|Not long ago, while exploring the highlands of Jalisco, Gary Regan was swapping cocktail recipes with a bartender from London when the subject of orange bitters arose. She asked Gary which brand he preferred. He replied, “The one with the bearded old geezer on the label.” Then continued, “Yes, m’dear. That would be me.” The beard might be gone, but Gary Regan is still shaking and stirring, and his melodic Northern English accent is a highly esteemed voice in the industry.
Gary coined the term “Cocktailian” to describe those who have delved deeply into the history and alchemy of the cocktail. Gary has devoted a lifetime to this study and was one of the original pioneers who managed to transform his bartender job into a career devoted to sharing his knowledge while continuing to learn more about the subjects of spirits, cocktails, and the craft of tending bar. After much experimentation and researching arcane recipes, Gary arrived at his own formula for orange bitters, an aromatic bitters that was a popular ingredient in cocktails prior to Prohibition. He eventually partnered with the Sazerac Company to produce it commercially. Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh designed the medicine-show style label and now, Regan’s Orange Bitters No.6 is quickly becoming a staple behind every upscale bar, both here and overseas.
But Gary is perhaps best known for his other projects: He is one of the most prolific cocktail writers around with six books to his credit, four of which were co-authored by his wife/ partner Mardee Haidin Regan, (the most popular is “Joy of Mixology”). The Regans’ website www.ardentspirits.com, is a favorite resource and their Ardent Spirits e-letter is informative and entertaining. Gary’s a pro at spinning a yarn, a lost art these days, especially in an era when lofty mixology shop talk can almost border on the clinical.
Gary literally grew up in pubs - his folks ran two in Lancashire, England. That’s where he literally began to crawl, and it’s amusing to note that decades later he still enjoys nothing better than a good pub crawl.
As one of the founding fathers of the mixology community, Gary enjoys many spirits, but it is the spirit of amusement he enjoys most. He holds his popular Cocktails in the Country sessions at his favorite neighborhood inn, Painter’s, which is a two-day workshop that focuses on the craft of the Cocktailian bartender. There is lots of exchanging of ideas, and learning about the craft from each other, as well as from Gary, of course.
For more information on Gary’s Cocktails in the Country, visit www.ardentspirits.com
The Country Cocktail
(Adapted from a recipe created by Dale DeGroff for a Cocktails in the Country cocktail dinner in 2003)
1 1/2 ounces Gin
1/2 ounce Velvet Falernum
1/2 ounce Simple Syrup
3/4 ounce Fresh Lime Juice
1/2 ounce Berentzen’s Apfelkorn
1 wide slice English Cucumber Skin,
1 thin wheel of English Cucumber, for
Kosher salt mixed with dry thyme
Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass rimmed with the salt/thyme mixture. Add the garnishes.