As the head bartender for all the of B.R. Guest Hospitality venues – this includes Strip House, Dos Caminos, Blue Water Grill and Troy Liquor Bar – Yusef Austin knows a lot about cocktails. Dubbed the Cocktail Architect, Austin has been in the biz for over 15 years, working everywhere from dive bars to A-list events. We caught up with Austin for a Drinking With – check it out!
Favorite NYC place to hang out over a drink when you’re not working?
NoMad bar. Its dark, sexy, and they make killer cocktails!
What is your go-to drink when you are out?
A gin Martini. preferably a craft maker like Barr Hill Gin with a nice twist or a spicy cheese-stuffed olive.
What was your first job in the industry?
There was Belgium Restaurant (editor’s note: Markt, which is now in Chelsea) in the Meatpacking District on 14th street where the Apple store is now . My dearest oldest friend in NYC, Tom Maitland gave me my first bar tending gig there in 1999.
What was your A-H-A moment, like when was there a moment when you realized that this was absolutely for you?
One night at a place called Automatic Slims in the West Village. I made $1200 in cash and said ‘this ain’t too shabby!’
Do you have a mentor, or someone that you look up to in the industry?
Colin Cowie. He is in the events business, besides other things, and he helped me start The Cocktail Architect. That was in 2006 down in Miami Beach. To this day, he flies me around the world to do the the crème de la crème parties. He’s brilliant and my best friend – besides my wife, of course!
Do you drink coffee or Tea?
I drink both. But prefer and regularly drink PG Tips from England. My wife is English, so go figure!
What’s your hangover remedy?
Another drink, usually a nice stiff and spicy Bloody. My newest thing is with Kimchi paste. It rocks!
So what are you into right now when it comes to cocktails?
Spice and salt. Everything seasonal and fresh as you can get. I’m into gin and tequila as we speak.
When you are creating cocktails do you think of the liquor you want to use first or the taste that you are going for? Like what is your process?
I think of the taste and then liquor. Honestly it depends, but when I start to create I’m inspired by unusual combinations, teas, salts, spice, beautiful garnishes, and craft booze.
What is your favorite spot when you want to be low-key or date?
My apartment can’t get better food or cocktails, and the ambience is sick!
Hidden NYC gems or dive bars.
The Room in Soho – It’s a beer and wine bar but they play the greatest music in NYC, the lighting is the superb, and you can get take out delivered.
What are you most proud of in your career thus far?
Being able to consult, do private events, and travel around the world to use my creativity to make a living!
Anything else that you would like to tell us, what is next for you project, like what are you working on these days?
I just landed a job with old friend to run a place that will have 3 different aspects: a restaurant, coffee and juice bar and a bar. With this company, we are launching a beer label and a vodka label from upstate New York as well. Also, I have a BIG wedding on hold in Ireland in a castle like you see in Downton Abbey. Could be major.
Follow Yusef on Twitter and Instagram: @YusefAustin
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