We Want To Know: Aaron Male
We're “mixing” things up a little today and featuring an artist whose craft is a little different than anyone featured here before... it's my pleasure to introduce you to mixologist Aaron Male. Aaron has only been practicing the art of mixology and bartending for less than four years and in that short time has already won competitions and risen to the top of his field. Despite being relatively new at bartending, Aaron isn't completely new to the food & beverage industry – he worked as a sous chef for nine years and loved it but had to give it up for family reasons. He then spent the next ten years living the corporate life in the Information Technology sector, but he couldn't resist the compulsion he felt to return to his first love. So, he began his transition back by becoming a dining room manager for a chain restaurant, but this wasn't fulfilling his desire to create. It wasn't until Aaron was working at the Restaurants of Canada trade show that he found his true calling, when he witnessed a cocktail mixing demonstration performed by leaders of the industry at that time, and a fire was lit within Aaron to pursue this new avenue.
Inspired by what he saw at the trade show, Aaron began experimenting at home, and shortly afterwards entered himself into a mixology competition. He didn't have high expectations for his outcome, so he was pleasantly surprised when he qualified as a finalist and moved on to compete against 17 of Toronto's best bartenders. At the end of the competition Aaron was approached by the bar manager of Brassaii and, without having any prior experience, was offered the job as head bartender. Aaron has come a long way since then and has earned the respect of his peers and his patrons, concocting some of the best drinks Toronto has to offer (since Brassaii, he's held posts at Campagnolo, Miss Things, The Spoke Club, and is currently head bartender at The Cloak Bar, a relaxed lounge under Marben that brings to mind a speakeasy with its obscure entrance and word of mouth-only marketing).
Over the last couple of years I've been served a variety of cocktails crafted by Aaron, and, though I consider myself more of a wine aficionado than a cocktail connoisseur, I know a good drink when I taste one, and Aaron is a master at what he does. He treats the spirits and ingredients he uses with the utmost respect, and the care and passion that goes into every drink he pours is evident. This respect is given to all drinks he makes, whether they are for the patrons behind his bar or for his friends gathered around a barbeque. Aaron is always striving to improve his skills and constantly seeking knowledge of spirits and researching their provenance (these are some of the most fun conversations to engage him in).
Aaron's process for creating a new cocktail is to first choose the flavour profile he wants the drink to go in. For example, if he wants the flavour to be herbaceous and fresh, he may start, for example, by making a basil syrup, then combine this with, say, gin or tequila, because in his experience he knows they will go well together. Next, he decides on what he wants the mouth-feel to be because the experience of the drink is equally as important as its taste. Aaron takes great pride in the drinks he creates and you will see his influence in about 80% of the cocktail menu at The Cloak, but he's also a great mentor and encourages collaboration among his team to contribute to new recipes. He's also responsible for a myriad of other tasks, among them managing the inventory, costing and ordering, and ensuring the bar is properly cleaned and maintained. He takes the same pride in the overall management of the bar as he does in the care he puts into each drink he makes.
Aaron recently won a competition for Toronto's Best Espresso Martini, beating out 32 other top bartenders for the coveted spot, and he is kindly sharing his recipe with us so you can make it at home! The key ingredients of this award-winning drink are a jalapeño and mint syrup, and tequila. The freshness of the mint balances the heat of the jalapeño to give the drink a bright flavour. Here's the complete recipe so you can be your own mixologist:
Want more? Let's hear from Aaron directly – here's what We Want To Know:
I can't start my morning without... coffee.
I have a weakness for... red licorice.
Most people don't know that I... crave peace 'n quiet more than a party.
Currently reading... Proof: The Science of Booze.
I want... a long beach vacation. Or a really good bottle of Scotch.
Thanks for participating in #WeWantToKnow, Aaron! See you at the bar. ;)
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