I promised that when I had the opportunity to have a conversation with a great bartender, I’d write a Monday Masters post. Movie Bars will be back next week. I’ve been spending some time recently in Bordentown, NJ at a bar and restaurant called Marcello’s. I knew from the first time I met Andy Angellella that he was the kind of bartender that I absolutely love. For me, it all begins with the greeting and being made to feel comfortable. And important, as if I am the only person sitting at the bar, even though it’s quite clear that I’m not. The next step for me is when a bartender shows genuine interest in what I’d like to drink. It’s not just about taking my order, but rather learning what I like and actually engaging me in conversation about it. In that give and take exchange, a bartender’s passion for his or her craft becomes very evident, and there is nothing better than a passionate bartender. Finally, I like to observe how my drink is being made. Is it measured? Am I seeing great spirits and fresh ingredients going into the mixing tin? Is the drink shaken or stirred with precision and presented to me with care? These are the elements that make all the difference in the world.
Andy Angellella is all these things and more. His hospitality industry career began in the back of the house, but he always knew he had the desire to move up front and find a spot behind the bar. Although his first bartending position was in the type of place that we all affectionately call a “dive” bar, it was in a location that would occasionally bring in a person that was looking for something a bit beyond the ordinary. This piqued Andy’s interest and it became clear to him that making craft cocktails was the direction he really wanted to pursue. In the last three years since he’s been with Marcello’s, he has been part of a significant transformation that has turned the bar into something that genuinely feels like a post-Prohibtion drinking establishment. With great attention paid to things like house-infused spirits, fresh juices, homemade syrups, and old style liqueurs like Pamplemousse and Crème de Violette, this is a place where the craft of making cocktails is truly in the forefront. Andy’s first inspiration was a French 75, but his growing interest in using bitters led him to experiment with different types of Old-Fashioneds, and he soon developed a love for creating riffs on classic drinks like the Aviation and the Negroni. When I asked Andy what he loves most about being a bartender, I was not surprised to hear that it was the interaction he has with people on a daily basis. In addition to making great cocktails, it’s something that he does very well.
The inspiration behind today’s cocktail came from a trip Andy made to the Tales of the Cocktail event in New Orleans. The idea of house made tinctures and bitters let to the creation of one at Marcello’s that includes oak smoker chips, Madagascar vanilla, cherry bark, navel orange peels, and grain alcohol, all cut with a touch of water. A half ounce of this tincture is actually ignited in the glass and allows to burn for 10-15 seconds to infuse a modern riff on a Vieux Carré with its flavor. Andy prefers using a coupette style glass for this drink and a higher pour so that the mixture coats the sides of the glass as the drink is goes in. This cocktail was phenomenal from start to finish. The oak tincture did indeed infuse the drink with a warmth and smokiness that was a perfect match for the smoothness for which a Vieux Carré is known. As I sat there drinking it with the skylights open on a warm Friday night, I felt as though I was on my first day of vacation in somewhere like Charleston or Savannah. The sky was the limit. That had everything to do with the bar at Marcello’s, and Andy Angellella, not to mention my companion for drinks and dinner. What’s up next for Andy? How does something along the lines of a pistachio orgeat syrup sound?? I can’t wait! Visit Marcello’s soon at 206 Farnsworth Avenue in Bordentown. Cheers everyone. Happy Monday!
Igniting a Classic
Combine all ingredients and stir over ice. Ignite ½ ounce of the oak tincture in a coupette style glass. Allow to burn off for 10-15 seconds. Pour the cocktail over the tincture. Enjoy!