Bartenders hear our stories all the time. So let's hear theirs for a change. This is Behind the Bar: interviews with bartenders over a drink (or two).
— by Kajal Singh
This week, we're chatting with Scott Lowe, the bar manager of Bluebeard, the excellent restaurant and bar in the Fletcher Place neighborhood on the southeast edge of downtown Indianapolis. Named after Kurt Vonnegut novel, Bluebeard is one of the wonderful Indianapolis establishments that serve Cardinal Spirits.
What drinks on your menu are made with Cardinal Spirits, and what are the stories behind the names?
27 Mutual Friends (Cardinal Spirits Vodka, Cardinal Spirits Songbird Craft Coffee Liqueur, crème de cacao, mole bitters) is a play on social media. My girlfriend and I realized that we had 27 mutual friends on Facebook and we thought it would be fun name for a cocktail. Social media is prevalent these days and I think people really identify with it.
Don’t be so Bonal (Cardinal Vodka, Bonal, house-hopped strawberry soda) is a play on the word banal. Hopped Gin and Tonic (Cardinal Spirits American Gin, Bittermens hopped grapefruit bitters, Fentimans Tonic) is a twist on the classic cocktail with hopped bitters.
How long have you been in Indy? And how long at Bluebeard?
Sixteen years in Indianapolis. As of this coming April, I’ve been bartending for about 28 years. I was at Ball & Biscuit (on Mass Ave. in Indy) before Bluebeard. Before that I was bartending in Broad Ripple.
If you could have a drink with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
Anthony Bourdain. I ran into him in New Orleans a couple of years ago, he just seems like an interesting guy to get a drink with. I’m a whiskey guy, so I would definitely be drinking rye whiskey.
What’s your best advice for people who want the drinks they make at home to taste as good as the ones they order at a bar?
Honestly, just use fresh ingredients. Make your own stuff at home; it’s so easy to do now. You can make your own simple syrups. It may take some time, but they last a long time and it makes all the difference.
Do you remember the time you had your very first cocktail?
I was in Florida and it was just after graduation from high school. I worked on a charter fishing boat in Fort Walton and there was a place called Suds and Cinema. I was watching "Rocky Horror" with my aunt at Suds and Cinema and I had my first scotch and soda. It was so horrible. I literally spit it out. That was my first grownup cocktail. I was 18 years old.
So if you walked into Cardinal right now, what would you order?
I’m a big fan of the American Gin, so I would probably do a gin-based cocktail. The vodka is good too but I really love the botanicals in the American Gin. ... It’s awesome that we can make great spirits here in Indiana. Not just great beer, but great spirits!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Be honest. Be straightforward, look them in the eye and don’t fuck them over.
What makes Cardinal Spirits different than the other craft distilleries around?
That’s pretty easy. Cardinal Spirits figured it out. Cardinal Spirits isn’t pretentious and is very straightforward; they’re not trying to split the atom. Everything Cardinal Spirits makes is solid, they’re not trying to be something they’re not. Everybody that I’ve run into that works at Cardinal Spirits is very straightforward. They’re just cool people. You know? Cardinal Spirits is kind of like Bloomington in that sense: very approachable and laid back.
(Editor's note: Aw, thanks, Scott!)