Bar None #1 // Jay Kuehner

Jay Kuehner 

I live in Seattle, I make drinks and travel quite a bit. I’m originally from AZ, and I used to call Tucson home, but I’ve been in the PNW for 25 years now.

I work at Damn the Weather, in Pioneer Square and the Cloud Room on Capitol Hill, and I do some wandering, freelance bartending especially in Mexico City, Lima and Spain.

“yo puedo hablar un poco de Español.

What’s your story?

I have been in Seattle making drinks for everyone in town over the last dozen years. It’s a great community here. I like to focus on making really good drinks, as it’s a part of our everyday lives. It’s also an extension of what Miles and the Scrappy’s team does.

Once I had a meeting in the Scrappy’s lab in Fremont. They had 5 people peeling limes, etc. Miles is essentially making cocktails in each bottle, because he comes from a bartending background.

I’m doing the same thing, and it’s fun to experiment. I get the chance to use a bunch of great ingredients and entertain people.

How did you get into bartending?

It was an inevitability. I used to work in a farmers market in Tucson. I was picking produce in the south of AZ and selling it and on the side working in a restaurant. After my shifts at there, I was making martinis on the side.

This may sound silly, but how do you not get into bartending. At a certain point you end up making drinks for friends, and you want these drinks to fit the situation. It’s something you do. If it’s at the beach in Mexico, or camping in the forest. It’s an extension of that but in a professional context. If you work in a garage you have tools, in a library you have books, this is my tool belt.

I learned from some great people, I paid attention to pros here in Seattle. Right when I thought I was getting good, I realized it would take a lifetime to become great. The more you know, the more you want to learn.

My interest in Bartending sparked from my personal drinking and socializing. Bartending is a combination of these two things. I started wanting to balance how each cocktail tasted. And I wanted to incorporate my travels, and tell my stories in a different manner. I wanted to show how other cultures eat and drink, as this plays a big part of what I craft. I always like to bring something back, both ingredients and insight.

I like Scrappy’s because, on a personal note, they come from my own backyard [the PNW]. I like to work with people I know, who craft things from scratch, with passion. The product is fantastic, and it gives you a lot to work with. These are little cocktails in each bottle. The grapefruit bitters bring out florality. The lime bitters make sours pop. they let the cocktail sing. Scrappy’s has a large flavor variety and in a bar today, you need a large repertoire.

Celery bitters on a Sunday morning for a Bloody Mary. There’s a great range of flavor that’s available from Scrappy’s. Everyone is making homemade bitters, but not everyone makes high-quality bitters.

I take Scrappy’s with me when I travel, as I travel with a kit, and bring the baby bottles. I drop them off in a bar as a gift or leave them in someone’s home. The chocolate bitters are awesome for Mexico.

Advice for an aspiring bartender:

Take nothing for granted. It’s tempting to use bitters in a cocktail, but not ever cocktail calls for bitters. You have to know when to use each ingredient and realize less is more. You must yield to the natural world when it comes to flavors. Balance, balance, balance.

What’s your favorite cocktail?

It changes daily. Caipirinha is always great and I feel a connection with that person. Negroni, old-fashioned. afternoon americano. sherry cobbler. There’s a drink for every occasion.

How do you make the right cocktail for an individual?

You have to take a history of a cocktail before you craft it. What paradigms work best for each person. You have to start with the meat of the sandwich. Build a cocktail from trusted methods, and build out from there.

Simple as taking a daiquiri and stretching it. Work with someone’s personal history. It’s nice to learn from people’s taste and expand someone’s experience. It’s a collaborative learning process, I anticipate that the drinker bring something to the occasion

What’s your idea of the perfect drink?

It’s a convergence of place, moment company, and ingredients. Either the people who shared it or the people it evokes. It’s about wanting it and having earned it.

Mojito— I’m traveling in Cuba, sick, staying in a farmhouse with no power. The village doctor gives me a shot of potassium to get me rehydrated. We go to get some ac and a swim. Soto comes up in Habana, ask if I want a drink, and he makes my mojito. the perfect drink.

For me, the perfect cocktail is a spirit by itself with something next to it. Minimal intervention. I like to taste the spirit.

I’m the anti bartender, I don’t like to have an attitude,  don’t think in terms of industry, I think in terms of the craft and the guest. It’s about the experience and the guest, not the edgiest drink. It’s hard to put that in words.

Mezcal Sonrisa

1.5 oz of Mezcal Espadin

1.5 oz of Aloe Vera Juice

.5 oz of Lime Juice

.7 oz of Citrus Cordial

.25 oz of Hibiscus and Cactus Tuna ‘Granadina’

2 Dashes of Scrappy’s Lime Bitters


A Pinch of Sea Salt

– To craft the Aloe Vera Juice, filet the gel from the frond, soak in water and blend, adding lime juice and citrus cordial. Citrus cordial is made with equal weight sugar and lime/lemon wheels, soaked till sugar dissolves and citrus oils are extracted.

– To craft the Granadina: simmer two dozen dried hibiscus flowers in 4 oz water, with 2 oz sugar, fruit of one tuna, 4 dashes Scrappy’s Orleans bitters

In a shaker, combine the mezcal and the aloe/lime/cordial with bitters and salt, shake, Hawthorne strain in a collins glass filled with aloe vera ice cubes (simply frozen sections of aloe vera). drizzle the granadina, top with a splash of Sidra de Manzana (dry Asturian apple cider). garnish with aloe frond. drink don’t photograph!

Posted: Friday, October 5th, 2018 at 10:53 pm

Category: blog