Know Your Bartender: Spring St. Bar's Benjamin Hasko
For Hasko, the similarity between coffee, wine and bartending is trusting his palette. "You have to be able to pick out really small flavors and have a strong opinion about them. It could be something really out there...but if you taste it, you taste it."
DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES — In this, the "Know Your Bartender" series, we stop by local bars and get to know the men and women behind the drinks.
Benjamin Hasko, is a 25-year-old bartender at Spring St. Bar, the local watering hole on Spring between 6th and 7th.
The Spring St. Bar is known for a varied beer selection, familiar faces and deli sandwiches from their charcuterie.
Hasko has an extensive background in wine and coffee. He grew up reading books about viticulture and harboring dreams of having his own vineyard one day, and his transition to bar tending comes after ten years of working with specialty coffee and espresso. He said the connection between cocktails, wine and coffee isn't as contrived as it might seem.
"This is actually my first full cocktail bar," Hasko, who has worked at Spring St. for just about two months, revealed.
"I knew that something you had to acquire a taste for or build a palette for had to be something worthwhile," he said, "You have to really know it and love it and understand it. You trust your palette."
His favorite wine is a Châteauneuf-du-Pape. "I like wines that are in an affordable price range but are still really lush … and pair well with food easily," he said.
His favorite cocktail? To drink, he prefers an Old Fashioned "because it's got a lot of history and a lot of really subtle ways to change it … it's a cornerstone of really good bartending."
The Old Fashioned at Spring St. is what Hasko described as "bare bones, really straight-forward, really tasty." It contains granulated sugar, a maraschino cherry muddled in, splash of soda water, dash of Angoustura bitters, bourbon, ice over the top, orange zest.
But these are the subtle changes he makes in his own cocktails: Muddled and flamed orange zest, a cubed turbinado, rye.
"If you can make a really good Old Fashioned, that says something," he said.
But his favorite cocktail to make is the margarita, for similar reasons. "Everyone has such different opinions about margaritas and what they should be. Should they be sweeter or more sour, salt or no salt? There's too many ways to make it," he said, smiling.
For the patrons who come into Spring St. and don't know what to order, Hasko will first consult, then recommend.
"Do they like something sweet? Do they like something sour? Do they like bourbons or ryes? I'd pour a little bit, we'd talk about it and taste it," he said.
Of course, there's always the option of beer, which is Spring St.'s most popular drink, according to Hasko.
The varied crowd brings in varied tastes, but the appreciation for high quality alcohol is the common denominator.
"Into the night, we collect the Arts District people, the young crowd, people in the industries, and then we also have a lot of office and lawyer types. [They] all come here to mingle and it gets really packed," he said, "It's really fun. It's a different mix of people."