Bar Fight, Dominos & Faux Dives: Drinking with Robert Krueger

With so many big, big personalities in the big drinks game, it is nice when there is someone you met who is kinda just chill and seemingly normal. When I say that Robert Krueger is chill and normal, I by no means hint at him being boring. He is anything but that. I mean, the guy is a partner in one of very favorite bars with a awesomely fun name, Extra Fancy.

Rob has an impressive resume and is a vet of everyone’s faves, Employee’s Only, and Macao Trading Co., but it is Extra Fancy that where we see this guy’s fun personality shine. Everything about it is just awesome, which is why they won the “People’s Choice” at Bar Fight at Tales of the Cocktail (hosted by The 86 Co.) and not to mention, so many incredible bartenders have been behind the bar there it is insane!  Rob is just a great dude, with fantastic skills and a man that truly understands hospitality and customer service.

Which reminds us, we need a fun Extra Fancy night very, very soon. But without further ado, let’s go Drinking With Robert Krueger.

Favorite NYC place to hang out over a drink when you’re not working?

I love to visit my friends in the neighborhood at Donna, Dram, Bia, and Basik.

What is your GO TO drink when you are out?

There’s no better cocktail than a Manhattan.

What was your first job in the industry?

I got my start as a food runner at a French bistro in the Lower East Side, Le Pere Pinard. When I was graduating college, a friend of mine called me up and convinced me to go out for the job because she believed that one needed to spend some time working in a restaurant to be a well-rounded human being.

So that summer I learned how to cut bread, that the meat goes in front of the guest when you are dropping a plate, what a ramekin was, and how to play dominoes. That job lead to Employees Only, and EO lead to Macao Trading Co,, and eventually to Extra Fancy. I’m still rounding out, it seems.

What was your AHA moment, was there a moment when you realized that this was absolutely for you?

Wait: is it too late to get out!?

I can’t say that there was one moment, but there are a few things looking back that revealed to me what this business was about. Once, in the first year at Employees Only when I was still a food runner, Dushan Zaric had me come into the bar at about 2am when they were completely slammed to try to change $1 bills from the tip bucket back into the drawer.

In my memory, there might as well have been fog machines and lasers going off because it was so wild and energetic and I was so disoriented in the middle of it. The next time I was behind that bar it was day time, beginning to train as a bar back, and I could hardly believe I was standing in the same place. The daily transformation of these empty spaces into venues for fun, excitement, and life is really incredible.

Coffee or Tea?

Both. I found some Zubrouwka tea at McNulty’s (on Christopher Street) and I’ve been making iced tea with it over night in the fridge for something to drink in the morning. But we also drink loads of coffee at Fancy, especially at manager meetings. It tends to facilitate engaged conversation.

What’s the Robert  Krueger hangover remedy?

If you have overindulged, go for a swim. In the ocean, if you have one.

So what are you really feeling right now when it comes to cocktails?

I think there’s a lot to be found in typically culinary flavor combinations coming into drinks. We’ve seen a lot of that with spicy/salty/citrus combination in the last few years, but there’s a lot to be seen on the herbal and spice side of things.

When you are creating cocktails do you think of the liquor you want to use first or the taste that you are going for?

I would say most often a cocktail comes from the flavor aligning between two or more ingredients, and then either expanding from there or drawing the connection between those flavors with other ingredients. I’m a big fan of complex modifiers such as Benedictine, Velvet Falernum, and Amaro Montenegro because they give you multiple flavor points to tie other ingredients to and extra dimension of their own.

What’s your creative process with drinks?

The best cocktails come from a moment of inspiration and come together quickly. If the balancing takes a little more time to tweak, that’s okay, but the core idea should just happen. You can keep grabbing bottle off the bar and balance them out until you have something drinkable–it doesn’t take much experience to do that–but the intuition to reach for the right element that makes the drink “sing” is the what you’re after. You have to pay attention to the ingredients and the moment your in to find those.

My goal is always to create a drink that’s an icon. When you name a classic cocktail- Martini, Margarita, Mojito, what have you – the image of the drink, the sound of the word, the flavor all come into your mind at once and are inseparable. We want to make drinks that sell, not contemplative one-offs. I want to make the drink that does exactly what you want it to do, and then you want it to do it again. I think cocktails like the “One More That’s It” and “Baby You’re Driving” at Extra Fancy, or the “Bashful Maiden” at Macao come closest to this goal.

What is your favorite spot when you want to be low-key or for date night?

I wish I could get there more often than I do. I really love Ten Bells.

Can you share any hidden NYC gems or dive bars with thirsty readers?

There’s so many faux-dives and “reimagined” dives these days that are just confusing. So I’m going to give you a really great bar that’s probably not in your usual territory, though it certainly is in mine: Featherweight. It’s the closest bar of any merit to my house, and without a doubt one of the best cocktail bars in New York.

What are you most proud of in your career thus far?

The recognition that Extra Fancy has gotten in the last three years is so amazing and so satisfying. When we get to travel as a team and put on a show, like last fall at PDX with Hennessy and The Knock Back, and The Bar Fight Club at Tales of the Cocktail with The 86 Co. and Del Maguey, I really feel that the effort and all the late nights are paying off.

Follow Rob & Extra Fancy on social y’all …. and get to Extra Fancy soon, see ya there!

@itsmerobk / @extrafancybk

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