Food & Drink

Show Us Your Home Bar: Pouring Ribbons’ Joaquín Simó

Matthew Kelly/Supercall

Nosing through Joaquín Simó’s home bar is like paging through a scrapbook of the respected barman’s decade-plus career. Before joining Alchemy Consulting and opening Pouring Ribbons—where he earned the title of Tales of the Cocktail’s 2012 American Bartender of the Year—Simó spent five and a half years at acclaimed New York speakeasy Death & Company. Over his years behind the stick, Simó has amassed an impressive collection of barware, bottles and knickknacks. “A lot of [my collection] is stuff that has sentimental value,” he says. “I think back to the people who gave me the bottles, to where I was when I picked that bottle up, and the people who made it. That always brings up very special memories.”

Though he’s known for churning out brilliant cocktail menu after brilliant cocktail menu and for his obsession with vintage Chartreuse, the bartender admits his home drinking habits are fairly relaxed. Most of his personal inventory is “just sipping spirits and stuff that’s going to go [directly] in a glass.”

That includes everything from amari to rare whiskies, like a bottle of Wild Turkey from the 1960s, to a bottle of Tobola de Lulá mezcal gifted to him by John Lermayer after Simó gave a talk on hospitality to Lermayer’s staff at Sweet Liberty in Miami. Recently, Simó welcomed Supercall into his home to give us a tour his bar his most prized bottles and his favorite bar knickknacks.

Matthew Kelly/Supercall

On the custom-made shelving...
“I had this piece custom made by Fitzhugh Karol, a sculptor and woodworker. I wanted these to be floating shelves with panels that slide. I was thinking of all the materials that you would associate with a library or study for a gentleman’s club or something—the wood and the leather—so we incorporated them into the shelves in a way that didn’t feel stuffy. It’s nice when you want to find something. You don’t have to look at a million bitters bottles if you don’t want to, but they’re there if you need them.”

On when he started collecting…
“When I was first bartending I was living in Boston and had a bunch of roommates. And having a bunch of roommates means it’s really hard to collect because they drink everything that’s not nailed down. So I didn’t start collecting stuff in earnest until I moved to New York—the last 12 years or so.”

On all that Chartreuse…
“I have certainly gone down that rabbit hole. But most of the vintage Chartreuses are at [Pouring Ribbons]. I only have one or two bottles here that were gifts given to me, so I decided to hang on to those and maybe have a little something to pour for the [home] bar.”

Matthew Kelly/Supercall

On the one bottle guests aren’t allowed to drink…
“The only thing that I don’t allow people to drink is this really beautiful bottle of Pierre Ferrand Cognac. The reason I don’t allow people to drink it is because it was a gift give to [me and my wife] by Alexandre Gabriel [of Maison Ferrand] inscribed for our wedding ‘Bottle No. 1/1’—which I think is very optimistic as a wedding gift—and with both of our names. This is one of those things that we’ve only really given to close friends and family, and it’s the only thing I’m precious about on the bar.”

On his glass flask…
“It was for the fourth anniversary of Death & Co. It just goes to show you the kind of care and attention to detail that Dave Kaplan would put into the holiday gifts for the staff. This is an incredibly delicate glass flask—thoroughly impractical, but gorgeous. I keep it tucked away where I can’t harm it in any way, shape or form. [It’s a nice reminder of] five and a half years of service.”

Matthew Kelly/Supercall

On the bar with hydraulics…
“We got this around the corner at Horseman Antiques on Atlantic Avenue. It is either late ‘70s or early ‘80s design by an Italian company. The coolest thing—and this doesn’t work right now, the hydraulics have failed—but there’s a remote control [that automatically opens and closes the bar]. It was definitely the jaw-dropper moment [when I invited] bartender friends over and they were like, ‘What! No—I hate you.’ My wife would use it frequently to close it. The whole thing actually works well as a bar. It’s not just a show pony.”

On keeping the bar closed…
“[Closed] is the way my wife likes it. It’s why we got this piece. For me, there’s nothing more beautiful than looking at a bottle of amaro—there’s like seven fonts on a Campari label, right? But my wife is not so amused. For her, it’s better to keep all this stuff hidden. I do [open it up when I’m home alone].”

On drinking at home…
“I drink a lot of wine at home. For the most part, I make classics. I probably make more Old Fashioneds, Negronis, Milano Torinos. I love aperitivos. Mostly when I’m drinking is when I’m having an aperitivo while I’m cooking. It’s just nice and easy and something to sip on. It’s nice to have a little vermouth or something before the meal because that means I can still have wine with the meal. My wife doesn’t want me hammered mid-course, so probably best not to start with the full strength stuff right away. It’s a very civilized way of drinking and a good way to start burning through your fortified wines.”

Matthew Kelly/Supercall

On the bottle of Parker’s Heritage…
“This is one of the last original bottlings of the Parker’s Heritage from the first line they were doing. Parker Beam was probably one of the greatest distillers ever in American whiskey. This was given to me as a gift when I left Death & Co. It’s my favorite bourbon ever.”

On his autographed Russell’s Reserve…
“This Russell’s Reserve single barrel that’s signed by both Eddie and Jimmy Russell was given to me when I was in Kentucky hitting up nine distilleries in 52 hours with a group of fellow bartenders. It wasn’t a brand trip. We flew ourselves down and put ourselves up. That was a very, very excessive couple days. Standing in a rickhouse with Jimmy Russell at about 9:30 or 10 in the morning as he’s thieving tastes out of barrels of stuff that’s destined to be Russell’s Reserve and drinking it with him—those are memories that you’re gonna take with you forever.”

On editing his collection…
“There’s only so much stuff—and my wife will laugh if I say this—that we can keep at home, so you do have to start editing a bit. If you want to get something then something else has to come out. I’ve been able to move some of the shakers and stuff to the bar and keep it displayed there, but there’s definitely a [one in one out policy]. The more stuff you have the less easy it is to appreciate what you have.”

Matthew Kelly/Supercall

On his Gazzer Award…
“Gary Regan was giving those out to bartenders who he really, really liked. I consider Gary a great teacher and a mentor—I don’t finger stir much, but I still adore him. I was incredibly proud to receive that in 2012. It might even be my proudest achievement—even over winning American Bartender [at Tales of the Cocktail] that year. It had real special meaning—it’s Gary. And if Gary loves you, you’re probably doing something right.”

On his rare Irish whiskey…
“The rarest bottle back here is that Knappogue 1951 bottling. It was aged for 36 years in oloroso sherry casks and there are just a few hundred of these bottles in the world. The craziest thing about it is that it doesn’t taste like Irish whiskey to me. It smells like a Jamaican rum—the fruitiness of it. [Editor’s note: It really does smell like aged rum.] So after three and a half decades spent in sherry casks, this is somehow unlike any other thing in its category that I’ve ever tasted. For me, this is a really fascinating bottle.”

On that special bottle of Angostura bitters…
“That was a commemorative bottling of Angostura for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. That was a gift—I don’t think I’ll ever use that bottle of Angostura. But I just keep it in a proud place.”

Matthew Kelly/Supercall