Posted April 26, 2012

Brendan Dorr, Head Bartender at B&O American Brasserie

Eat + Drink BALT

Everyone loves a good comeback. Especially when cocktails are involved.

Just ask Brendan Dorr, the head bartender at B&O American Brasserie in Baltimore and founder of the Baltimore Bartenders Guild. He’ll tell you that classic drinks like sidecars, Manhattans and Daisies are back in favor. In fact, he’s filled the bar menu with bygone favorites and has given them new, refreshing life.

And that’s not all. In addition to bartending at B&O, Brendan founded the Forgotten Cocktail Club, a group that honors throwback cocktails by hosting public events with drink specials and revelry around town each month.

We caught up with Brendan to hear what he had to say about getting back to the classics, the fun of punch, and how to concoct a winning margarita.

Life is Suite: How did you get into bartending?

Brendan Dorr: I’ve worked in the restaurant business since I was 17 years old. I started waiting tables at a high-end restaurant but always gravitated toward the bar. I did a little bartending here and there throughout college, and officially got into it in 2001, at the peak of the martini craze. Around that time, I was trying to taste as many drinks as I could and realized cocktails could be made better.

LIS: What was missing?

Brendan: Fresh ingredients, especially fruit. I started making my own syrups and playing around with the whole molecular gastronomy thing … using liquid nitrogen and such.

LIS: As a whole, you don’t believe in making cocktails too complex.

Brendan: True. I try to go by a four-ingredients-or-less rule. Sometimes you see drink recipes that have six steps and then you have to float something crazy on top of the drink, and it just gets too complicated. The best thing to do is keep things classic and simple. Also, use a quality base spirit.

LIS: What’s been exciting lately at B&O?

Brendan: We have been open since 2009 and when I first sat down with Jacques {Kimpton’s national spirits director}, we talked about doing drinks with tons of color and flavor … coming back to classic styles, with twists. I took it as a challenge to try new things. We started making Daisies {a brandy-based drink with fresh citrus}. And now we’re working on adding a punch section. That, too, has had a comeback, although maybe it never even left.

LIS: Well, punch has always been around college parties.

Brendan: Yeah, but I’m not talking about jungle juice. I mean something delicious and classic. You can find references to punch as far back as the 1600s. It really was the precursor of the cocktail. I love the idea of community … people surrounding a punch bowl and talking about the latest while sharing.

LIS: Punch can be pretty potent stuff.

Brendan: It’s funny when I make punch and people drink a small cup of it and say, “Oh, that’s all?” And we just say, “Don’t worry.” Then they come back pretty quickly and say they’re feeling the effects. I always advise to take your time, sip and enjoy.

LIS: You began the Baltimore Bartenders Guild. What kind of things has that group done?

Brendan: Our members work together to spotlight different drinks, create interest in cocktails and give to great causes. Every member bar in February featured a rye whiskey cocktail on their menu. We also had an event called “Ryes Up Against Cystic Fibrosis” with drink stations, live jazz and a silent auction. We raised $1,500 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Maryland.

LIS: That’s great! And how about your Forgotten Cocktail Club? You’ve had a big response.

Dorr: It’s been really fun. We do “pop-up”-type events at bars around Baltimore. They’re like throwback-era cocktail clubs serving contemporary-style drinks. Usually we have 10 choices on the menu and they involve classic ingredients. A big hit was our Absinthe Smash, which is made with absinthe, fresh citrus, lemongrass syrup and Thai basil. You smash it all and strain it into a coup with a splash of Champagne. It’s finished with star anise that’s been soaked in fruity red wine.

LIS: Any cocktail mixing tips that our Life is Suite readers can try at home?

Brendan: Like I said, simple is always best. There’s one drink in particular that shouldn’t be complicated, but it always trips people up. It’s the margarita. There are so many recipes, especially those that tell you to use way more ingredients than you need. All you need is tequila, lime juice and simple syrup. People sometimes use Cointreau, orange juice or Grand Marnier. Or even sour mix. But you don’t need all that. Just the three ingredients – easy, quick … fun.

Go back in time tastefully and sip Brendan Dorr’s cocktails at B&O American Brasserie, 2 N. Charles Street, Baltimore (443-692-6172 or bandorestaurant.com). For more information on the Forgotten Cocktail Club, go to facebook.com/forgottencocktailclub.

Photo: Scott Suchman

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4 Comments

  1. Good food, good hotel and good sip of cocktail is simply great..

  2. […] American Brasserie has to say about what's hot in the cocktail scene and learn a tip or two. Brendan Dorr, Head Bartender at B&O American Brasserie in Baltimore | Kimpton Hotels: Life is Su…www.lifeissuite.comJust ask Brendan Dorr, the head bartender at B&O American Brasserie in […]

  3. […] American Brasserie has to say about what's hot in the cocktail scene and learn a tip or two. Brendan Dorr, Head Bartender at B&O American Brasserie in Baltimore | Kimpton Hotels: Life is Su…www.lifeissuite.comJust ask Brendan Dorr, the head bartender at B&O American Brasserie in […]

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