Nothing puts a damper on a night out on the town quite like a drink that's lacking in oomph. Cocktails don't come cheap, and penny-pinching party people want a bang for their buck. The ideal combination of palatable flavor and potent ABV points should be provided to all bar patrons, but who hasn't had the misfortune of coming into contact with a watered-down or unimaginative libation that leaves you with something to be desired? Rest assured, award-winning mixologist Stefan Huebner is here to ensure this won't happen to you again. The 37-year-old New Jersey native spent time in Germany and Chicago before he settled down in Charlotte with his family, and has been associated with Cosmos Café for some time now. You can sample one of his creative libations at the newly opened Re:Public.
Creative Loafing: Little boys usually say they want to be a firefighter or astronaut when they grow up. How did you end up as a bartender?
Stefan Huebner: I started working in a restaurant, first as a baker, and then I went to culinary school, worked as an executive chef, got burnt out and started playing music. I traveled the whole eastern seaboard playing the keyboards in an alternative rock band. I needed something more flexible work-wise to deal with my touring schedule. So I started waiting tables and bartending. The rest is recent history. I'm most famous for a cocktail I created that I called "The Queen Charlotte" (Bombay Sapphire, Campari, Prosecco, peach bitters, simple syrup, orange juice and a candied sugar twist for garnish). It was selected along with me to be a part of GQ Magazine's 41 Most Inspired Bartenders in the country in 2010. Unfortunately, I have no time left to play music anymore since the new business takes up most my free time.
Would you say particular people prefer particular drinks? Any stereotyping in the world of mixology?
Younger adults will drink whatever is on special. By the time you hit your late 20s, you know what you like and you drink it regardless of price. Life is too short to drink cheap booze; fresh ingredients make a better cocktail! Spend the extra dollar for a fresh premium drink.
Do you have a favorite spirit versus one you won't touch?
I used to drink vodka, but it's very neutral, taking on the taste of whatever you mix it with. Now I personally prefer whiskey ... gin ... whiskey ... tequila ... whiskey; whiskey and gin are a little more complex and appreciated by a more adult palate. I am really into Buffalo Trace whiskey and Cardinal gin. I haven't had any really bad experiences with a particular type of alcohol, but I will say I'm not a big fan of anything blue right now.