Tenzin Conechok Samdo on Taking That Perfect Instagram Photo -- And of Course, Garnishes

Tenzin Conechok Samdo
Tenzin Dorjee

We like a good garnish, but Samdo loves a good garnish. Flowers, boba pearls, a flavored ice cube shaped like the Millennium Falcon -- seriously, there’s no topper he won’t consider. Samdo might also be the friendliest bartender in town, so when he left Trade earlier this summer to take over the bar program at Tavern Road, we skipped down the street right after him. If you want to whet your thirst now, go to Samdo’s IG account (@bostonmixdrink) -- he’s also a master ‘grammer.

What currently excites you most about the Boston cocktail scene?

Tenzin Conechok Samdo: The whole industry is coming together as one tight-knit hospitality community. I think it is great and pretty amazing. I have noticed everyone is very supportive of each other's program. I'm very blessed to have many frequent visits from fellow bartender friends and hospitality personalities from all over this city, including some of my favorite chefs from our city.

What was your vision for the Tavern Road bar program when you took over this summer?

Samdo: My vision was pretty simple from day one -- first and foremost, that I wanted to continue my dear friend, the late Ryan Mcgrale's legacy going forward. Chef Louie DiBiccari has been kicking butt from the kitchen side since the first day here -- everyone loved the food. But now I want to put Tavern Road on the list of the world's premier cocktail bar destinations from every perspective, with a hospitality-first ideology.

What's your favorite drink on the menu right now?

Samdo: I'd say No Name Fashioned right now -- it's fall and sweater season! This spirit-forward drink is perfect for this time of the year; it's a savory and tart Old Fashioned involving allspice, Sichuan peppercorns, cherry juice, and Angostura bitter.

You're a master of the creative garnish -- what outlandish topper would you like to experiment with next? 

Samdo: Oh wow, that's a tough question! As of now I've pretty much experimented with anything I can think of, but one element I try to keep in mind is to not overdo it. Keep it elegant and fun. Use seasonal herbs and leaves. Oh, yeah, a cute little puppy counts! Just kidding -- just a plastic little puppy toy, or a kitten. I love a good garnish -- it makes my guests so happy. You should see the faces they make when I slide them their elaborately garnished drinks. I love my job.

You're also an Instagram star -- what advice do you have for us amateurs trying to photograph our cocktails?

Samdo: One very important and very honest piece of advice is to take the time to take very good photos. Take them between 2 and 4:30pm in the afternoon when light is perfect. Do not rush to post it right away. Edit them, check the perspective, fix it to the proper format. Bring up the resolution of the picture. When you decide to post, make sure to write something meaningful or be informative. Most importantly, keep it positive on whatever you are trying to post about. Trust me, people will want to follow you.

What will you be drinking on December 31st?

Samdo: Champagne for sure. It doesn't have to be an expensive one. Any decent one, because I'm celebrating. This year has already been amazing. You doing this interview with me right now, that means a lot. Thank you.

What are you most looking forward to in 2017 in regard to the Boston bar scene?

Samdo: One thing I preach every day with my team is to make sure to treat our guests the way you want to be treated when you are out. I’d rather hear people appreciating the hospitality service we gave to them than how good our drinks taste or how pretty they look. With that said, I’d like the bars in our city to take hospitality very seriously, because I like to see tourists coming back every year to celebrate the life here.

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Meaghan Agnew's home bartending game is weak, which is why her bar-hopping game is so strong. Track her drinking tra(va)ils on Twitter and Instagram at @meaghandeth.