Bobby “G” Gleason
Beam Global Spirits & Wine
Bobby “G” Gleason is on the cutting edge of cocktails. Gleason has opened some of the glitziest bars and lounges in Las Vegas’ top hotels, utilizing his vast experience as a bartender and engaging way with customers. In 1989, he opened the bar at the Mirage Hotel, followed by Treasure Island and the Bellagio. But perhaps his most exciting claim to fame is setting a new Guinness World Record last year by mixing 253 different cocktails in just one hour at a competition at the Nightclub & Bar Show. Using the Hornitos portfolio of tequilas and DeKuyper’s wide array of cordials and liqueurs, Gleason smashed the previously held record of 179 cocktails in 2004.
Today, Gleason holds the position of Master Mixologist at Beam Global Spirits & Wine. In this role, Gleason has been touring major cities, including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, demonstrating his cocktail making expertise and offering tips as well to the trade and consumers. Here, Gleason discusses why he enjoys making cocktails, the drink he uses to train other bartenders, the latest trends in cocktailing and his fondness for the classics.
The Beverage Information Group (BIG): Please outline for us a brief description of your background and experience as a bartender.
Bobby “G” Gleason: I got my start as a bartender many years ago in South Florida. One place I tended bar there was at Shooters in Boynton Beach. After that, I moved to Las Vegas and opened several hotel bars and lounges. In 1989, I opened the bar at the Mirage Hotel, then the Treasure Island and the Bellagio. I also became a beverage specialist at the Rio. Today, I am busy traveling and demonstrating cocktails in my role as mixologist for Beam Global.
Gleason: The rules for the competition were set forth by Guinness. Each cocktail prepared had to be different, and contain at least three ingredients. I chose drinks from a database of cocktails available at various on-premise establishments. I used Sauza’s portfolio of tequilas and DeKuyper’s line of cordials and liqueurs in my cocktails. I made a lot of different types of Margaritas from those! In fact, the final drink I prepared was a pomegranate-flavored Margarita. We decided to call it “The Record Breaker.”
BIG: How did you prepare so many cocktails – basically just over four per minute – what was your secret?
Gleason: It’s in the preparation. That’s an important part of a bartender’s job, the “mis en place” – having everything in place before you start. Also, through my experience, I’ve learned how to make drinks quickly.
BIG: What are your favorite cocktails to prepare and why?
Gleason: I love all of them, because I have a good time mixing them! The Negroni is one of my favorites. I use Campari, Plymouth Gin, and sweet vermouth. In training other bartenders, I use the Long Island Iced Tea as a demonstration. Some say it’s hard to make, but bartenders get a lesson in balance when they prepare it – balancing the five spirits and lemon sour.
BIG: What trends are you seeing today in cocktails? Are Martinis still king behind the bar, and is vodka still the hottest spirit?
Gleason: Virtually anything thrown into a Martini glass these days is being called a Martini. The classic Martini, however, comes from Thomas Stewart’s “Fancy Cocktails and How to Make Them,” written in 1896. It’s a mixture of Plymouth Gin, vermouth (I use Noilley Prat), and a dash of orange bitters.
There has been somewhat of a resurgence in gin today, but vodka is still the number one consumed spirit in America.
BIG: What about mixing trends, such as molecular mixology – is that type of thing catching on or not really?
Gleason: People are getting away from molecular, it’s a fad. The important things I’m seeing behind the bar are premium and super-premium spirits and more usage of fresh juices. All of our cocktails would take a giant step forward if bartenders prepared their drinks with fresh ingredients. Also, there’s more balance of savory and spicy elements in cocktails.
BIG: Is being a professional bartender a viable profession today? What advice would you give to aspiring mixologists in terms of honing their craft?
Gleason: Prohibition destroyed the image of the bartender, but it has come back. It’s a great profession and today, people are making money from bartending. I’d advise novice bartenders to study the classics, as most cocktails today are variations of them. Study spirits – what they do and how to mix them. And incorporate the “drink smart” message in your work. The government standard for one drink is one-and-a-half ounces of spirit.