We caught up with Seattle’s Michael Cadden about his flavor packed Mule of the Month recipe, The Ancho Mule, tips for home drink slingers and his favorite concoctions to make on his days off. You can find him chatting with regulars and creating interesting new tinctures and syrups for his refreshingly creative cocktails at Heartwood Provisions in downtown Seattle.
How did you get started bartending?
I was a barista for ten years. Baristas make great bartenders. Same skills, talking to people, making good drinks. The only difference is getting home at four AM and you make better tips. I’m more of a night person than a morning person so bartending has always appealed to me. It’s who you know. Luckily I knew a few people.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
A couple of favorites… a lot of creativity. I used to be a photographer out of college, that was my first career. Have to have creativity, I’m creative by nature so cocktails are definitely my style. And customer service, this is a very social job and I love that part of it. I was a super shy kid so it forces me to get outside my comfort zone. I’ve found that I can easily talk about things that I know about. When it’s my job, I can just do it.
What’s your favorite drink that you make at home?
I am all over the map from being a bartender, whatever I feel like for the day. In winter I like something to warm me up and in summertime I go light and citrusy, like a mule. I’m on a kick of pineapple lately, I’ve been making my own gum syrup (gum arabic added to simple syrup for a silky mouthfeel) with equal parts sugar and pineapple together for a week. Makes nice cocktails as opposed to a straight sugar. Something with pineapple, fresh lime, tequila, bitters of some sort and I’d stay home the rest of day.
What’s the most unusual ingredient you have used in a cocktail?
I try to find new ingredients in authentic ethnic stores like the local Mexican market or Armenian grocery store. They always have things I’ve never heard of. I’m working on three new tinctures right now… saffron, I’ve been asked lately for more earthy flavors so porcini mushroom, and a black sesame tincture. I make those (tinctures) first unless it’s fruity then I make a syrup.
Do you find that the bar community inspires and supports?
Yes, Seattle has a good community of bartenders, my wife has been a bartender since 16 growing up in Ireland. The bartenders Guild has been great. We do a lot of competitions and have meetings and sit in everyone’s bars and see what everyone is up to.
The competitions are great, everyone brings something to the table and we all learn. Healthy competition is great. I made a hot Gin Fizz for the latest one.
What’s one bar tool you couldn’t live without?
Shaker ball - the blender ball like in the protein shake containers. I use it in egg white cocktails to create a great foam that can’t be beat.
Tip for home bartenders?
Use fresh ingredients. Don’t buy lemon juice, make it fresh. The store bought stuff has probably been pasteurized. I always use fresh products, it makes a world of difference. Experiment with making syrups yourself. Also, people tend to try to make their drinks too strong. Cocktails are all about balance and certain proportions. Does’t need to be strong. 1 part sour, 1 part sweet, 2 parts booze. That where I start and go from there.
What was your inspiration for your Mule recipe?
A mule is fairly simple, I wanted to keep it simple but add a little more flavor than just ginger beer. The chili flavor goes well with the ginger and there’s a nice vegetal note with the Ancho Reyes Verde (Poblano) liqueur. Mules should be a little spicy so I also like using fresh ginger for that extra spice.
Anything Exciting coming up next?
Yes, the West Coast Regional Finals for World Class. There are three rounds - cocktail recipe, speed and cocktail pairing. I’ll be using the Mule drink I created for Advanced Mixology in the speed part of the competition because it’s relatively easy to make. Only two or three from the West coast will go to New York for the Nationals and Worlds are held in Berlin. Excited for the competition!
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The Ancho Mule
- 1.5 oz. Vodka
- .5 oz Lime
- .5 oz. Ancho Reyes Poblano Chili Liqueur
- .25 oz Honey Ginger Syrup
- 1 dash Cardamom bitters
- Ginger Beer
- Combine everything with ice, except the ginger beer, in a copper mug and stir.
- Top with ginger beer
- Add a lime wheel for garnish.
- For a bit more spice add .25 oz lime and .25 oz. honey ginger syrup.
Honey Ginger Syrup Recipe
Juice fresh ginger and add equal amount wild flower honey and heat until mixed