It’s time for us to take you behind the bar with AZ Mixologist and the Merc Bar’s newest face, Micah Olson. The young pioneer has been mixing drinks around the valley since his college days at ASU and even has a Sommelier’s certification under his belt. So what drives a man to pursue a career in cocktails? Find out in our tell-all Q&A.
Micah Olson got his start working at a sports bar in South Dakota at the tender age of 17, but it was his experience working at some of Arizona’s most famous restaurants during his college years that sparked an interest in high end wines. After bouncing around the restaurant scene and earning his Sommelier’s certificate, Micah made the transition to behind the bar and thus one of the state’s most innovative mixologists was born.
How did you make the transition from Sommelier to Mixologist?
Sommeliers and mixologists are actually a lot closer in nature than most people think. You analyze and taste spirits in almost the same way and also need to do lots of research to keep up with the changing trends.
It started off about four years ago when I started to fill in bar shifts to help out a friend who needed some unexpected time off. During this time the Sanctuary hired a mixologist out of Portland to train and educate the bar staff. The mixologist, Ryan Magarian, opened me up to the endless possibilities that the cocktail world offered.
It wasn’t only this but the fact that I actually got a chance to create.
Tell us a little about AZ Mixology.
AZ Mixology is a full service beverage consulting company that Jason Asher and I started in February. We offer menu design, drink creation, staff training, bar design, menu costing, inventory setup representation and private parties. We have talked many times about starting a cocktail bar together, but with these uncertain economic times didn’t seem like quite the right thing to do yet. So next best thing was to start a company where we could still play around and be able to teach and inspire other bartenders in the state. The company has a broad base of services. If it has to do with beverage we can pretty much take care of your needs.
The Merc Bar has always had a place in my heart. It was one of the first bars I used to frequent in Arizona many years ago. I mean the place just has this classic look and amazing sex appeal. I have written a few business plans in the past and have always taken inspiration from the Merc.
What goes into creating a new drink for a place like the Merc Bar and how often would you say make a new cocktail?
I usually look for flavor pairings that work well together and then try to adapt them into a classic cocktail recipe. I try to make at least one drink a shift that I have never made before whether it be a pre-prohibition cocktail, a modern day, or one of my own creations.
Can you share with our readers a recipe for a great summer drink?
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 large strawberry sliced
2 oz Aviation Gin (use any gin you prefer or vodka if you must)
¾ oz fresh lime juice
¾ oz simple syrup (1 part water:1 part sugar)
2 oz club soda
*Muddle thyme and strawberry, add all liquid except the club soda and
shake hard with ice. Double strain into ice-filled Collins glass and
top with soda. Garnish with a small strawberry and a sprig of fresh
Any advice for aspiring mixologists out there?
First thing that I would recommend would be buying and reading Imbibe by David Wondrich, Joy of Mixology by Gary Reagan and How to Mix Drinks by Jerry Thomas. These will give an aspiring mixologist a true sense of the history and what being a bartender/mixologist is all about. Second piece of advice is to keep it simple at first. Third, and I think one of the most important, is to use fresh juices and produce when available and economically feasible.
Catch Micah mixing magic at the Merc Bar Thursday – Saturday nights or check out his website for all the info on AZ Mixology.