We’re kicking off the New Year with our second bartender Q&A, thanks to Jaren Singh. Jaren is a bartender at Stonehill Tavern at the St. Regis Monarch Beach in Dana Point, Calif. His creation, Blood and HARLEM®, won the Judge’s Choice Award at our Orange County Shot Competition in September and led him to compete at the Make Your Best Shot competition in Las Vegas.
Why did you become a bartender?
I started bartending in college, to fund my education – I have a degree in English literature.
How has your bartending career progressed since then?
I have been bartending for about 10 years now and the last five have been spent working for two spectacular companies: Michael Mina and The St. Regis. The upside of working for a Michelin Star chef and a Five-Star, Five-Diamond resort is that both brands encourage excellence and creativity, which makes it a nice situation to thrive in.
How is the bar scene in your city different from anywhere else?
In Southern California, most everything you need can be sourced locally within a 250-mile radius. It makes it a nice place to use fresh, sustainable and seasonal produce and heavy syrups and synthetic substances are not necessary.
What are your thoughts on shot cocktails as an emerging spirits industry trend?
I wouldn’t say that shot cocktails are an emerging trend, I would say they are ever-present. The shot itself is a thing of tradition and enjoyment and the shot cocktail has evolved from this celebration. Now, instead of shooting something traditional, we have taken the process a step further and have chosen to shoot something of higher quality.
What are the most innovative ingredients you’ve used in a cocktail?
I will experiment with anything that grows and can be eaten. Most all-natural ingredients can complement a spirit in one way or another. Lately, I have been using different types of tree fruit and teas, which complement the winter weather.
Where do you get inspiration for your cocktails?
I tend to draw inspiration from great chefs. A lot of what I see on a plate can translate well into a glass and when I am eating, I think of what spirits would complement the dish at hand. I also draw inspiration from different cocktail lists and mixologists. Nothing in this business is created in a vacuum – so much of what we finish was already conceptualized by someone prior.
What new drink trends do you see on the horizon?
I think non-traditional sweeteners are going to be big, including organic agave nectar, different types of honey and condensed, pureed fruits. I think most people don’t mind paying an extra dollar if they know what they are putting in their body is better for them than cheap sweeteners. As far as spirits are concerned, gin seems to be on the rise.
Have you ever made a drink for a celebrity?
Of course – The St. Regis is a home away from home for plenty of celebrities.
What do you like most about HARLEM?
Simply, its taste. Its herbaceousness allows for mixability and the liquor on its own is delightful.
What is your signature HARLEM shot cocktail?
Mix the ingredients in a shaker and pour into a shot glass. Garnish with a blood orange wheel.
Do you know a bartender who loves HARLEM and should be in our next Q&A spotlight? Let us know in the comments!