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Jonathan Pogash - Imbibe Magazine

An Interview With Jonathan Pogash

In 2001, Jonathan Pogash moved to New York City to pursue a career as an actor. His father, who worked in the wine and spirits business, encouraged him to get a side job working in a bar. Taking that advice, Pogash’s started as a barback at The Russian Tea Room, quickly working his way up the ranks. He bartended at a variety of bars and restaurants, where he gained the skills and confidence to get more creative with his cocktail recipes, and in 2005, he founded the The Cocktail Guru, a full-service beverage consulting firm, where he created recipes for spirits companies, batching cocktails for events and hosting trainings for catering staff, all while bartending full-time. What began as a side gig transformed into a full-time job, and now Pogash runs his business out of an office in New York, with clients such as The Perfect Puree of Napa Valley. Pogash recently chatted with Joshua Harris of The Bon Vivants (and Pig & Punch) about working with Perfect Puree and his favorite ways to unwind after being on the road.

How did your relationship with Perfect Puree begin?In the early 2000s, bartenders were just starting to get introduced to the same types of ingredients that chefs were using. We would borrow ingredients and play around with them, and that was how I first got acquainted.

We’ve used Perfect Puree at Trick Dog before, and we also pride ourselves on making specialty ingredients. Can you talk more about the role that Perfect Puree products can play in cocktails?Perfect Puree allows bartenders to use some of the flavors that might be a little bit more esoteric or difficult to create. And if you want to have something year-round, then the purées are perfect (no pun intended). There are also blends, and it’s great to be able to experiment. If you have a large party, you can make pitcher drinks and punches, large-volume drinks, and ice cubes—it’s very versatile and acts as the middleman between the cocktail and you.

In positions like ours, we’re often offered opportunities to travel. Whether for work or professional reasons, what’s your not-to-be-missed travel destination?I’ve been to Greece a couple of times, and there really is nothing like the Greek Islands. It’s pretty magical there. Santorini is beautiful and has that wow factor. It’s absolutely gorgeous—it’s almost too perfect. Then there’s Paros, which I got a chance to visit on my second trip. There’s this other little island right next to Paros called Antiparos, which is really cool. It’s pretty rural compared to the other islands, which I love.

One thing that’s often intertwined with great travel is great food. With all the traveling you’ve had the opportunity to do, what’s been your favorite fine-dining experience?I’ve had a couple of amazing fine-dining experiences, and one of them was in Paris. It was on the Ile Saint-Louise, and it was a small, dimly lit restaurant right on a little side street. I just remember the entire experience of it was kind of magical.

On the flip side, what’s your favorite street-food spot?When I was in Italy many years ago, the pizza in Rome was amazing, and that’s something I’ll never forget. Rome had, by far, the best pizza we ate in Italy. There was a hole-in-the-wall place that was across the street from our hotel that we just kept on going back to. The food was just delicious and the ingredients were outstanding.

The line between work and play for us can get kind of blurry. When you are truly able to detach from your work, what do you do for fun or relaxation?You know, I travel 50 to 60 percent of the time, and my wife stays at home with the kids. God bless her soul—what she does is amazing. When I’m away, when I’m traveling, I just crave their faces. So I enjoy going to the zoo with the kids or going to the movies with my wife on a date night.

Before we wrap up, I have some rapid-fire questions for you…

Dogs or cats?Dogs.

Coffee or tea?Coffee.

Beach or mountains?Beach.

Forks, chopsticks or fingers?Forks.

Movies, TV or books?Movies.

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