You never quite know what to expect when you walk into Counter Intuitive in Scottsdale, Ariz. Since launching in 2015, the bar has become a revolving door of innovation, completely changing its menu, décor and theme roughly once a quarter. The bar’s current “episode”—as the folks there call it—is Agua Caliente Racetrack (read: 1920s Tijuana), but when I visited this winter, the bar was decked out as an ode to Chinatown, complete with paper lanterns and fake Peking ducks hanging in the windows. Counter Intuitive goes deep.
Since the unassuming spot completely reinvents itself on the regular, patrons can rest assured that co-owner and bar honcho Jason Asher is constantly finding new ways to play with ambiance, cocktail creations and improving the guest experience. No challenge is too big. But what else would you expect from the guy named GQ Bombay Sapphire’s Most Inspired Bartender in 2010?
Asher shares four tips for how to kick up your own bar program, from fresh juice to (gulp) asking for help.
Keep it fresh. (image: Kondor83)
1. Squeeze it real good. Use fresh juice.
“For the average bartender, the ideal of switching from a store-bought sour mix or pasteurized juice often can seem far-fetched. Fresh citrus always has a way of just making everything taste better.”
2. Don’t eyeball. A jigger really is necessary.
“As much as we may all think that we’re accurate, stepping up your game as a bartender, especially in a high-volume establishment, can lends itself to off-balanced drinks for those who don’t jigger. Eyeballing .25-ounce pours isn’t all that easy! Not to mention getting pulled in a million different directions: waitresses, guests, managers, etc., are constantly in need of the bartender’s attention. Jiggers help to eliminate the need to pay attention to the accuracy of eyeballing a pour!
Always use a jigger. (image: Jacob Ammentorp Lund)
3. Keep growing. Continuous cocktail development is key.
“Cocktail development can often be difficult. Trying to bring complexity to a cocktail through the use of flavors is not something many bartenders have fully grasped. I’d recommend utilizing The Flavor Bible as a desk reference for driving cool flavor combinations.
4. Find a mentor. Ask for help.
“Though finding a mentor sounds a bit funny, I do think there are many leaders in the craft cocktail world out there. Finding one that you can learn from is key to growth and development. It may require putting the pride aside and asking for some help!”