Ryan Magarian Expands Phoenix's Cocktail Horizons with Jade Bar's New Menu
As Phoenix mixologists work through the somewhat overwhelming task of getting our fair Valley on the map of craft cocktailing, reinforcements from Portland, Oregon have arrived by way of Ryan Magarian. The decorated career bartender and brain behind Aviation Gin, a craft, small-batch spirit, was hired on to completely transform Jade Bar's cocktail menu while the rest of the bar underwent a redesign and expansion. Magarian spoke with Chow Bella the morning of Jade Bar's reopening about how he makes a cocktail, some of his favorite local spots and where he sees mixology moving in the next ten years.
Courtesy of Jade Bar. Mixologist Ryan Magarian dishes on what it takes to be a great bartender.
See also: Mixologist Ryan Magarian at Jade Bar Is Bringing Cocktail Culture To Sanctuary Camelback Resort, Reopening on Friday, Oct. 11
Magarian is the first to admit that his love affair with cocktails began in college for all of the wrong reasons. His first job at Club Med was spurred by his "wanting to drink and wanting to meet women."
"The idea of bartending aligned with my hedonistic lifestyle at the time," he says.
However, as he saw how patrons truly appreciated the depth of flavor a fine mixed drink can have, he began to grow more passionate and serious about bartending as a career. After over 15 years of drink making, his unique, clean and chef-inspired concoctions are well known and highly sought after in the mixology world, and, lucky for us, we can try all of his Arizona cocktail concepts now at Jade Bar.
Courtesy of Jade Bar.
The task of creating a completely new cocktail menu wasn't a matter of rehashing what he's already accomplished at other restaurants. To Magarian, creating a flavor set specific to Arizona was key.
"I wanted to create the quintessential Arizona craft cocktail bar," he explains. " In order to do that, it has to be distinct from L.A. and New York."
This Phoenix flavor, for Magarian, meant a focus on refreshment with "intelligent, fresh, crisp, and dry" elements by way of melons, chiles, unique vegetables and fresh fruit. While complex, innovative "brown, stirred drinks" are often a mainstay in craft cocktail bars back home in Portland, he just didn't see that working in a Phoenix drinking scene.
"That doesn't mean the drinks here can't be as good," he says. For him, the four principles of great cocktail making apply, regardless of region: "outstanding product, precise execution, passion and promotion." Magarian takes execution seriously with a 30-hour training intensive focused on fostering passion in bartenders, along with the science, technique and history of cocktails. He says that passion instilled in bartenders will assure a passion in patrons, as well.
"If I can change the lives of the bartenders, then they can go out and change the lives of guests," he says. "We can make recipes all day but if there's not training that ensures consistency and passion, then the recipes don't mean anything."