Actually, let me clarify. He’s not just a bartender. He doesn’t merely stand behind the counter and aimlessly sling appletinis for bachelorette parties and preening West Hollywood men.
He is the Jedi Liquor Master.
He’s creative. He’s hilarious. He’s so knowledgeable that I’m convinced he understands some sort of magical alcoholic algorithm which doesn’t even exist.
His name is Alex Goode. (It’s pronounced Goody, like Goody-Two-Shoes, but don’t even think of saying that to him. You’ll get an ice cube to the eyeball.)
If you don’t know him, you should. I had the fortunate experience of meeting him awhile back when he tended bar at Mixology 101. His piercing blue eyes, adorable little bow tie, and witty humor immediately won me over. I figured I could simply tip him really well and essentially just buy his friendship. (My plan totally worked.) To this day, I’m not sure if Alex considers me a friend or a loyal customer, or a mixture of both…but I don’t care. I’m lucky to know him.
Oh, and I did I mention this year he was at Cannes Film Festival as a brand ambassador for Cointreau?
These days, you can find Alex working his wizardry of spirits at Formosa Cafe in West Hollywood. Though he doesn’t actually use a magic wand to mix drinks (as far as I know), he works alongside other talented mixologists who are sure to enchant you while they conjure up cocktails.
Alex was kind enough to sit down with me and answer some questions about his quest into becoming the Messiah of Mixology.
When/ where did you start tending bar?
In New York. I ran the lobby bar at an upscale hotel before I could even spell Cosmopolitan. My boss (and subsequently, my first mentor) was this amazing artist chick who knew I had zero experience but gave me the job anyway. I owe her my first born.
How did you transition from pouring more “typical” cocktails into mixology and specialty drinks?
I learned to bartend under fire in New York. Speed is so so important – but you can’t forget that the customer always comes first. I met my current mentor Joe Brooke almost two years ago when he was assembling the opening team for Mixology 101 – and yes, I liked to think of us as the Avengers of bartending (I guess I’d be Captain America?). Anyway, Joe whipped my ass into shape and showed me not just how to create an incredible cocktail, but how to utilize my natural propensities to give the guest an incredible experience as well. It’s all about customer service. Drinks taste better when I serve them with a smile…or a flamethrower.
What’s the most fun/ enjoyable part of what you do?
I really enjoy the performance aspect. Again, it’s not what you prepare, but how you prepare it. When I can keep my bar entertained, I’m doing it right. Ok, I also really like setting things on fire.
Is there anything in particular that you dislike, or makes you groan/ roll your eyes?
There’s a very negative trend in the industry that has a lot of my peers bad mouthing certain spirits and cocktails. I just wanna tell them to chill. Everyone has different tastes. I don’t like pomeranians but that doesn’t mean I’m gonna go around kicking every pomeranian I see. Wait…I was trying to form a metaphor there but I lost it. Um, yeah, everyone has different tastes, so stop running around kicking vodka bottles. It’s not cool.
Are there any drinks you will refuse to make if someone orders one?
Absolutely not. You want a calorie-free, vegan, kosher, flaming shot of bubblegum strawberry shortcake vodka with two raw eggs and three dashes of Ango? Sure, coming right up. Service with a smile.
What’s your favorite drink to make?
When I have the time? An Old Fashioned. But, when it’s midnight, six-deep at the bar, my feet hurt, my hands are covered in broken glass and tequila, my barback is vomiting blood in the bathroom, and I just want to get everyone served so they’ll stop screaming “EY, BARTENDER!”? A vodka soda.
What inspires you when you’re creating a drink menu?
I take inspiration wherever I can get it. My friends, my peers, a really good or interesting meal; inspiration can come at the strangest times. You don’t wanna know where I came up with the idea for my winning Cointreau cocktails.
When you’re hanging out with friends at home, are you automatically the assigned drink-maker?
My friends and I so rarely get nights off together that when we finally do, a beer and a pizza is about all it takes to keep us happy. We are so cocktailed-out from the week that the simplest pleasures are all we need. But whenever I visit family back home in Chicago, it’s on like Donkey Kong. I can’t remember the last family party where I didn’t sling drinks all night. I even ended up mixologizing at my girlfriend’s sister’s wedding.
What do you enjoy drinking the most?
It depends on the circumstances, but I’m usually a beer or whiskey guy. I’ll order something spicy or full-bodied while chilling out, or grab a really cold IPA or chocolately stout while watching the game or having dinner. I’ve had some really incredible aged rums too. As far as cocktails go, I love the classics, but I could drink a really great margarita by the gallon. Finding that really great margarita, though, is another story…
What do you think is the most awful drink on earth?
I was going to give you the diplomatic answer and say that all cocktails are created equal in that there is an audience for every drink, but then I remembered this shot I heard about a few days ago: it’s called the “There’s a Party in My Mouth and Everyone is Puking” and it consists of tequila, whipped cream, Worcestershire, and coleslaw juice, all layered on top of a raw egg white. If reading that didn’t make you gag just now I strongly suggest you enter the Coney Island Hot Dog Challenge. That shot sounds like it was forged in the bowels of Hell.
You must see some crazy things. Any particular story stand out?
I’ve bartended with a wallaby between my legs and a bald eagle on my shoulder (I have the picture to prove it); I’ve seen a guest get so angry that they threw a pumpkin across the bar at another patron; I’ve seen a man and a woman, both married to other people, begin an affair right in front of my eyes over the course of one evening; I’ve walked home from a shift at 6am, covered in Joker makeup and Jaegermeister, eating a slice of ricotta pizza from Pizza Booth on Bleecker as the sun was coming up over the East River in NY; I’ve witnessed countless make-ups and break-ups, seen the best and the worst in people, and I’ve denied a pregnant woman a second drink; and I’ve made some of my closest friends, learned some of life’s toughest lessons, and met the love of my life while working behind the bar. That said, I’d say I have a lot left to see.
So you’ve witnessed loads of chaos, you’re a brand ambassador for Cointreau, and you’re clearly a pyromaniac..where do you go from here? What’s next on the horizon for you?
This last year has been such a roller coaster that my plans literally change by the hour; then again, my dad says I have the attention span of a ferret on speed so…who can say? I’m currently collaborating on a bar-revamp at the Formosa Cafe where myself and some of LA’s more inspired up-and-comers are tending bar, including Joe Brooke and Billy Ray. With their help and a LOT of luck, I am hoping to open my own bar in the next year or two. In the meantime, I’m consulting on bar openings, guest bartending at some of the best bars in LA, and mixologizing for private events and several different spirit labels. I’m also developing my own line of barware, but that’s more of a long-term, passion project thingy. I like to stay busy.
Any final parting words to your past, current, and future customers?
You might not know me yet, but you will. #Jackpot.