French 75 at Agustin Brasserie

November 23, 2012 |

Can you imagine a swim instructor who’s afraid of water or a Zen Buddhism teacher who lives by a hectic nine-to-five schedule? What about a bartender who doesn’t drink? Well, let me introduce you to Brian Halbach, one of four bartenders at Agustín Brasserie—and he’s a teetotaler.

“Well, I’ve gotten drunk a few times in my life,” Brian concedes. “Who hasn’t? It’s your twenty-first birthday and everyone’s buying you drinks—you’ve got to indulge those people.” For the most part, though, Brian abstains.

“It was difficult starting out [at Agustín],” he concedes, for that reason among others. “The restaurant took a gamble on me, because I had no experience in the food industry, let alone as a bartender.” But today, “I make a mean Bloody Mary,” Brian says, grinning. The hardest part of bartending for Brian is the wine-tasting involved in the job. The drinking is worth it, though, because he has been able to develop an experienced palate. To match the cooler weather descending on Tucson, “the food at Agustín has gotten richer, with bolder wines to go with the new menu,” Brian explains. “The wines are matched to the food and the seasons, and I need to be able to offer well-informed recommendations” to Agustín’s patrons. However, while Brian has learned to appreciate wine, his passion lies in the art of cocktails.

“I appreciate the dynamic of a well-mixed drink,” he explains. “It’s fascinating how over- or under-pouring any element of a cocktail can completely skew the end result.” For the approaching autumn and winter seasons he recommends the Diablo Margarita—“spicy; it almost makes you sweat a little!”—or the Steel Manhattan, which is “deeper and darker” than summerier drinks like the French 75, Brian’s favorite drink to pour.

Along with the science of pouring the perfect drink, Brian appreciates the face-to-face aspect of bartending. In serving, he explains, the goal is to melt into the background. “Servers are hidden, but the bartender’s job—you’re almost an entertainer. I get to dress up, you know, ‘wow’ people everyday: ‘Hey, I have a bowtie!’ and let me make you a delicious drink!”

The drink Brian is most proud of is his Bloody Mary—like any mixer at Agustín, the Bloody Mary mix is made in-house, but in this case only Brian knows the recipe. Accordingly, he’s not about to share that recipe with anyone. He does, however, indulge me by sharing his recipe for the French 75, a deliciously crisp and refreshing beverage that Brian describes as “simple and light, but with a complexity to it, too. I’d describe it as a ‘Frenchified adult lemonade.” Perfect for the last lingering days of warmth!

 French 75:

1.5 oz Bombay Sapphire gin

½ a lemon, freshly-squeezed

A hint of simple syrup

½ an oz. sour mix (house-made at Agustín)

Shake and top with cava (Spanish sparkling wine).

Category: FOOD & DRINK