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10.06.10 by  

Extreme Cocktailing: The Bitter Bar

When it comes to hand-crafting drinks, mixologist Mark Stoddard gets points for both athleticism and artistic expression.

Groupie alert! If you need a new fan club to join, jump on The Bitter Bar bus. The driver, extreme mixologist Mark Stoddard, will do what it takes to make sure your experience is memorable, including “sacrificing live plants” or breaking any number of so-called bartending rules. (Just don’t ask him to make a cosmo). Too extreme? Not for a guy who’s made drinks while cutting waves on a speed boat.

Stoddard's version of the El Presidente features a flaming citrus rind. How liberal!

served raw: we love the bitter bar’s rules of engagement … “you will probably get arrested, but you will be set free in the process.” you have to explain that!
Mark Stoddard: Very few people walk in to our bar and out again with the same mindset and part of that is because we think a great cocktail bar experience should effortlessly and subtly fold in an element of education. So if knowledge is power, and power is freedom, then we want to set your mind free to wander the vast and expansive playground that is all things spirits. However, while you will never be over served in our establishment, just one or two of our classic or new classic cocktails might put you in a mind set for mischief, and you never know, you could even find yourself snatched up by the long arm of the law while engaging in some foolhardy behavior.

we also love the idea of a place where “history and tradition are honored and simultaneously violated” …
With classic cocktails, there will always be conflicting stories and contention over who did what first, what are the proper ingredients or ratio, what day of the week you can drink it on, and a million other ways to violate. We will always be violating something.

To us, there is the right beverage for the right person, and it will not always be a spirit or cocktail. To ensure that the guest receives the perfect drink for them, we will do whatever is necessary to achieve that drink, even if it requires blasphemy, sacrificing live plants, cardinal sins, and playing DJ Bartender — remixing classics with a modern twist.

To honor the craft, we use proper ice, technique, glassware, tools, garnishes, etc. We also have a myriad of niche spirits, liqueurs and accoutrements at our disposal.

you guys nailed it at the cocktail world cup. what tricks, techniques or tips brought you the gold?
The 42 Below Cocktail World Cup in New Zealand was designed to get bartenders out of their comfort zones and force us to perform under high stress, with unknown ingredients, in several nontraditional drink-making venues. We made cocktails on a jet boat going 40 mph through a canyon, in a coffee roastery, a mountain lodge, a windy lake shore, and on stage in front of nearly 1,000 people.

Ultimately, it came down to being able to think very quickly on my feet while under heavy stress, with no sleep, and while working as a team with two other bartenders on Team USA — Sean Hoard and Todd Thrasher.

Bartending is usually a one-man show but at the 42 Below Cocktail World Cup, I learned to craft one drink with two other bartenders. Being able to put your ego aside and work as a team was of paramount importance.

The cat who's going to size you up, then customize a hand-crafted drink just for you.

what can someone expect from a true Mark Stoddard cocktail experience?
A great drink goes beyond the vintage crystal stemware, thoughtful garnish, welcoming aroma, balanced flavor profile, and memorable finish.

The best things in life are unexpected. You’ll get sized up and judged as you saddle up to the bar, but in a good way. I will ask you how you’re doing and how your day or night is going and maybe what phase of it are you in? Just starting out the night, just finishing, about to have dinner, just ate, feeling tired, upset tummy, stressed, celebrating, etc? Or we’ll arrive at the proper beverage by discussing your preferred alcohol or drink, by flavor profile — herbaceous, spirituous, savory, floral, bitter, spicy, fruity, etc. — by ingredient, your favorite animal or something you dreamed in your sleep. If needed, a few follow up questions about preferences, allergies, sobriety.

And if you do not wish to engage or be disturbed, I can tell, and won’t bother you.

we want to experience a signature Mark Stoddard drink flight, the one that best showcases your personality …

1. Americano: Cynar and Carpano Antica over a large ice cube, splash of club soda, and a large orange peel
2. Monkey Gland: Leopold Bros. Small Batch American Gin, fresh-squeezed orange, home-made grenadine, Leopold Bros. Absinthe Verte
3. Smoke & Mirrors: Sombra Mezcal, Grapefruit Sambuca, fresh-squeezed lime, agave, grapefruit bitters
4. Peat’s Word: Laphroaig 10 yr Islay Single Malt, Green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, fresh-squeezed lime
5. The Cougar: El Tesoro Platinum Tequila, Benedictine, house-made Amer Picon, orange bitters
6. Vieux Carré: Templeton Rye Whiskey, VSOP cognac, Carpano Antica, Benedictine, bitters
7. And finish with some house-made Fernet Branca ice cream

we love the marriage of boulder’s rugged, outdoor vibe with its cool drink scene.
Boulder isn’t New York or San Francisco and it never will be. Because Colorado has a relatively new cocktail scene, it allows us flexibility, and to pick and choose what trends, ingredients, techniques, etc., to use. It’s easy to get lost in all the hype, press reviews, critiques and scenesters of a large-market cocktail bar. We don’t have that pressure in Colorado, so it helps me stay grounded, which eventually allows me to think effectively outside the box. We also have dozens of micro-breweries, micro-distilleries, vineyards, orchards and farms to utilize.

what’s inspiring your creativity right now?
The smell of smoke and wild fires as I’m walking through the Boulder Farmer’s Market, whatever that means.