Emmanuel Treski -Making the Right Drink Isn’t Just an Artform; it’s a Science -Interview by: Liam Sweeny

Written by on March 5, 2022

Going to a bar is a social experience nearly every American adult has had. Cuba Libre or club soda, we’ve all been in a bar. The alcoholic delights seem endless, even though we have our favorites. We all have a way we sip a Mai Tai or down a shot, and most bartenders know just how much English to put on a mug of beer as they slide it across the bar. And the great ones, the legends; they can dazzle you with a show before the drink ever hits your hand.

Emmanuel Treski is an artist and a performer, and I was turned on to him by a friend, a patron stunned by the experience, who told me he was truly one of the great bartenders in the Capital Region. Let’s find out.

I sit down with Emmanuel and we talk about bitters and not-so-bitters.

RRX: We’ve interviewed a couple of people with books that were cocktail themed, and I put an anthology together in my off time where we had a bartender come up with their homemade cocktail recipes. These kinds of publications are popular. But books like this give people one kind of cocktail experience. What are they missing out on?

ET: First off, I would like to thank you for taking the time to sit down with me!  I’ve gone through a few of your interviews, and I love the variety of topics you cover. 

I’ve found that a lot of cocktail books like to tell you about some fancy new fun recipe that they came up with, or their version of what makes the best Manhattan, Old Fashioned, etc.  Truth is that the base for all the great cocktails came up in the 1800’s all the way up to a few years after prohibition.  It’s not to say that great cocktails are being made these days I find myself to be a fan of the more modern ‘Naked & Famous’ or even in the early 90’s when Don Lee introduced fat-washing (infusing spirits with a fatty or oil substance into the cocktail world), but as mentioned previously, it seems like bartenders focus on making the next best drink instead of practicing the basics of what goes into making a solid cocktail.  

I often cite Liquid Intelligence by Dave Arnold as the modern cocktail bible, as he thoroughly breaks down cocktail composition (there is a section in the book that explains why you want to shake and stir for 8-12 seconds, along with the thermal content of the drink against water dilution), while also introducing readers to new techniques (centrifuging juices, bottle aging, etc.). Knowing the science behind what makes your drink taste right opens a world of possibilities.

RRX: Home bars are a hot ticket. I tried myself to stock a home bar, but I came across the issue of not knowing whether to buy that ingredient, expensive usually, that I might need to use in only one cocktail recipe. If I was retrying my home bar, what would be a few all-purpose, all-around, “sugar, butter, and flour” kinds of items I should have?

ET: Haha, starting a home bar is probably one of the more common questions I’ve been asked. I compare a home bar much to the drum set I have at home.  Attached are two tom-toms, multiple ride cymbals, a wood block, and a cowbell, but I would easily be able to get by with just my bass drum, snare drum and hi-hat.  With that said, if I had five items to stock a bar with, it would be whiskey of any choice, sweet vermouth, aromatic bitters, sugar (to make simple syrup), and an aperitivo (think Campari, Aperol).

With those ingredients, you can pick and choose to make at least an old fashioned, Manhattan, boulevardier, just to name a few.  

When looking for tools at home, you can get by with at least a set of shakers (preferably weighted 18oz and 28oz Boston shakers), a stirring device (bar spoon), and a strainer.  Build your bar after those items, but the shakers, bar spoon and strainer are like my bass drum, Snare and hi-hat.

RRX: Let’s have a little fun. What you do when you mix drinks is poetry in motion. So, what I would like you to do is to describe the most complex drink you can make, including how you present it, in the most poetic way possible. The ingredients, how you mix it, spare no expense and detail. Points if it doesn’t rhyme.

ET: Oh man, no points for rhyming!? I’m a poet at heart – just kidding, that shit doesn’t pay enough, haha.  As mentioned before, it’s fun to create cocktails, but when you can replicate an old school classic right, it feels just as rewarding.  The cocktail itself is a Tom & Jerry cocktail, which I had no idea about until I saw Robert Mack, the first bar manager of the now shut down Speakeasy 518, make it for a private party when I worked under him before eventually becoming the GM of the spot when he left to join Prohibition Distillery, now known as Do Good Spirits.  In the nature of who I am, if somebody else does something and I don’t know about it, inside my head I go “that’s cool” for about two seconds, and then my mind shifts to, “I’m gonna learn how to do this.”

You start by separating egg yolks from their whites.  Whip the egg white with gum Arabic to make a stiff meringue.  Take the egg yolks, and mix them together with some Autumn style spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice, cloves, etc.).  With the egg yolk mixture, add some confectionery sugar until viscous.  From here you mix the egg white mixture with the egg yolks.  In a glass, pour in some brandy and add four oz. of the egg mix.  From here, stir the mix while adding hot water until it has hit the wash line (one inch from the top of the glass), and add nutmeg and cinnamon over the top. Clean up your mess while drinking!

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