· By John Frazier
Spartan Spotlight: Mixologist Andrew Schools
Spartan Records teamed up with mixologist Andrew Schools to create the label’s first original cocktail: El Espartano. Check out the recipe below, as well as an exclusive interview with the mixologist about the inspiration behind the drink, a featured artist playlist, and photos and videos documenting the creation of the drink. Stay thirsty, my friends.
1 1/2 oz reposado tequila
1 oz lime
3/4 oz blue Curacao
1/4 oz cointreau
1/2 oz of simple syrup
1 barspoon of St. Germaine
Add ice to shaker. Shake, rattle, and roll, then pour over crushed ice. Garnish with Black Sea Salt. Enjoy!
What’s in an El Espartano? What’s the process for creating the drink?
I am not sure how most people create cocktails, but for me with the El Espartano, I was focused on a few things: the color, the look of the drink, and the flavors. I wanted the color to represent Spartan with the blue and black. Living in North Carolina, I might have subconsciously made it a little bit Carolina blue. Once I decided on that, I wanted to find a good flavor profile for summer time, and what's a better summer drink than a good margarita? I started with reposado tequila because that's a personal favorite of mine, and then I added lime and Cointreau, which are the usual suspects for a margarita. After that, I wanted to get the color right, so I went with Blue Curaçao which really brought this concept to life. I sampled quite a few and decided the drink was still missing something. I added in a bar spoon of St. Germaine, and to me that's what really took it over the edge. I think the slight floral notes really enhanced the overall beverage. When garnishing, I have always loved black sea salt, so it seemed like the right choice — but you have to be careful with it because too much will overpower everything else. I was really pleased with the end result and overall balance. The only real problem is it goes down too quickly.
How are the qualities of Spartan Records represented in the El Espartano?
Spartan Records represents a label that is putting out music they are passionate about. It's not bound by genres and is a free-spirited. They also seem to put a lot of time and attention into the quality of the vinyl and the releases. I hope I’ve captured the label’s character and attention to detail in the drink; I think I hit the mark, but you'll have to be the judge.
Is this something that can be made at home, or does it require some knowledge of mixology?
I had the everyday home bartender in mind when I was making this. I didn't want to use hard to find ingredients. I wanted anyone who wanted to try it to be able to pick up everything at their local liquor store. Creating the drink does not require any real knowledge of mixology and can be enjoyed by just about anyone.
What led you to bartending / mixology?
I have always been into cocktails and craft beer for as long as I can remember. There is one event in particular that really put me on a course to learn more about mixology. I was visiting friends in Denver several years back, and on one of the days, we did a distillery tour at Leopold Brothers which really opened my mind to what's possible with distilling. That same day we took a drive up into the mountains to a little town called Silver Plume, specifically to a bar in an old corner store called Bread Bar For lack of a better word, it was a magical experience for me. The space was incredible, and the way they handcrafted cocktails was eye opening to me. I would just give the bartenders a spirit I liked, and they would come back with the most delicious things I've ever had, every time. I knew this was an outlet I wanted to pursue, and once I got home my learning experience started.
What is the most vivid memory you have attached to a specific drink?
There is a bar in Charlotte, NC called Dot Dot Dot and the bartender Stefan had a drink on his menu called a Truffled Whiskey Sour. It was a traditional whiskey sour with truffled egg whites. When I tasted that for the first time, I had two thoughts — this is what a whiskey sour should be, and this is how you elevate something. That was a benchmark drink for me, and I try to capture that in anything that I create.
How would you describe your artistic process in crafting original drinks?
My approach can happen in one of two ways -- I think about flavors and flavor combinations a lot. Some of my drinks come from me just thinking whether certain ingredients would play well together and then starting the trial and error process. Another way I can create is to try something somewhere and come up with an idea about how to riff or do it differently. However, most of the time I'll be doing something non-cocktail related and an idea will pop in my head.
How could you compare the creative process of crafting original cocktails with making music?
I really find the creative process for me with cocktails and music about the same. I work when I feel inspired and ideas just come to me. It's nice for me to have multiple outlets and different ways to express myself.
Where is mixology heading?
I think mixology is heading down a good path right now. A lot of places are putting an emphasis on local and homemade ingredients and getting away from premixed stuff. I think it's becoming more of a community all the time with the bartenders guild, and everyone seems to be pulling for each other.
When you are sitting at home on the couch, what are you drinking?
I have been on the biggest Manhattan kick lately and trying out lots of variations of that. I love how few ingredients it has, yet how it is packed with flavor and delicacies. It's also very boozy, which I am a fan of. I can also find myself sipping on a Miller High Life or Coors Banquet at times, as well. It's not always about the fancy drink.
What are your thoughts on the nation’s growing interest in home brewing and home distilling? Is this a good thing, or leave it to the pros?
I have mixed feelings on this, but more in the craft beer world than in distilling. I think craft beer is becoming oversaturated in some places, and instead of having a couple breweries doing really good stuff, you now how have to sort through a lot of mediocre beers to find diamonds in the rough. I think eventually that will even itself out through competition with the best breweries surviving. As far as distilling goes, I think we can see that market continue to grow, and it definitely has not reached its peak yet.
Anything else you’d like to share about yourself or your work?
I do this because I love it and that's the important thing. Pursue what you are passionate about, keep learning, never be satisfied, and enjoy the process. You can check out my cocktails on Instagram at @bwc_cocktails and my latest music project Old Faith here.