The Mixology Talk Podcast, Episode #126

In episode 126 of the Mixology Talk Podcast, bartender and author Micah LeMon, joins Chris to talk about his new book, The Imbible and some of his insights about starting a craft movement in a small town. Chris got hold of the Imbible and he highly recommends it – the book is more than just great photos, but goes over Micah’s simple but effective approach to cocktail design.

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Micah’s First Experience Behind the Bar

In the podcast, Micah described his first encounter with wine and booze. Coming from a T-totaling family, it wasn’t until he got a busboy job at a country club with some of his buddies that he found himself around alcohol.

During big events they were repurposed as banquet bartenders. They had no idea what they were doing behind the bar and watched, confused, as rich country club folks drank booze and wine – things they thought tasted terrible.

Inspiration for the Book

LeMon recounted how he and his buddies thought booze tasted so awful, and he wanted to know how to make it taste good.

That’s the question he has been trying to answer for the past 20 years. He asked himself:

  • How do you make a balanced cocktail?
  • How do you balance the aggressive flavor of alcohol?

The Imbible is the book wrote tried to address that.

Who Should Read The Imbible?

Micah explained that the book was really designed as a gift for his 20 year old self. It’s for:

  • Someone who is totally unfamiliar with alcohol
  • Someone who is totally baffled by what it’s smooth,
  • Who likes to become home bartenders

According to Lemon, readers who get the book will learn things like:

  • The difference between vodka and whiskey
  • How to structure a cocktail
  • How to make an original cocktail

The Two Cocktail Families

In addition, in the book LeMon discussed two cocktail families and how to create new drinks from them.

There are three necessary components that you will need for a balanced cocktail:

  1. A spirit base
  2. Sweetness
  3. Something bitter or acidic to balance the sweet and spirit base

Then there are two main techniques in executing cocktails. You either shake or stir the drinks.

  1. Shaken cocktails incorporate fruit juice, the ones with thicker ingredients.
  2. Stirred cocktails are mostly spirits and vermouths and stuff like that.

To build new cocktails, start from a basic recipe and kind of just go from there:
For shaken cocktails, the best starting point is the Daiquiri. You got a rich flavorful spirit base balance with lime and sugar.
For the stirred cocktail family, the Manhattan is the best starting point. From there, you can get to a Martinez, Martini, or Negroni,

To get the most from every important single famous classic cocktail, start with the basic recipe. After that, you just kind of “rip it off”.

Most bartenders would acknowledge that whenever they are making “original cocktails”. They are really just ripping off a successful recipe. They start with something already successful and just manipulate it or substitute it and see what happens.

Working in a Smaller Market

LeMon also discussed the benefits and drawbacks of working in a smaller market – something he’s done in his current hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia.

The Difficulties

One of the main difficulties Micah encountered was finding qualified people to work with. A lot of bartenders in smaller markets think that the whole mixology craft thing is a lot of hocus pocus.

Training Ramifications: Many are new to the industry or bartending. It’s rare for a fully trained bartender to send a resume. You have to train and cultivate the talent that you have in the restaurant. That’s a lot of work especially on a busy night where you need to manage your workstation and have to monitor somebody else’s.

Local drinking history and how to introduce craft cocktails: People who experience craft cocktails change their whole disposition towards it. Part of the job is to convince people that crafting cocktails is part of the American gastronomy. It’s a tradition worth pursuing.

The Benefits

Great selection of harvested ingredients: You get to buy fresh produce like peach or strawberries near your home or business and you create relationships with farmers and foragers.

Easier access to nature vs city life: Commute from home to work is only a short distance away and who can beat the forests and mountains nearby to help you refresh your mind.

Introduction to well-crafted cocktails

Aside from his book, LeMon also suggested several ways to introduce people to well-crafted cocktails:

  • People are not excited about something until they have a very great experience with it. Give them that great experience.
  • Slowly introduce crafted cocktails like Manhattan and Daiquiri – don’t go crazy right from the beginning.
  • Offer cocktail classes
  • Make balanced cocktails with balanced ingredients that taste good.

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Thanks for Listening!

Thanks again to Micah for coming on the podcast and sharing your experience! I know a lot of our listeners come from smaller markets across the US and beyond, so I hope we can all learn from your experience and help bring craft cocktails to small towns. If The Imbible sounds like your kind of book, you can find it on Amazon, most online bookstores or local bookstores as well.

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