Bar None #2 // Brian Felley
Tell us who you are, where you’re from, etc.
My name is Brian Felley and I’m the owner/operator of Benjamin Cooper cocktail and oyster bar in the Union Square area of San Francisco, Ca. I’m originally from Albuquerque, NM I have lived in SF since 2004.
What’s your bartender story? How did you get into it?
I got into bartending by chance. I wanted to save money to move to Chicago after college and started waiting tables in order to do so. I saw the bartenders working and thought it looked like fun so i told my GM at the time that I wanted to learn the bar. I still remember the first drink he taught me: the Colorado Bulldog (a White Russian w/a splash of coke).
How did you transition into being a bar owner? What’s the concept behind Benjamin Cooper and what inspired it?
My parents owned their own business for most of my youth and they were successful at it. I always knew that I wanted to work for myself and assume both the risk and reward of what that entails. From there It was about finding the right people to work with. When I first met Mo Hodges, co-owner of BC, I knew right away we worked well together and saw eye to eye on most things. It’s important to have complementary skill sets between business partners and that’s what Mo brought to the table. He excels in areas I’m deficient and vice versa.
Why not!!! Who doesn’t love oysters?
What’s your favorite cocktail to serve and why? How do you usually match a cocktail to a person or setting?
My favorite cocktail is the one that amazes the guest. I don’t make drinks for me, I make them for my customer. Personally, I love gin martini, a good Sazerac, or even just a shot and a beer, but when I’m behind the stick it’s all about the patron. The fun of wowing somebody is seeing them come back thinking “what is he going to make me next”.
Why do you use Scrappy’s in your cocktails? Has Scrappy’s improved the drinks you make? Favorite Scrappy’s Flavor?
Scrappy’s is a great line of bitters. The flavors are very clean and the product potent. This line of bitters allows me to add layers and flavors to a drink quickly and without any prep work. In a bar like Benjamin Cooper, where 50% of our cocktails can be “Dealer’s Choice” drinks in a given night, this is optimal. Each bitter has so many applications that its hard for me to pick a favorite, but if I had to it would be a toss-up between the cardamom and the lime bitters.
What’s your idea of the perfect drink (location, circumstance etc)? (or what’s the best drink you’ve ever had?)
The perfect drink is the one that’s in my hand. If it’s not perfect for that moment I’ll simply set it down.
The best drink I ever had is one that made me look differently at the way I made drinks. It was a condensed milk, thyme, fernet cocktail made by one of my favorite SF bartenders named Carlo Splendorini when he was at a restaurant named Gitane. I remember drinking it and thinking “I gotta get better”.
Posted: Friday, October 5th, 2018 at 11:24 pm
Bar None #1 // Jay Kuehner
Bar None #3 // Cody Kirkland