I used to work at Fire, Food & Drink, Doug Katz's signature spot in Shaker Square. Along with some pretty great chefs and line cooks, I also liked to pick up a little trade craft from the bartenders, who could throw together complex cocktails with the same ease as I'd steam a pound of mussels. My personal favorite was Brendan O'Malley.
He's cool for three reasons: One, he makes a mean old fashioned (see his recipe below). Two, he's got a hipsteriffic mustache, complete with waxed-up curls. And three, he's the vocalist and mandolin player for Honeybucket, a great "newgrass" band that's playing on Saturday, Oct. 25 at 8 p.m. at the new Flats hot spot Music Box Supper Club.
What is newgrass, you ask? Good question.
"The reason we say newgrass is because we write our own stuff, but we use instruments that are typically found in bluegrass, particularly the mandolin," O'Malley says. All three members of Honeybucket — Abie Klein-Stefanchik (acoustic bass, left), O'Malley (mandolin, center) and Adam Reifsnyder (guitar, right) — sing and compose.
If you haven't gotten out to Music Box yet, O'Malley wholeheartedly recommends it. Not only is the music scene sweet, he says, it's also a great new food and bar venue.
"It's dinner theater, so if you buy a ticket you can also make a reservation" he says. "It's a big stage, big dining room, and you get service. It's pretty awesome."
O'Malley now works at Jonathon Sawyer's Greenhouse Tavern. "I write songs in my head while I'm taking orders," he says.
In addition to fall-season cocktails, such as the fall Manhattan with anise bitters, O'Malley is a fan of the mulled cider there. "Mulled cider spiked with bourbon," he clarifies. It's offered on draft along with red and white wines (and beer, of course).
"People are always like, 'What? I've never heard of that!' I'm like, what do you think they did back in the day?"
But for his part, O'Malley credits Sergio Abramof, chef and owner of Sergio’s in University Circle and Sergio’s Sarava in Shaker Square, for teaching him the ropes.
"He was an amazing man and an awesome chef," he says of Abramof, who died in August 2012. "I basically learned the trade from him at Sarava, making mojitos and caipirinha, the Brazilian stuff and the muddled [drinks]," he says. "That was basically my introduction to the bar world."
Brendan, nicknamed Brendonian by his bandmates (subsequently shortened to Donian then Dones) gives us his own take on a classic old fashioned:
Dones' Old Fashioned
1/2 ounce raw syrup (1-1/2 parts raw sugar to 1 part water, brought to a boil and allowed to steep)
2 ounces Dickel Rye whiskey
1 good shake Bar Keep Apple Bitters
1 good shake Fee Brothers Barrel Aged Bitters
Shake and pour over fresh ice, then garnish with orange peel and a maraschino cherry