Full disclosure, this week’s drinking with is one of my absolute favorite people in the industry. Not only is he talented, hard working, generous and hilarious … he is one of the nicest guys in the game. Plus, his Australian accent doesn’t hurt either. We first met when he was at the helm of The Gilroy on the UES and he has since gone on to open and operate the highly celebrated cocktail bar, Seamstress, and partnered with In Good Co. on the brand new juke joint, Belle Shoals and fine dining, Trademark Taste & Grind. This gent is certainly one to watch in the hospitality scene along with his notable partners in Qualia Hospitality Steve Laycock and creative director, Pamela Wiznitzer. Trust me, if you ever come across this fella… you NEED to introduce yourself for a guaranteed laugh and first-class hospitality experience. Since my gushing about him is rambling on … let’s go drinking with Josh Mazza!
Drinking With Josh Mazza
Favorite NYC spots to meet for a drink or perhaps 5?
Let’s see, when I’m in the neighborhood (UES), I like to go to Jones Wood Foundry and drink wine with my mate Stu. And I really like the Nomad if I want to eat as well as have a cocktail. The problem with going to the Nomad is that I always want to have the Roast Chicken, which is embarrassing because I usually go alone and I prefer to drink alone. Is that sad?
Favorite place to take an out-of-towner for a cocktail?
The quintessential NY speakeasy is PDT, then Dear Irving and Raines Law Room … those guys just do such an incredible job.
What’s your go-to drink order?
Negroni on the rocks and then red wine.
First job in the industry?
I was a busy boy at a nightclub in Bendigo, Australia. It was 3 floors and I was 16 when I started. It was fucking chaos. Small cocktail bar called Tonic that fit about 40 people in there but it was around the time that euphoric house music hit the Australian scene and there was a lot of “wide eyed” dancing patrons. The music was great, but I don’t really miss that scene.
First alcoholic drink you ever had?
Oh, my next door neighbor and I stole red wine out of his parents cellar. We Went to chicken coup and hid in the shed and drank it until we got sick. I was 12 and I had a lot of hard conversation with my mother after that one. There was a fairly large gap between that and my next drink.
What were you drinking the first time you proper cocktail?
So I credit entirely my love of cocktails and the unveiling of the cocktail scene Sebastian Raeburn. He had a cocktail bar in Melbourne called 1806 that was not like any bar I had ever been to before. I would travel from Bendigo to go there and the bartenders were very keen to teach me. I was just clueless but they gently coaxed me into understanding how a cocktail is proper ritual. After that, I spent a number of years in wine, but always chased cocktails after that experience.
Do you have a seasonal cocktail rotation?
There is no bad time to have a glass of red wine and that’s what I will drink more than anything. But when it’s really Baltic, I can do a Dead Rabbit Irish coffee. Come the Spring, it is Rosé and farmhouse style ales. Then Summertime is Austrian whites and champagnes … and of course, ice cold cans of Mexican beer; the cheaper the better.
Coffee or tea?
Espresso in the morning. I like oily, Melbourne style. Little Collins is the best coffee in New York in my opinion.
What’s your hangover remedy?
What is the benchmark of a good bartender?
For me, the difference between a good bartender and great bartender is social intelligence and awareness. Being able to know when to connect with people, at which level to engage them and a constant awareness of the people in the room. When I find those people who do that very well, I either sit at their bars or hire them.
If someone wants to impress you, what are they serving you?
There’s a few kind of classic cocktails that I would consider just at the edge of obscurity that if bartender without fanfare without talking about he drink, Remember the Maine or a Mezcal Last Word or drinks of that ilk and does it with humility, that impresses me. And of course, burgundy.
Favorite industry folks?
- I love Jaime Felber at Boulton & Watt – because he just does the work.
- Carlos Abe is a classic gentleman bartender.
- Lana Gailani because she is like a quiet achiever, a perfectionist and brings a back of house ideology to her work. She is brilliant.
- Will Civian of In Good Co., he produces an enormous amount of work and he does it without taking credit or complaints. He also seems to really enjoy delivering authentic hospitality.
Best spots to eat when you are drinking or let’s be honest, drunk?
I’d be shocked if I am the only person to say this, Grand Paella at Blue Ribbon. The real tricky part is that you have to convince enough people to throw down on 10 pounds of paella with you.
What’s the best selling drink(s) on your menus?
So at Seamstress, there is the Mortimer & Mauve with Whistle pig rye, chai vermouth, and – look for recipe. I’m expecting The Devil’s Music to be the best seller at Belle Shoals and perhaps the Quick Draw with rosé at Trademark.
What’s is your fave spot date night drinking recommendation for all the lovers out there?
Very hard to beat the romance of an old school Italian restaurant, Erminia on the UES, it’s a Roman restaurant with only 8 tables. I did already mention Dear Irving and Raines Law Room and those are pretty hard to beat.
Hidden or underrated NYC spots?
I think Winnie’s is really good, there is live jazz pretty much every night, the dive bar that is really fantastic Clem’s, they pour a great pint of Guinness and there is great music and the bartenders care just about enough.
What are you most proud of in your career thus far?
I think the thing I’m most proud of is doing the hard yards when I first came to New York. Almost starting again at 30 years old and just forging through the things I had to do. Those 16 hour Sunday/Monday shifts at shitty sports bars the hour and a half commute to the shitty apartment. It would have been easy to get on a plane and move somewhere else.
Your empire is rapidly expanding, what do you hope people leave with feeling at Belle Shoals?
I want them to feel that they’ve got friends here. Whether it is the people at the neighborhood or the staff, trying to create community hubs with Seamstress, Belle Shoals and now, Trademark Taste & Grind.
Who is the best industry buddy for a wild night out and where does he or she work?
Steve Laycock (chuckles) the man has got a talent for hitting multiple spots. We might hit 20 spots together, if you leave it to me, I’ll be at one bar all night but he knows how to move. He also knows everybody, so there’s that.
You’re known for being a bit of a music geek, we have that in common, what bars have the best music?
There are two answers to that: 1) Holiday Cocktail Lounge always has a great playlist 2) wherever you find Dom Venegas.
If you weren’t part of the crazy hospitality biz what would you be doing?
I would be practicing how to levitate in a cave in the high Himalayas. Or teaching kids wilderness survival techniques.
Straight update & shameless plug time: what are you working on these days? Let’s hear it, all of it!
Right now, I am really focussed on the new spots – Belle Shoals in Williamsburg and Trademark Taste & Grind in Midtown. They are so totally different that it is exciting and of course, I have to shout out the fine folks at In Good Co. Hospitality and our amazing bar teams … they work!
Get Social …
Find him & his spots on instagram – @WisdomFizzz, @Seamstress_NY, @BelleShoals, @TrademarkNYC
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