The Nardcast: Behind the Stick with Mike Vizcarra of Queensborough
By: Jarnard Sutton | August 25th, 2017
Queensborough, a 1920s New York City-inspired cocktail lounge, is downtown’s newest destination brought to you by San Diego-based hospitality group Brethren Collective. If you like the classic Negroni, then you're going to love this twist on the well-balanced cocktail. Mike Vizcarra, managing partner, shares his take on the classic cocktail on Behind the Stick.
Negroni, My Way
1 oz Carpano Antica
1 oz St. George Bruto Americano
1 oz St. George Dry Rye Reposado Gin
Garnish: Orange Peel
Stirred and poured over 1 large cube from Penny Pound Ice
What's the story behind Negroni, My Way?
My good friend and colleague Travis Carter (GM of Harvest by the Patio) came up with the name as an homage to Frank Sinatra who sang "New York, New York."
Describe the taste.
Boozy yet balanced with big spice from the 100% rye, assertive bitterness from the Bruto Americano and sweetness from the Carpano Antica.
What's the key component of this drink?
The St. George Dry Rye Reposado. It's 99 proof, so it has some heat but those harsh edges of the spirit are rounded off since it's "rested" (reposado) in ex red wine barrels.
What reactions are you expecting to get from customers when they try this cocktail for the first time?
A slight tweak to a familiar old friend.
If you had to pair this cocktail with a dish, what would you pair it with?
Our QB Burger. The booziness helps cut the savory fattiness of the dish.
Watch as Mike Vizcarra makes his Negroni, My Way cocktail.
What kind of experience can guests get at Queensborough?
A neighborhood cocktail bar with a beverage program that's interesting enough to satisfy the palates of people who frequent some of San Diego's amazing cocktail bars but at the same time approachable enough to appeal to someone who's just scratching the surface of spirits and craft cocktails.
About Mike Vizcarra
Are you from San Diego?
Originally from San Francisco, I spent my childhood years in Dallas before moving back to the West Coast after high school. I've been in San Diego for almost 20 years now.
How did you get into bartending?
As many people do, I got into the hospitality industry while I was in college starting out as a busser and moving my way up to get behind the bar. I probably have just as much management experience as I do bartending but I've always gravitated back to my original craft.
What's your favorite thing about bartending?
I enjoy the ability to work with the products first hand. At one point, I thought about culinary school back in my junior college days so bartending is the next best thing. Working with spirits, produce and ingredients and seeing people enjoy the final product is really fulfilling.
What's your favorite cocktail on the menu?
I Only do Brooklyn on the Weekends. For whatever reason, I've never been a huge fan of dry vermouth but I can't get enough of this cocktail. It's well-balanced so it's not too astringent but the drink definitely lets you know there's a decent amount of Dolin Dry on the finish. Plus the great spices still come through from the Henebery Whiskey which is one of my favorite local products.
What's your favorite spirit?
Define the 'perfect cocktail.'
The perfect cocktail for me just needs to be balanced. Whether it's direct or shaken regardless of spirit, every component needs to play well together.
If you're going out for a cocktail, what are some spots you like to go in San Diego?
Seven Grand, Bang Bang, anywhere Travis Carter is working and anywhere Gareth Moore is working.
What do you love about the cocktail scene in San Diego?
This is one of the best cocktail scenes in the country. There are nationally-recognized bars and bartenders here so we're very fortunate.
Do you have any mentors in the industry?
After years of monotony in the nightclub world early on in my career, I ended up opening Seven Grand in North Park. Being around the 213 Nightlife guys like Cedd Moses, Eric Alperin and Pedro Shanahan and some of the Seven Grand staff like Brett Winfield and Juan Sanchez really helped revitalize my passion for this industry.
What advice would you give an inspiring bartender about being successful in the industry?
Take pride in it, the craft world is all or nothing. If you want to make proper cocktails then you have to commit to it and make perfect drinks every single time and don't cut corners. It's like a chef at a farm to table restaurant putting locally-sourced proteins on a dish and then pairing it with frozen french fries. Don't just half-ass it, take it all the way. Proper glassware, proper ice, when to stir/when to shake, fresh ingredients always, no artificial ingredients (i.e. Red Bull), etc. etc.
What do you do in your spare time when you're not creating cocktails?
Try to stay as active as I can with a hectic work schedule and also spend time with my family.
What's next for you?
Open Queensborough Downtown in September and hopefully with enough success, look towards future products with my Brethren Collective business partner Shane Brennan.