Zach Maurer, bar manager for Cosmos, came to the Bellevue Club looking for a creative challenge. But in order to mix the perfect drink, it takes a tight ship and a knack for reading people. Not an easy feat. Maurer talks about the journey a cocktail takes from the bottle to a patron’s hand and the reward that comes with serving it.
Reflections magazine: Do you consider yourself a mixologist or bartender?
Zach Maurer: These days, with how popular mixology has become, referring to myself as a mixologist seems a bit gauche. That being said, I create the cocktail menus for Cosmos and take great pride in coming up with recipes that haven’t seen the light of day before. I want to create drinks that people will be excited to order when they are walking in for dinner, drinks that will stick in people’s minds.
RM: What inspires you creatively?
ZM: Boredom. While I am always thinking about new beverages, making the same recipes day in and day out fuels the fire to come up with new ideas. Putting out a new menu is awesome. I get to make new drinks, see how people respond and watch which drinks become favorites.
RM: Do you prefer classic cocktails to the new trends?
ZM: I love classic cocktails, but there are so many amazing bartenders coming up with outstanding stuff. Why wouldn’t you want to try something new? When I make it out to a place with a great craft cocktail menu, I’ll try as many different concoctions as I can until I get “the look” from my wife.
RM: Aside from making the perfect cocktail, what makes a good bartender?
ZM: The ability to read people. You have to be able to see who you can joke with, who wants to interact, who wants to be left alone and who is going to need special attention. Also, sometimes the issue of having to end someone’s evening arises because their intake was greater than their processing ability. I try to make it not come to that by subtly managing people’s evenings.
RM: When a customer orders a simple lemon drop, do you see it as an easy drink or take it as a challenge?
ZM: To me, that’s an easy drink. I have my own recipe for it, and I make probably 75 to 100 of them a week. It takes around 30 seconds to make. It’s fun when they want a lemon drop, but they want something new. You can twist any normal drink with different ingredients. Muddling fresh strawberry or adding egg whites can make someone shiver with excitement, learning their favorite cocktail just got better.
RM: What is the most challenging part of your line of work?
ZM: Time management. When you order a drink from me, chances are I have also just received several other orders from people at the bar, while the ticket machine keeps spitting out orders, demanding attention from the rest of the bar, the restaurant and even room service. That was a run-on sentence, but sometimes my nights are one long run-on sentence.
RM: What inspired you to become a bartender?
ZM: Honestly, it started out as a means to an end. I was pursuing a film career and lacked a degree. It became apparent that bartending was a job that you could maximize your income without having college credit. I started out bussing tables, and then I became a server for about two months before being thrown behind the bar. Fake it ‘til you make it was the motto.
RM: What lead you to Polaris?
ZM: My beautiful wife, Amber, worked downstairs in the spa and noticed they were looking for a bartender upstairs. I had been at Cactus in Kirkland for a couple of years and was looking for something more challenging with some creative freedom.