This morning we awoke to the sad news that Gary Regan, one of the titans of the cocktail world, died on Friday. The news was posted to Facebook by his wife, Amy Gallagher, who wrote that he passed after a bout of pneumonia. He was 68.
A British-born bartender and the child of pub owners, Regan emigrated to the United States in the early 1970s. He started tending bar in New York City in 1973, and collected the information, insight, and experience that he would later channel into his writing. His book The Bartender’s Bible was first published in 1991, and we went on to co-author (with his then-wife, Mardee Haidin Regan) works including The Book of Bourbon, New Classic Cocktails, and The Martini Companion, while also writing about cocktails for publications including Playboy, Wine Enthusiast, and Food & Wine.
In 2003, Regan published The Joy of Mixology, a book that functioned as both a textbook and a call to arms for the nascent cocktail renaissance. Between the book’s popularity, his regular column in the San Francisco Chronicle, and his Cocktails in the Country series of bartender educational sessions, Regan became one of the most visible and beloved voices in the cocktail world.
“Rock star” is an overused analogy when speaking of big personalities, but in Regan’s case, it was apt. An acclaimed writer and speaker who never lost sight of his working-class upbringing and frequently shared his often profane sense of humor, Regan was a bartender’s hero. At events such as Tales of the Cocktail, Regan would be greeted by an incessant series of total strangers with the hugs and handshakes given to an old friend.
And the love that bartenders gave Regan, he gave right back to them, trumpeting the work of up-and-coming bartenders as well as familiar industry names in his books, columns, and online newsletter. Even after battling cancer and rebranding himself as “Gaz,” Regan seemed tireless, traveling to events and saturating social media and the bar community with everything from his love of meditation and his philosophy of Mindful Bartending, to his cheeky signature drink, a finger-stirred Negroni (a cocktail about which he also wrote two books).
Above all, Regan was a mensch. He was a kind and funny man, generous with his time and attention, and remarkably humble. Without Regan’s influence, the contemporary cocktail world as we know it would look very different. His love and support for his fellow bartenders and writers was limitless. We miss him already.