Growing up in St Louis, Blake Thompson always had a goal in mind: beat his little brother in every sport they played. His brother’s innate natural talent proved to be Blake’s biggest motivator, and his hard work eventually paid off big time with a college golf scholarship.
These days, Blake’s home and occupation have changed, but his fierce work ethic is evident in everything he does. Although he’s only technically been behind the bar at the Four Seasons’ Ascent Lounge for 3 years (following 15 years as a server), he’s studying to be a whiskey sommelier and comes in to work early to hand cut crystal ice cubes. Hear how Blake’s hardworking mentality lends itself to the art of mixology, world-class sushi and menu mapping.
Blake’s Quick Six
Years Behind the Bar: 3
Hometown Haunt: The Birdhouse in St Louis
Power Couple: mezcal and smoked sweet vermouth
Unexpected Ingredient: strawberry mint ice cubes
Best Bars Abroad: Lanai, Hawaii
Mixologist Mantra: go the extra mile
Tell us about the Birdhouse!
The Birdhouse is my dad’s bar! It’s across from Busch Stadium, so they do big business on game days. It’s a dive bar, a place where you pop beers and Jack and Cokes. It’s always been a place that is just open in the summer for games, but I’m trying to help him expand and keep it open in the winter. I want to do mixology classes and make drinks that people don’t expect.
What inspired your recent switch from serving to bartending?
Working at the Four Seasons on Lanai, Hawaii opened my eyes in so many ways and made me want to be a bartender. We were opening the Nobu there, and they did things with liquors I had never heard of. Also, I had never eaten raw fish in my life before I went to Lanai. I first tried the yellowtail with jalapeno, and as soon as I tasted it I was like, “Wow, this is what I want to put on the table!” I learned about menu mapping, which is where you start spicy to wake up the palate, then you go oily to coat the mouth, then you do a texture change and finish savory. When I switched to the Four Seasons Jackson Hole, I asked to start bartending, and they said yes because they knew I was the type of person who would work hard at it.
Describe your style behind the bar.
Everybody who sits at my bar gets a show. I get a kick out of it, which is why I strive to get better. I want to learn something new every day, and I want to try something new every day. I’ve always loved to cook and put things together, but I also have a passion for people, making them happy and hearing their stories. Bartending is the best of both worlds from cooking and serving.
How do you use that work ethic to make your cocktails stand out?
Instead of flavored vodkas or tequilas, I like to do everything naturally infused. I make things like mint simple syrup, which saves time muddling or picking mint. I can get the simple syrup out of the way to add the mint flavor. I make fruit ice cubes… people love it and they can do it at home. I always let the fruit sit in the water for 30 minutes or so, so it picks up a little flavor before I freeze it, so the drink gets more flavorful as it sits there. I don’t mind coming in early to work on this stuff, it’s relaxing to me. It’s like meditation.