March 15, 2021

'Homemade Manhattan Bar Book': A Bartender's Story of Sharing His Love of Making People Happy With Drinks

"Turning Perspective Into Opportunity" is the focus of this forum. Jason Rothman, who lives in Citrus Heights, Calif. with his wife, Nicole, and their cat, SusieQ, turns his perspective into opportunity by publishing his first book, Homemade Manhattan Bar Book: Create craft cocktails at home with more than 50 recipes, tips, and techniques from a real working bartender.

I first met Jason in 2014 during his time working as a bartender at the Rainier Club, a private social club in Seattle, Wash. I took an instant liking to him as he possessed impeccable customer service skills. He treated each customer (club member) as if he went into the bartending industry to serve them (a quality I learned to appreciate from my father, which you can read . Not only did he remember details about the customer such as their favorite drink (Lagavulin scotch for me), but Jason recollected details including the member's family, hobbies, profession, latest trips, etc. Essentially, he demonstrated a gift for building relationships.

After his departure from the Rainier Club, Jason kept in touch with me. We occasionally met at his residence just to chat and share a drink (always appreciating that he kept a bottle of Lagavulin on hand). And after returning to his native California, Jason maintained the connection through social media. It was through a post he made on LinkedIn that prompted me to purchase his book.

Edited by Matt Tidwell, I very much enjoy reading Jason's book. Many people find making drink an intimidating process: Do I have the right equipment? How do I measure the alcohol? What type of ice should I use and when should I use it? Should I use fresh juices or juice concentrate? What is a jigger or muddler? What type of glass should I use? Should I shake or stir the drink? Jason provides answers to these questions and many more.

One insightful piece of information that Jason provides is: "Shake a cocktail with citrus, otherwise stir it up. Shaking is hard on a drink. It adds a lot of air which is great for a Margarita, but ruins a Martini or Manhattan. Stirring breaks down the same amount of ice as shaking but it gives the drink a smooth feel. Some drinks you want smooth, and some you want bubbly."

When given the opportunity, there are a set of questions that I ask while conversating with book authors. Recognizing that the purpose of the book is to share his perspective as a bartender with readers, I desired to learn more about what led Jason to take on a project of publishing a book. In an email message, Jason provided me with a response to the following six questions. 

What prompted the idea of writing your book?

JR: "I had all these recipes in my head and when the first shutdown happened, I wasn't sure what was going to come back. Some friends suggested that I make videos, teach online bartending classes. I mentioned that I would need to write something first. I was a nobody. A bartender in Sacramento Calif. I wrote down 50 recipes that I think are some of the most important cocktails to know, and it all grew from there. We were also in the first shutdown [to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic], and writing the book helped keep me grounded."

When and where did you write? Did you set a daily writing goal?

JR: "Once I had the recipes I wanted and the tips I needed to tell people, I decided that if I write five recipes a day, that I would have all 50 done in ten days. It took less time than that, because once I got going, I wrote a lot more each day. I mainly wrote in my kitchen, and my backyard, in the morning hours, with a few marathon days where I just kept writing. I had a good friend edit my book, and he taught high school composition for many years before becoming a principal. Then It took time to rewrite. Then I had to take photos of every cocktail, and put it all together as a book. In all, It took nearly six months of almost daily work to get it published on Amazon."

What was the hardest part of writing for you?

JR: "The hardest part of writing is putting something on the paper when you have nothing. Hemmingway said that the first draft of anything is shit, and I always keep that in the back of my mind. Put something down. It may be crap, but get it down. Come back to it and make it good later, but get something down to start. IT was also hard to lay the manuscript out in an ebook form. I didn't think of all the 'other' stuff I had to do to get the book published myself."

What did you learn about yourself in the process of writing your book?

JR: "I learned that everyone has self-doubt, but you have to fight through that and believe in yourself. It's also okay to fail. I started three other books in my life and they never got past page 30. This one came together without much trouble. Sometimes you have to abandon a project and sometimes you get to see it through to the end."

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

JR: "I would say this to all content creators of all mediums. Just try it. Try creating something. Even if you hate it, you still learn from it and get better the next time. Now that my book is done, I put out drink recipe videos on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube. Some videos do well and some don't, but I keep putting them out because in totality, it is gaining an audience that likes the content I release. I have no idea why some videos get 20,000 views, and some only get a few hundred. I just keep putting them out. Same with my book. I started writing recipes and restaurant stories for a "second" book. If it becomes something, great. If not, well I still improve my story-telling skills."

If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?

JR: "I don't know what I'm doing, but I keep doing it anyway: The Jason Rothman Story."

The recipes from Jason's book are easy to follow. In addition, he is producing videos which demonstrate his love of making people happy with drinks. While National Margarita Day falls on February 22nd, my wife and I enjoy this drink during the hot summer months. 

To help celebrate St. Patrick's Day on March 17th, Jason demonstrates the ease of making a Tipperary Cocktail.

And the Espresso Martini is absolutely delicious. (Vodka + Kahlua coffee liqueur + espresso = what is there not to love?)

I appreciate the art of making an alcoholic beverage. Part of the enjoyment of consuming a drink is watching how it is made. Like cooking a your favorite dish, however, there is something rewarding about making your own cocktail.

In addition to his website, you can follow Jason's latest cocktail concoctions on Facebook, Instagram, TikTocTwitter, and YouTube.

Among the recipes Jason provides in his book, which is your favorite?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

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