Featured Mavryk: Anthony Schmidt
Behind San Diego's top-rated libations and most popular restaurants and bars, bartender Anthony Schmidt has carved a name for himself in cocktail innovation, hospitality and commitment to the craft. We spoke to Anthony about what decades in the restaurant and bar industries have taught him and what drives him, and what's next.
Tell us a little bit about your background and what is your role within Consortium Holdings Projects?
My background is long in the restaurant industry. I started as a Host in an incredible little spot in Palo Alto many moons ago, called Mojo. The now famous chef, Donald Link, would return to his native land ("Nawlins") to open several long-standing, award-winning restaurants. To this day, my summers at Mojo still frame my perspective on how to work in restaurants and bars, as well as how to engage guests and fellow staff. Chef taught me to be serious and treat the industry as a worthwhile profession where you could do good shit you loved and communicate it effectively to guests. Since then, I've worked every role in a restaurant several times over, landing firmly in management for nearly a decade... it wasn't until recently that I transitioned from Manager to full time bartender, in the beginning of our journey as a company (CH Projects). We agreed on simple core values as very young operators: Community, constant education for the purposes of craft and commerce, and good ole' fashioned hustle.
From there, I have bartended at or helped open all our locations and continue as the company's Liquor Overlord, commanding a fleet of outstanding misfits who lead our bar programs. (I still moonlight once a week behind one of our bars... False Idol, our tiki bar on Sunday nights.)
Throughout your career, what establishment have you been most proud of opening and why?
Trick question. It's like asking who my favorite kid is. What's your favorite type of food? So the following isn't which I am most proud of, but rather the one I reference most I suppose, since after so many years (a decade of operation) it's still a growing and viable business. Noble Experiment was the first. It's where I re-learned bartending, and unlearned the version of hospitality I thought was right. It was bartending and welcoming guests in the way we now seem to call "craft" or what may seem like fancy bartending.
At it's core, we simply sought help from a mentor (Sammy Ross, who, contrary to popular belief, doesn't suck). We learned to use ice and freshness of ingredients as tools and methods meant to perfect in process. The process became the reward. And since then the albeit small machine keep turning its gears. It's mystical in that way. It operates almost identical to Day 1 operations. We just got faster, smarter and more creative. So, yeah, it's a special one. But the same principles reign supreme in all our bars, so yeah. It's a hard choice.
From new restaurant concepts, to menu creation, to bartending, what is your favorite part of the process and why?
This is kind of easy... my favorite part is likely finding something new in an act I've done thousands of times. An example: I make A LOT of mai tais. In the last two years, I've likely made over 10,000 mai tais, at least 15-20 a shift, to put in perspective. This at a bar that features a menu of nearly 40 drinks and soon an expansion will push to 65 total menu offerings. You'd think I'm sick of making them, right? No, in fact it's the opposite.
Recently I found that if I mounded the ice in the shaker can after building but before shaking the drink, I could use the large can in my shaker set to scrape the mounded ice off the surface and have an exact measure of ice for filling the glass after shaking, saving one step of adding more ice after the production of the drink. It's a little thing. But that little thing is what I pursue every time I do something behind a bar.
And the possibility that I discover something like this is actually my favorite part. When the whole team agrees on this, and it becomes cultural to pursue excellence in process and practice, the team will be destined for greatness.
Beauty is in the grind, the minutia of repetition. So is true for creativity. This little thing is the most creative I will ever feel. The same discovery allows me time. Then, what I do with the extra time is hopefully equally as creative. And the snowball begins to grow.
What have been some of the challenges you have had to overcome to be successful in the industry?
The biggest challenge is convincing bartenders to see the future benefits of the above common goal of practice and creativity in repetition. Time is a tricky thing. After a shift many bars divvy up their tip money, and bartenders walk with their earnings that day. That lesson is burned into their psyche as well as social media and the internet's immediate "gratification" loop. But true gratification in bar programs are often realized months in the future. I can't say when hustle will yield something great for you. But I know it will eventually rear its big ole smile and pay you back two times what you gave in. But that's abstract. There's no timeline. For some it's much longer than others.
All I do know is that it will eventually come around. This is the fundamental teaching behind building a positive culture and community on both sides of the bar. It's like the whiskey we just put in the barrel... who knows when it will hit its peak maturation, but I'm sure we can agree it's out here in the future somewhere. As long as we treat it right, we will get incredible spirit for everyone's enjoyment.
What's your go-to drink at the bar and at home?
At the bar...
- Inverted Martini's on the rocks with lemon twist and food
- Full Proof Manhattan's on the rocks after food
- Mai Tai's
- Sidewinder's Fangs (add Pineapple on occasion)
- Ill NaaNaa's from Ironside
- Rome with a View ... a low abv aperitif-y thing tall and fresh
- Painkiller #3 with Heavy Pure Pot Jamaican Rum
- Fizzes of all sorts
- Sherry Cobblers
- Mojitos. I fucking love mojitos. With bitter on top too. Oooh La La
- Daiquiris shaken up. But I've begun loving split base daiquiris with funky rum and bourbon on the rocks
- Equal Parts Negroni's on the rocks with a LEMON WEDGE, not a twist for fuck's sake
- Love me an Old Pal too... 100% rye mashbills though
- Extra old supreme all real no additive rum in old fashioned format. Lemon twist please.
At home... Whatever my wife is making. Old Fashioneds.
What's next up for you as far as new projects go?
Negroni / Amari bar and charcuterie spot called J and Tony's Discount Cured Meats and Negroni Warehouse. It's gonna be dope.