Fresh off of a five year military tour, 23-year-old John-Mark Roufs sauntered into the Cowboy in response to a help-wanted sign on the door. He was hoping to bar back, but the manager took one look at him (John-Mark is a big individual, and “there wasn’t much to do in the Persian Gulf besides lift weights”) and hired him to work the door. He put in his time breaking up fights and kicking out roughnecks before convincing the manager to let him behind the bar, where he stayed for 10 years and gained respect for more than just his intimidating stature. These days you can find John-Mark at Hayden’s Post and his influence on half the cocktail menus around town. Plus, he loves whipped cream vodka… turns out you can’t always judge a book by its cover.
John-Mark’s Quick Six
Years Behind the Bar: 38 (if you count filching the family whiskey)
Spirit Animal: gin
Quitting Time Cocktail: a shot of triple sec
Power Couple: Oscar Ortega’s Mexican chocolate and a glass of Burgundy
Unexpected Ingredient: Pinnacle whipped cream vodka
Mixologist Mantra: preparation and anticipation
Whipped cream vodka? Oh my… please do elaborate.
Yeah… I’m kind of embarrassed to tell people that it is my secret ingredient. I love to use less than a quarter of a teaspoon in the right drinks, so it doesn’t even really register on your palate. We ended up with a bottle of it one time, but I don’t know how, because it’s not something I would ever order… so, I had to figure out what to do with it. I started to put it in things you might imagine whipped cream would go nicely with… anything with berry in it, anything a bit sweet.
Got any other guilty pleasures?
Vermouth is beautiful. Vermouth that’s coming out now tastes so different than it used to ten years ago. Also, our house-made grenadine that I whip up with my full blown kitchen support Annete Robertson. It’s a crucial ingredient in the Dry Annie Jo.
What inspires you?
My dad Tim. He has been a professor at University of Minnesota Duluth for 50 years, and about 15 years ago he started to travel and thought to himself, what represents a culture more than the food and drinks? The preparation, the stories, the way people enjoy it with their families, how they serve guests in their home, all of it. So he invented a class called The Anthropology of Food and it’s been the top class at his University for 15 years. Food and drink… that’s culture.
So food and drink always go hand in hand in your family?
I come from an Irish Catholic family, so there are always cocktails… but actually, I don’t like drinking on a full stomach. I take care of the cocktailing beforehand.The social aspect of drinking is so important and it sometimes gets lost. We spend up to an hour sitting and talking before eating.
How do you train newbie bartenders?
I tell them to go home and study, to watch YouTube videos. I can always tell the ones who actually do that. I train a lot of kids who, before I got ahold of them, really only knew how to tap a keg if it was out in the middle of a field.