Monthly Bartender Feature:
Some neighborhood venues defy definition, blurring the lines between categories as they set out to fill a niche in the community. Good Neighbors and Wild Goose Meeting Houses of Colorado Springs do just that. The sister cafes offer everything from specialty coffee and great food to craft beer, cocktails, and wine—anything that helps facilitate any kind of getting together, whether that’s a family gathering, business meeting, studying for finals, or listening to live music. They recently launched a new drink menu, and it features Montanya rum. Here, Taylor Ashley, Front of House Product Lead, gives us a look at their new menu and his take on great cocktails.
How did you get into bartending and why do you love it?
I got into bartending pretty recently. I’ve been a barista for a long time, and I’ve always loved the dynamic of meeting people when serving them drinks. Being a barista, I think they’re very similar in the way you get to know folks, whether you’re offering them a “come up,” being coffee, or a “come down,” being a beer, wine or cocktail.
We had a need to re-imagine our cocktail menu. Being an avid cocktail drinker, I decided to take on the challenge and ask for help from friends of mine that were already in the industry. Next thing you know, we’ve got a new cocktail menu primarily featuring classics, and we’ve seen our cocktail sales grow tremendously since we launched the new menu at the end of October.
What do you wish more people knew about bartenders who create craft cocktails?
I wish people knew how many bartenders care about hospitality. We all know that feeling you have when you leave a bar or coffee shop or restaurant, when you just felt cared for and really enjoyed your experience. A lot of the bartenders I know do an incredible job at not only making great drinks, but providing a comfortable atmosphere by simply being who they are.
What sets your bar program apart?
Our bar program is just starting to grow. We’ve never really been known for our cocktails, but I’m in the business of changing that. Having a cocktail at the Wild Goose is similar to going to your friend's house and enjoying a drink in their living room, which is something I enjoy about our space. We’re looking to branch out from our classic menu soon, but we want to set the framework for people who have been coming to our cafe for years to start thinking of us as a place to grab a great cocktail, not only a great cup of coffee or a beer.
How do you feature Montanya Rum?
We use Montanya in a couple of different cocktails. We pretty much keep one spirit of each variety on hand, so Montanya is the only rum we serve. We love to offer products from Colorado as much as we can, and it’s awesome to be able to serve such an incredible product. We use Montanya in our Mojitos and Daiquiris, and are looking at how to expand into more rum-focused drinks for the spring/summer season.
What advice do you have for people making drinks at home?
I love this question because I’ve been making tons of cocktails at home lately. My advice would be to buy all the wares (shaker, mixing glass, juicer, strainers, jiggers, glassware, etc…) and just start doing it! Ask your bartender for the recipe of the drink you had, and try to recreate it at home. Lately, I find myself buying tons of citrus so I can always have fresh juice for cocktails. Go to estate sales, garage sales, or antique shops and find some cool old cocktail glasses for cheap. Find your favorite cocktail and buy the things to make it. Once you want to drink something else, find out what other cocktails you can make with what you have, and slowly expand your liquor cabinet from there.
How about advice for someone looking to branch out and try a new cocktail?
My favorite way to try new cocktails is really just getting to know the bartender at whatever bar I’ve been going to lately, and asking them to make me something with a certain liquor or spirit. It’s a great way to see how versatile one spirit/liquor can be, and I usually am pleasantly surprised with what I’m drinking and how much I’m enjoying it.
From the Menu at the Wild Goose:
A Classic Daiquiri:
2 oz. Montanya Platino
1 oz. lime juice
0.5 oz. simple syrup
Shake and strain into a coup glass and garnish with a lime wheel. Simple, but delicious!