26 Nov And If You Don’t Know, Now You Know Josa.
“I just want people who bartend to care about their craft”
In this edition of Bartender of the Month, Josa Lazas tells us how he has made the beautiful Wm. Mulherin’s Sons his second home. Josa began his foray in food and beverage as a barista at a local coffee shop. A regular, turned friend of his, needed some help for an event in Philadelphia called the Fringe Festival, which was held at Ruba nightclub. “Ruba is very much a ‘beer and shot’ bar. You know, ‘pour me a Lager, get me a shot of Jameson’ is the common conversation during service.” Josa explained that Ruba deserved necessary credit, because Ruba taught him a sense of urgency like no other. Josa said it wasn’t until his first bartending job at Xochitl in Headhouse Square that he really started looking for his craft. “They put me behind the bar on Monday’s and Tuesday’s- the rest is history.”
Josa went on to tell us where his love for crafting cocktails comes from. “I have learned the most from my peers and visiting their bars.” He did however highlight three impactful people that he looks up to in the bartending world. First was Paul Macdonald who is currently working on the re-launch of Friday, Saturday, Sunday in Rittenhouse. Second was Catherine Manning, known for many amazing cocktail programs in Philadelphia such as A. Kitchen, Le Peg, and Franklin Mortgage. Third was Mike Haggerty who was the first to develop the program at Wm. Mulherin’s Sons. “They are just super humans behind the bar”, Josa laughed.
Josa pictured behind the bar at Wm. Mulherin’s mixing a Stateside Vodka Cocktail he named, “Take Me Home Tonight”
“I believe the cocktail movement is prevalent now more than ever because of craft distilling. Craft distilling has generated a new wave of ‘cocktails’ because now we have so much local selection. I love supporting Stateside, I love supporting Bluebird, and I love supporting Kinsey because these are people and faces that I can put a name to. To me, that is everything.”
The cocktail program at Wm. Mulherin’s is Michael Haggerty’s creation and the motivation is to start with the classics and extend from there. “I saw the bar was being built, and I heard it was going to be a pizza place. Then Mike told me he was running the bar program and it became a no brainer. I came in for an interview and it was still under construction but I could tell it was going to be absolutely gorgeous.” Josa paused and looked around, then said, “I knew I wanted this to be home.”
“Take Me Home Tonight”: 1.5 oz. Stateside Vodka, 1 oz. Licor 43, 3/4 oz. Fresh Lemon, 1/2 oz. Sibona Chamomila, 1/2 oz. Grilled Apple Syrup 1/4 oz. Meletti Limoncello and Topped with Prosecco
Josa told us about how he reads about bartending on a daily basis, always honing his technique. “It’s not just about making money and going home. If anyone wants to become a bartender, just ask me. I will give my knowledge to people who want it. I still have so much to learn. I just want people who bartend to care about their craft.” After learning about Stateside, he said he automatically started selling it. “It is important to network in this industry; everyone has so many ways of doing things that continue to blow my mind”, he expressed.
He told us how he has been with Wm. Mulherin’s since day one and the cocktail program has always been a team effort. He went on to say, “The mentality is very democratic. It isn’t about who made what, the cocktail list is ours. The classics are the classics for a reason. Once you master the classics, put a twist on those and the sky is the limit. Our drinks are simple and I can easily compare them to what history says. That is what customers understand.”
We asked Josa what he thought about Stateside and about vodka in general. His explanation was very interesting. “Vodka is a weird thing. Everyone really likes vodka, some people like whiskey more, but vodka is timeless. The Moscow Mule was created in 1941 and it will be drunk forever. However, from a cocktail perspective the initial thought is, ‘why would you want a flavorless spirit?’ But with subtle manipulations, the changes you can make can be awesome. As it relates to Stateside, here at Mulherin’s we carry very few brands and we make a lot of vodka martinis. Stateside is supported because it is local, but it is also well known and people at the bar recognize it. It is good. I am not a vodka person and it is delicious. It is slightly sweet and so clean- I appreciate it. Things I appreciate, I want to sell.” Wm. Mulherins owners, Randy Cook, David Grasso, and Chris Painter are all seasoned veterans in this industry. Get over to Wm. Mulherin’s for their delicious cocktails and amazing food. Ask for Josa, he will certainly drop some knowledge on you.
Wm. Mulherin’s Sons is located at 1355 N. Front Street Philadelphia, PA