He said he'd break my arm off if I ever referred to him as a mixologist
August 24, 2015 9:06 PM   Subscribe

Sasha Petraske, founder of the legendary bar Milk & Honey, and considered by many to be the Godfather of modern cocktail & bartender culture, has died. He was 42. Sasha was one of the featured interviews for the documentary Hey Bartender. At 9:00pm Eastern Monday August 31st, bartenders and friends of Sasha the world over will be having daiquiris in his memory. posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey (27 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
This definitely put a damper on work this weekend (Bay Area bartender, here).

Off now to find a daiquiri it seems...
posted by hototogisu at 9:11 PM on August 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

posted by endquote at 9:17 PM on August 24, 2015

Oh my, I'd heard his name, and someone I know is I think a huge fan of that bar. Daiquiri Monday next week.

posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:23 PM on August 24, 2015

So crazy young.
posted by zutalors! at 9:27 PM on August 24, 2015

posted by cotton dress sock at 9:29 PM on August 24, 2015

As one who was tending bar before he was born and who was trained in the even then waning classical cocktails, I will "lift the wee finger" in his memory on the 31st. Far too early in the evening to be closing out your tab...

posted by jim in austin at 10:18 PM on August 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

posted by bswinburn at 10:19 PM on August 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

I had the very great fortune to first visit Milk & Honey in the summer of 2000. It was an exquisite place.

posted by 1adam12 at 12:20 AM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

posted by Cash4Lead at 3:14 AM on August 25, 2015

posted by oceanjesse at 4:20 AM on August 25, 2015

. and a beer
posted by Gelatin at 4:48 AM on August 25, 2015

posted by postcommunism at 5:15 AM on August 25, 2015

I've only been to Milk & Honey once, and I'm a bit sad to say that my memories of the place are fuzzy. It was a while ago. I was visiting New York. A friend had mentioned it as a thing to me. It was nice, but my memories of the conversation with the friend predominate. The stronger association that I have with Sasha Petraske was from the Everleigh, Milk & Honey's offspring in Melbourne. I had been sent to Australia for work, two week stints on the far side of the world, headspace somewhere between missing my home city and dreaming of picking up and moving somewhere. One Wednesday evening, I wandered in to the Everleigh, which is totally in that Milk & Honey model of obfuscated entrance/wood paneled everything/no-standing/no crowds/no mayhem. It was quiet, a bit dead even, and I sat at the bar, took out a stack of postcards and started writing to friends back home. The bartender, an Englishman who had backpacked across Asia, arrived in Melbourne, and never left, smiled at my stack and made sure to wipe the counter extra so that none of my cards got wet.

Two months later, I was back for another two week run in Melbourne. I made another drop in to the Everleigh. The same bartender was on duty. A drink on the menu caught my eye, and I asked him to describe it, and he said, "well, it's a bit like that De La Louisiane that you had here last time; but we play with the absinthe and Benedictine by introducing a bit of Czech fernet. Have you had the Czech fernet?"

"No ... but, you know it's been two months. -I- don't even remember what I ordered here two months ago, but a Louisiane is a very likely guess. Very good."

"Well, you know, it's not everyday that somebody shows up with a stack of postcards and spends the evening writing letters. Behavior like that gets you noticed. Mind if I pour you a taste of that fernet?"

I don't have the sort of discriminating palate that some cocktail aficionados will boast about. I probably couldn't say if someone's concoction is balanced or seamless or overpowered. However I do appreciate cocktail bars that know service and know hospitality. I respect places that know the mood that they want to set, and do their best to create it every night. I'm a little done with every other cocktail bar being a 19th century speakeasy, and I wouldn't mind if the fashion took in other ideas besides vests, sleeve garters, and artisanal hair -- but the service, attention to craft, and eye for details on your customers? Never let that go. And for all of the influence that Sasha Petraske's had in that, my gratitude goes to his memory today.

posted by bl1nk at 5:23 AM on August 25, 2015 [37 favorites]

Bless him for knowing that women go to bars for other reasons than to be hit on:

To hang out with their friends

To try interesting cocktails

Because they're not ready to turn in for the night.
posted by brujita at 6:04 AM on August 25, 2015 [9 favorites]

posted by Rock Steady at 6:09 AM on August 25, 2015

I only went a few times. It was speakeasy style with a locked unmarked door. They had a strange policy where you had to call to reserve a table, and the only way to know the number was from a friend or to get a hand-written business card there.

