At just 28, Will Hollingsworth has been around the block. The Spotted Owl owner and Oregon native worked in political communications in Washington, D.C., most recently with the 2008 Barack Obama presidential campaign, before zigzagging 10,000 miles across the country. After settling down in Cleveland, Hollingsworth landed his first bartending gig at the Greenhouse Tavern, then worked at Lolita before opening his own place in October. It's the kind of place that takes making cocktails seriously without taking itself too seriously. With whimsically named drinks such as A Rabbit as King of the Ghosts and His Parents Were Eaten by a Bear, it's clear he's accomplished levity. But the cocktails here are no joke. "I built the bar that I wanted to sit at," he says.
One of the things that I really loved about this town immediately and one of the reasons that I stayed here is there's a bullshit meter that's very finely calibrated.
I'm a bar nerd. I'm not a cocktail guy. I didn't fall in love with bartending because of beverage. I fell in love with bartending because of people.
I got a double major in philosophy and the history of math and science, and a double minor in classics and comparative literature. I'm absolutely worthless in the coming zombie apocalypse.
You need to be able to spot a couple who are married but not to each other, and you need to act appropriately.
There are three ways to spot it. One: They're both facing the door. Two: Car keys are out on the bar. And three: They're either fiddling with a ring or they're fiddling with a finger where a ring should be but isn't.
If you want to talk about style as a drink maker, the Brown Brink Eastward is it. It's all booze. There's no added sugar. There's no added citrus. A cocktail with a lot of sugar or a lot of citrus is [covering up] poor conception as well as poor execution. I try to give myself as few places to hide as possible.
I just think that a good thing is made better by making it more simple, not more complicated.
There's this other part of it that's hypertechnical: Knowing how long to stir a drink and why. Knowing the proportions of a drink, knowing the history of a drink, knowing why you don't shake gin and why you don't shake whiskey and the way the molecular structure of these things work.
You need to know why our martini is better than anybody else's in the city. You need to know that that's because of the way that we treat the f---ing molecules in the drink.