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth, a touch of citrus, with AJC's Johnny Pumpkinseed. It had excellent depth of flavor and fantastic mouthfeel. The black pepper provided a dry, warming finish.
When you are coming up with new drinks, do you have a source(s) for inspiration?
The inspiration is for our drink list to always be in harmony with the food being produced by our culinary team. Since we have a seasonally rotating food menu, the cocktail menu rotates to coincide with the flavors of the season. We are always striving for nuanced cocktails, but achieving balance and subtly complex flavors is absolutely essential.
What is your favorite bar, what day of the week do you recommend it, and what kind of experience can a visitor expect?
I don't go out very often so I'm not the greatest person to offer recommendations, but I love Maison Premiere. The bar and the garden are beautiful, and the drinks are world-class. Great music too. My favorite bar though is Swift in NoHo. You go there to have a good conversation and enjoy people's company, and what you decide to drink is secondary to who you're with.
What info about cocktails do most people making drinks at home not know that would be helpful to them?
I often find people are obsessed with making a drink "not sweet." The goal should always be balance, and sweetness is an essential part of balance. If you have an acidic component to you drink (citrus/vinegar) you will need some sweeter to balance it out. Think of a lemonade. You don't want it too sweet, too tart, or too watery. Think about that when you're making your cocktail.
Favorite AJC flavor?