The third time I went, the place was empty and I asked the bartender (Sasha?) why. He said there were too many Wall St. types coming to the bar so he changed the phone number to stop them coming.
posted by bhnyc at 6:26 AM on August 25, 2015 [15 favorites]

That story reminds me of how, sometime in 1997/1998, I was visiting my sister in Manhattan. At the time, she was living in St. Mark's, and we went out for drinks, but to get to the bar, you had to walk upstairs from the St. Mark's bookshop, into a crowded robata grill, through a staff door in the back, and it was like being transported into this little gem of a Haruki Murakami novel with deep mahogany wood, immaculately attired Japanese bartenders, a comprehensive whisky selection, and a peaceful, quiet ambiance ever so slightly soundtracked by a jazz piano. It was a place called Angel's Share, and it was wonderful in its time.

We'd visit the place on successive visits, but the last time that I went was 10 years ago, and by then it was just a mob scene. Enough people had heard about it. The speakeasy thing had peaked. Angel's Share was awash with first dates, afterhours work hard/play hard suits, and just loud, loud, loud conversation. Nowadays, if I want something like it, there's a place in Tribeca where a lot of the former Angel's Share bartenders migrated to. It's not quite as lovely as their old digs, but it's peaceful and you can have an actual conversation without shouting.

I offer this by way of pointing out that the thing about Milk & Honey that should be remembered or considered innovative was not the speakeasy component or the formal bartender wear. There were a bunch of bars in Manhattan in the late 90s doing that. It was the rules, the code of conduct, the dignity that went along with that, and the willingness to turn away business that compromised it. That was worth remembering.
posted by bl1nk at 7:12 AM on August 25, 2015 [8 favorites]

It was a place called Angel's Share, and it was wonderful in its time.

It really was--I believe the NYT article mentions that Sasha was inspired at least in part by that place in opening M&H.
posted by HunkeredUp at 7:41 AM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Angels' share and M&H (even though I only visited them a couple of times each while extant - and at their peak) were some of the most memorable places I've been to in NYC, precisely because of what was said above.

I will emphasize this again

It was the rules, the code of conduct, the dignity that went along with that, and the willingness to turn away business that compromised it. That was worth remembering.

We should support such businesses. The customer is NOT always right.
posted by lalochezia at 7:58 AM on August 25, 2015 [6 favorites]

The M&H rules should be in every bar, or there could be a network of them, so that I know where I want a pint in any town...I just cant dig $10+ drinks. I work for a living.
posted by brainimplant at 10:30 AM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was a regular at Angel's Share, way before it became overrun and crowded all the time. I appreciated their "no standing" rule, that kept the place civilized.
I had a friend who used to bring me out to Milk & Honey on Eldridge all the time, too. I think the code of conduct, the feeling of privacy, and the cocktails made it a comfortable place for her. I appreciated its code of conduct, and the fact that Sasha was willing to sacrifice a little money for a better environment.

He'll be missed.


Hototogisu - I'd join you in a daiquiri of mourning, if I knew where you worked.
posted by bashos_frog at 11:32 AM on August 25, 2015

By the way, at least the last time I was there - there are a number of hidden jewels of Japanese bars tucked behind unmarked doors in certain restaurants. It helps if you speak Japanese, or know the staff, to find them. They're expensive, but, oh so worth it.
posted by bashos_frog at 11:36 AM on August 25, 2015

Anyone in this thread might like to read Death and Co. A truly amazing book.
posted by Splunge at 5:50 PM on August 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

I should elaborate. I was a bartender for a long time. I was gifted Death & Co. in a secret Santa forum thingie. This book changed my bartending life. I would like to think that Sasha would approve.

posted by Splunge at 5:54 PM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

2 hours till dacquiri time.
posted by bswinburn at 4:03 PM on August 31, 2015

I think I'm probably not supposed to drink it out of a brandy snifter, but it still tastes pretty good. Most work I've put into making a drink in years.

posted by asperity at 6:02 PM on August 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

Pirate & Lexica's memorial daiquiri . Rhum Clement Canne Bleue agricole rum from Martinique. Drexl, Oakland, CA.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:10 PM on August 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

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