Some of our favorite bars in the country are owned and operated by Proprietors LLC, whose impressive portfolio includes Death & Co, Nitecap, The Walker Inn, The Normandie Club, and Honeycut. One of the folks at the helm is a former bartender and all around nice guy, Alex Day. This bi-coastal Gent is insanely knowledgeable about all things ingredients and techniques in the bar world and has consulted for numerous restaurants and bars in the United States and abroad, designing bars, developing beverage programs, and training staffs.
His Proprietors partner in crime, David Kaplan, says of him, “Alex is an incredible partner, and we complement each other’s skill set and approach well in every respect. He attacks everything from the ground up and then proceeds in a linear manner. He wanted to become more fluent in bar design, so he taught himself Sketchup; next Day wanted to handle more menu layout and create better proposals, so he taught himself Indesign. His knowledge base is only exceeded by his excitement to learn.”
So without further ado, let’s go…
Drinking With Alex Day
State your details for the record.
Alex Day, co-owner, Proprietors LLC, Death & Co, Nitecap, Honeycut, The Normandie Club, The Walker Inn. I live in Los Angeles, CA
How did you get started in the biz?
My first hospitality job was cooking on a catering crew — the ripe old age of 15. Though it wasn’t particularly glamorous, the chef and owner taught me so much that has carried throughout my career. Mostly, mad respect for a hot stove or a sharp knife, and the absolutely necessity of saying “behind.”
What was the gateway drink that made you say “THIS” is a cocktail and inspired you to take it all seriously?
The Aviation changed my world — when you have that first taste of maraschino, it’s hard to look at the world of drinks the same ever again.
What is your current go-to drink order?
A Negroni, always. I give zero shits if that makes me like every other bartender — I love ‘em!
Do you drink coffee or tea?
I love coffee and tea, but I habitually drink coffee every morning at home. I tend to oscillate between different roasters, but I find myself always going back to Heart out of Portland, OR. They do such a good job.
That said, I love what our friends at August Uncommon Tea are doing. We use their blends in loads of cocktails, and I’ve found their drinks to be a revelation for friends who think of tea as that processed supermarket stuff. It’s like tea for cocktail lovers: complex, interesting, dynamic, and creative. So good.
What is your hangover remedy?
Nothing beats a little sunshine and exercise to shake off a fun night. But I suppose it comes down to the severity of the hangover. For mild hangovers, a morning on my deck with coffee followed by a walk around the ‘hood is key.
Heavier, and a bath and some salty broth will bring you right back.
Severe? The only way to scratch back to the human world is to close all the shades, embrace the pain, pretend that you’ll never do it again, and watch some truly trashy movies. Like, Mall Cop trashy. In all situations, pizza or Thai is paramount.
Favorite spot in LA for late night “tipsy” eats?
Salazar or Same Same Thai.
Guilty pleasure, no apologies necessary drink?
Chardonnay + seltzer + ice = don’t even pretend you hate it!
What is your very last sip death row drink?
Old Domfrontais Calvados.
Favorite Hospitality Venue suggestions for:
• Taking out-of-towners for cocktails for an “Only in LA” experience? 71 Above
• Romantic “let’s get it on” date night? Everson Royce Bar
• A Classic Dive evening? HMS Bounty, then The Prince. Repeat.
• Post-Shift Drink? Frank’N’Hank
• Serious R&D to get inspired? The Walker Inn. No, seriously, Devon’s menus are inspirational. I’m just lucky I get to work with her.
LA is known for being summer nearly year round. What is your favorite quintessential warm weather drink?
There’s nothing that beats hot weather like a spritz — any spritz. Keep it simple by doctoring up crisp white wine with seltzer and lemon, or get fancy with Aperol and prosecco.
What is the favorite cocktail on your menu right now?
It is so different everywhere, and luckily at this stage in cocktail culture, many of our bars see an impressive spread of popular cocktails. People love variety.
The most strikingly popular cocktail in our entire company undoubtedly is The Normandie Club’s Old Fashioned: Coconut-infused Bourbon, Spiced Demerara Syrup, Bitters. Our guests gobble it up in impressive quantities.
Without a crystal ball to predict, what are you digging for 2017 and think we will and should be drinking?
I believe that we’ll continue seeing low-ABV drinks get more attention and respect. I see greater variety in spirit categories, but not just for the sake of having another bottle on the back bar — but rather, spirits that are unique and priced for us to mix with. And guests are more excited than ever to try new things.
I see a growth in areas that have not gotten a lot of attention — brandies of all sorts (aged or unaged) from areas you wouldn’t expect. Maybe that’s just me being selfish because I love brandy so, so much.
Who is the best drinking buddy for a wild night out (a known bar industry person and where is he / her working)?
My favorite industry drinking buddy is still my longtime work-husband, Joaquin Simo (Pouring Ribbons, NYC). The man can balance intelligent conversation with shit-talking like no other. No matter where we are, drinking with Joaquin is a damn pleasure.
Special shout to any bars across the U.S. (know there are way too many) but some that you think are blowing minds with their cocktail menus.
My favorite bars are usually either simple — a straightforward menu executed impeccably well — or bars that follow that same idea, but push the envelope in either volume or creativity. I haven’t been there for a couple of years, but what Chad & Christy are doing at The Midnight Rambler in Dallas, TX has continued to inspire me.
Likewise, Micah and the crew at Aviary because, duh, executing those drinks at that level is worthy of every accolade they receive.
I am endlessly impressed and inspired by Leo and the NoMad team for the consistently delicious, beautiful, and innovative work they do behind the stick.
I can’t wait to see what they and the Broken Shaker gents are putting together for Los Angeles.
Any advice for aspiring young guns wanting to break into the industry?
The best advice I can give is: slow down! Don’t worry about press, don’t worry about working at the “right” place, and don’t worry about going on every little brand trip that comes your way. The key is to work hard and learn from people you respect. Play the long game, and you’ll be better at what you do and a whole lot happier.
Drink water. Lots of it.
Don’t take shots at industry events. (We all do it, but slow it down)
Find a mentor.
Have a hobby.
Spill it, shameless what are you working on right now?
So much! We’re currently working on a bar in Denver, CO — our first extension of Death & Co. I’m sure people think they know what we’re cooking up, but I can’t wait to show them something unexpected. It’s ambitious in a whole new way for us and, most importantly, in a way that we can’t wait to share with Denver.
Aside from that, I’m writing another book with Nick, Dave, and Devon, and Proprietors is in the process of a couple of new bars. More details to come!
Social Call – where can Thirsty readers keep up with you and your bar adventures on social media?
You can find me on Instagram at @apday — a mix of bars, booze, experiments, skydiving, and adventures with my fiancé. The bars can be found at @deathandconyc, @nitecapnyc, @honeycutla, @thenormandieclub, and @thewalkerinn. We don’t do it all the time, but as often as possible I post experiments and menu development on our website, www.ginandluck.com