Master Mixologist: Jeremy Downer of FISH CHEEKS in NYC
Jeremy Downer is the consulting bartender at Fish Cheeks, the critically acclaimed, vibrant NYC Thai restaurant in NoHo that has a seafood focus. Jeremy is a cocktail industry veteran known for his obsession with mixology. He lives and breathes everything cocktails, and his passion for the craft is palpable in his libations.
At Fish Cheeks, Jeremy recently spearheaded a revamp of the cocktail program. The summer menu, which launched in May, highlights Thai-inspired cocktails that utilize fresh, in-season produce, Thai spice-infused housemade syrups and tinctures made with ingredients like Thai basil, makrut lime, Thai bird's eye chili and more, all of which are also used in the restaurant's food.
When he's not spritzing Angostura bitters on fish scale stencils at Fish Cheeks, Jeremy also spends time behind the bar at West Village hotspot, While We Were Young.
Broadwayworld.com had the pleasure of interviewing Jeremy Downer about his career and Fish Cheeks for our "Master Mixologist" feature.
When did you first become interested in the cocktail culture?
There isn't an exact moment I can think back to when I fell in love with cocktail culture, but I've been into bartending/mixology for a very long time. I woke up one day and realized I was on this ride with no recollection of getting on, but I had no desire to get off!
What innovations in mixology and bartending do you find fascinating?
I don't know if I'd call it an innovation, but when almost every bar gradually made the switch from V-shaped martini glasses to coupes, that was a happy moment for me. I can't stand the V-shape!
How do restaurant and bar guests encourage your creativity?
Guests improve my creativity just by being there-I can always count on at least one guest each night having no idea what they want, but they'll know they want something different. That's when the mixology fun begins!
What are your preferred "classic cocktails" and why?
My go-to classic cocktail is a Negroni. It's tasty and perfect for any occasion, and you can get one at pretty much any bar. If you can't get a negroni, or you get one poorly made, that's a good sign that's it time for a venue change.
What are some of your favorite infusions and how you like to use them in drinks?
My all-time favorite ingredient to infuse into a drink is Thai birds eye chili. It's perfect for bringing a spicy kick into any cocktail and there's a number of ways to do it. My favorite route to go is making a tincture which with just a couple dashes of chili, which will give any drink a little heat from Thailand!
Tell us about a few of Fish Cheeks' signature cocktails and why they are distinctive.
The most distinctive cocktail at Fish Cheeks is a new signature I created called the Thai Breaker. This drink represents Fish Cheeks better than any other drink on the menu. It takes nostalgic Thai flavors, such as Thai tea & coconut, and combines them with simple yet relevant ingredients desired by NYC drink culture, like bourbon, pineapple, and citrus. Even better, the drink pairs perfectly with almost any dish on the menu!
Give us your perfect pairing for a cocktail and a culinary selection.
My personal favorite pairing at Fish Cheeks is Shrimp Sao Nahm with the Thai Breaker. They share flavors of pineapple and coconut, but the Sao Nahm also has ginger, which pairs well with bourbon, and Thai chili, which pairs beautifully with the pineapple and Thai tea in the drink.
You can follow Jeremy Downer on his frequently updated Instagram page, @downerontherocks where he shares recipes and behind-the-scenes looks at his R&D process.
Fish Cheeks is located at 55 Bond St. (Lafayette & Bowery) New York, NY 10012 Visit http://www.fishcheeksnyc.com/ or call them at (212)677-2223.
Photo Credit: Alexa Bendek