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The Spirit of Travel with Ben Yabrow and Dewar’s Whisky

Our content series, The Spirit of Travel with Dewar’s Scotch Whisky follows the essence of adventure and discovery into the craft of bartending.

Created with the finest ingredients and a rich heritage that spans centuries, Dewar’s embodies the spirit of exploration and inspires wanderlust and curiosity. Bartenders are an adventurous bunch, and traveling can profoundly influence their cocktails by shaping creativity, technique, and worldview, while enriching their craft and personal journey.

Tales of the Cocktail-nominated bartender Ben Yabrow is partner of Sip & Guzzle—the New York extension of Tokyo-based, World’s 50 Best recognized The SG Club. With globally acclaimed bartender Shingo Gokan as his mentor, Ben has had his hand in some of the most awarded bars in NYC including experimental cocktail den, Double Chicken Please. We ask Ben about his career behind some of the world’s hottest bars and how his travels ignite a passion for discovery with every sip.

Photo by Gerardo Gutierrez-Switaj

Tell us about your life philosophy or philosophy behind the bar.

That you can learn something from everyone. I think a lot of times, bartenders get annoyed with certain kinds of guests; maybe it’s the drink they ordered, the question they asked, or the bartender is just having a bad day, but if you go into every interaction looking to learn something about the other person, it not only leads to better hospitality, but a better working experience for the bartender.

What is your favorite quote?

“Be curious, not judgmental.” It’s often credited to Walt Whitman, but it turns out he never said it. Whoever did, I love it.

What was the last book you read?

“The Creative Act: A Way of Being” by Rick Rubin

Photo by Gerardo Gutierrez-Switaj

Talk to us about a pivotal or adventurous decision that you’ve made in your career.

The craziest thing I’ve probably ever done in my career is agreeing to move to Hawaii to run the beverage program at the Four Seasons without having ever been to Hawaii or work in a hotel. FS Maui is the busiest and highest revenue grossing Four Seasons in the world and taking that project on at 27 with no experience was a huge challenge, not to mention a complete rebranding and renovation of their flagship bar.

But I quickly learned that those areas where you’re uncomfortable is where the real growth happens. I learned more about leadership and business in those two years than anywhere else. I encourage everyone to say yes to opportunities that take them to faraway places, especially if it scares them. It helps us grow.

How has travel influenced your approach to bartending, and can you share how it might have deepened your appreciation for a whisky like Dewar’s 12-Year-Old?

I think travelling provides the most inspiration for creating new cocktails. Learning about new flavors or the way those flavors are treated is invaluable behind the bar. Most of my experience with Japanese cuisine was sushi, but then I moved to Japan and almost never ate it. Learning about all different types of Japanese cuisine and how they use ingredients was truly eye-opening.

While working there, a guest came to the bar and ordered a highball. Just a traditional whisky and soda. I reached for a Japanese whisky, and the other bartender told me to use Dewar’s 12 Year-Old. I was trained under some bartenders who were against big brands, so I wasn’t terribly familiar with it. I’m not kidding when I say it was the best highball I had had. I’ve carried it at every bar I’ve worked at since solely for that reason.

Photo by Gerardo Gutierrez-Switaj

Do any of your travels directly inspire your creations or cocktails with Dewar’s 12-Year-Old?

I like to work a lot with tropical ingredients. A lot of people have this misconception that tropical ingredients lend themselves to cloyingly sweet drinks, but Hawaii taught me they can be incredibly complex and layered. I also use a lot of Asian ingredients from my time in Asia. I love to ask bartenders where to eat when I’m traveling. But I ask for the places they like to go. It doesn’t even have to be that country’s cuisine. The best Chinese food I ever had was in Italy.

In your opinion what makes Dewar’s 12-Year-Old stand out in the world of whiskies?

It has the depth of character of a single malt with the light body of a blend. A lot of blends get lost in cocktails; you know it’s whisky, but it could be bourbon or rye. Dewar’s 12-Year-Old clearly reads as a scotch whisky, so it’s usually what I reach for when making a scotch cocktail.

Photo by Gerardo Gutierrez-Switaj

Describe your cocktail that you’ve created using Dewar’s 12-Year-Old and the inspiration behind it?

I created my interpretation of a classic Godfather. Someone had asked for a Japanese twist on a classic whisky drink, and it grew into this. It starts with Dewar’s 12-Year-Old that has been infused with this incredible Earl Grey Tea from Rare Tea Cellars in Chicago. It’s then paired with a peated scotch to add a subtle smokiness. I cut back on the amaretto because I often find Godfathers to be rather sweet and one-dimensional and filled in those gaps with kijoshu sake. Lastly, I added in an almond milk punch to add additional almond flavor without throwing off the balance of the cocktail. What you’re left with is something subtle and nuanced but still true to the original classic.

The post The Spirit of Travel with Ben Yabrow and Dewar’s Whisky appeared first on Chilled Magazine.

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