Al Sotack, 37, is an owner of Jupiter Disco in Brooklyn, NY, where you can find some creatively named cocktails.
But, the Hazelton, PA, native isn't just known for coming up with cool drinks (though, we truly do appreciate his tasty concoctions).
Pull up a chair, order a beverage and read on for our chat with Al, Liquor Lab's December 2018 Bartender of the Month.
What’s your drink of choice (to drink)?
My favorite drink is a Vieux Carre, but I don't really drink that many of them because I order what I'm in the mood in any situation and that's a really specific mood and bar for me. So I guess, whatever I'm in the mood for is my cop-out answer.
Drink of choice (to make)?
This is the weirdest question to me, because I don't really like making one drink over another, apart from it being what a person ordered. I guess whatever my wife is telling me to make is my favorite drink to make.
How did Jupiter Disco come to be?
My best friend Maks Pazuniak and I got drunk together for like 5 years and when it was over we had a bar and a substantial amount of debt.
The menu is broken down into three parts: Introduction To Orbit/ When The Kite String Pops/ Generation Ship. What do these categories mean?
Oooh! A question I can answer (sort of)! Our menu moves like a lot of menus these days: from easy going to challenging. This is a style I see around a lot more in menus these days but it wasn't as popular when we did out first one at the Franklin in Philly (I think it was our third menu there). This has a tendency to match up with sours to stirred as stirred, boozy drinks have a higher likelihood of being challenging or bitter or whatever. So when I developed this menu I wanted a metaphor that worked with the sci fi theme but also worked with the easy-going/challenging thing as well as the time the drinks took to prepare. So "Introduction to Orbit" is you're just leaving the atmosphere, a relatively safe place to be in space but then WOOPS THE KITE STRING POPS and you're just out in the void. (This section is also named after my favorite metal album.) And a Generation Ship is a sci-fi trope - the voyage so long that you can't complete it, only your descendants can... which is really true of all our trips, but that's another story.
How has the NY bar scene changed (for better or worse, or for the most ridiculous) since your bartending days after NYU?
In like a million ways and not really at all at the same time. There's a million craft cocktail programs now. You can get daiquiris with fresh juice and a history lesson at corner bars all over the city, and it's wonderful.The sad thing, for me, is some of my favorite bars - the downtown dives of yesteryear - are an endangered species. Walking in the East Village or the Lower East Side is like a trip down amnesia lane. So many great bars are gone. They've pushed a lot of the wonderful weirdness of the NY I moved out of, into the boroughs - but not all of it. There's still a few wonderful spots left in the old neighborhoods if you know where to go and a lot of cool freakshows a little further out that would have fit right in back in the day.
Speaking of which: what did you study at NYU and how has it helped you in the cocktail industry (and totally okay if it hasn't at all)?
I studied English (with a focus on writing) and Sociology. I think understanding sociology has colored most of my life and attitudes, and I'm really glad I had a chance to study it, along with the all the critical theory stuff I had a chance to study at a pretty good liberal arts program.