September 11th, 2006
If you want proof that tending bar isn’t an entirely lost profession — that it isn’t just a temporary gig for any aspiring musician or lawyer who can combine vodka and tonic and say they know how to mix drinks — go to the bar at No. 9 Park and watch the John Gertsen Show. You will see a boyishly handsome, kind-eyed man nimbly corral a barful of demanding Beacon Hill types while mixing drinks with the same level of care that a great chef takes in preparing dishes.
Almost every bartender that drinkboston.com has profiled has spoken admiringly of Gertsen’s expertise. “He makes me look stupid,” said one colleague, himself no slouch behind the bar. A scholar of late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century cocktails, Gertsen says his favorite drink to mix is a Ramos Fizz, a concoction of gin, lemon, egg white, and cream that, properly made, takes 15 minutes of shaking and chilling, shaking and chilling. To make sure he’s gotten a cocktail just right, he’ll draw a small sample into a straw and have a taste before he places the drink on your bar napkin.
Before he became a bartender, Gertsen trained to be a biochemist. He much prefers his lab behind the bar to a real one without any booze or hustle and bustle. He relishes both experimentation and tradition: he’ll dispense almond-flavored foam atop a newly invented cocktail while top-shelf bourbon sits on ice in a silver-plated cup long enough to yield the perfect Mint Julep. The only complaint you can make about Gertsen is that he hasn’t opened his own bar yet. [Note: Gertsen opened Drink in the fall of 2008.]
I grew up in Hanover, MA.
Past bartending jobs
I first started tending bar at Salamander Restaurant in Cambridge.
First drink you ever had
My first drink was a sip of scotch on the rocks that I stole from my grandfather while we were watching The Price is Right. An absolutely horrifying experience for a seven-year-old at 11 a.m.
Favorite bar in Boston other than your own
The drink you most like to make
The drink you least like to make
The last one of the night.
What you drink at the end of your shift
As much water as possible and a Brooklyn Lager.
If I weren’t a bartender, I’d be…
A bartender’s best friend is…
A bartender’s worst enemy is…
Broken glass in your ice bin.
People drink too much…
People don’t drink enough…
Drink for a hot summer day
Drink for a cold winter night
Tom and Jerry.
The best thing about drinking in Boston
Spending the $30 that you would have spent on the Fung Wah [bus to NYC] on a meal to go along with your great cocktail here in Boston.
The worst thing about drinking in Boston
The silly tradition of “last call.” I feel that last call encourages overindulgence and irresponsible drinking.