If you haven't heard of Talmadge Lowe, you're either on your twelfth step (congrats BTW) or you can't see past a PBR (or VB for our fans in Australia), because Talmadge (Tal for short) is basically the Mr. Miyagi of event cocktails. He and his crew of cocktail aficianados at Pharmacie are literally changing our expectations for what an event can and should be serving.
Enjoy the interview.
Photo Cred: @MrHaack (However we scribbled on it. Sorry Ryan)
LET’S GET STARTED
Actually before we get started, what are your feelings about shots?
TAL: Shots are for one thing: getting drunk. And as Robert Hess so wisely says:
“Drinking just to get drunk is like having sex just to get pregnant.”
[Annnd, I think we just got started. The wisdom just oozes out of his pores.]
If your friends were a little tipsy, how would they describe you?
TAL: Gregarious, I'd think. Funny, I'd hope.
Was Cocktail your favorite movie growing up?
TAL: You know, I’ve never seen Cocktail. Which I now hold as a point of pride.
You're telling me this guy never saw Cocktail?
TAL: Hah! Nope
Photo Cred: The Lowe Family archives
So, what was 10 year old Tal like?
TAL: Rambunctious, mischievous, adventurous.
Photo Cred: The Lowe Family Album
When you hear the word "moonshine" what does it mean to you?
TAL: The good ol’ boys.
Stones or Beatles?
TAL: Well this interview is now over.
And if you could ask him one question, what would it be?
TAL: Whaaaaat happened buddy?
Are there any absolute no-nos when ordering a drink?
TAL: Here’s my advice: Order what you want, but trust the bartender
How about any faux pas when sitting at a bar?
TAL: Go to the bar to talk to your friends, not the bartender. She/He’s working.
How did Pharmacie come about?
TAL: I had been tinkering with cocktails and making them for friends for a while, but one night, after a few, my good friend Matthew Kaner and I hatched a plan to start hosting these roving, underground, invite-only speakeasy events. That was in 2007. I would create a menu, I would ask a dj or friend to create a soundtrack and invite 50-100 people to a private location on a Sunday night, bonding over a good cocktail.
The dress code depended on the party, like you’re going to a cocktail party at Audrey Hepburn’s house or a summer party in the Hamptons.
But like any speakeasy worth it’s salt, I’m assuming there is no evidence to reminisce in?
TAL: One of the rules was no social media.
RIIIIIGHT: Makes me wonder if you’ve actually ended them.
Hidden Photo cred: @jemerling
To hear Tal talk about these gatherings, you almost get lost in the nostalgia of it all. I’m not sure if it’s from his days behind the bar or on stage, but he has a knack for the visual narrative, a way with words that sucks you immediately into the story. As if you were actually putting on that felt fedora for a 1950’s style soiree, or transported back 70 years to an old hollywood cocktail party, sipping a crisp, extra dirty martini.
And there he is, like an old sage, navigating you through the act.
If you were a cocktail, what would you be?
TAL: The Sidecar. This was the first real cocktail I ever had. And I still love it. It’s a classic. It’s deceptive simplicity hides a deeply delicious drink.
Here’s my recipe:
Graphic Cred: Our one and only @switmer777
And the ideal way to enjoy The Sidecar?
TAL: An old record, a good friend and low lights. Just enjoy the moment. That’s what cocktails are all about.
Photo From @100LayerCake Article & Taken by @MrHaack
Do you have a cocktail pairing you absolutely love?
TAL: Not necessarily, but If I go to steakhouse: bourbon. If I am enjoying oysters: gin martini of course.
Do you feel pressure to stay on top?
TAL: I do feel an internal pressure, yes. But not to compete. I admire and appreciate what other companies are doing. But I have to live up to my standards every day, pushing myself and my team constantly. There’s a line from a song “The champ always fights themselves.” That’s my stance.
What’s your favorite aspect of your job?
TAL: Being creative.
Woody Allen once said that his favorite part of filmmaking was dreaming up a new story. Dreaming up new things for Pharmacie, that’s my favorite. Whether it’s designing new cocktails/recipes/menus or brainstorming new event structures, the process of coming up with something new is the “fun” of being a business owner.
Photo from @designlovefest workshop @thefighouse
What are you dreaming up right now?
TAL: The first two things that come to mind are our proprietary mixers (retail line) and a book.
I’d love to do a cocktail party book (Kinfolk meets Slim Aarons). I’d showcase the celebrations and the cocktails that are apart of them (with exquisite photography of the celebrations).
If you weren’t running Pharmacie, what would you be doing?
TAL: A civil rights lawyer or a band manager.
Soooo, either way, still closely connected to the booze
At this point in your career do you still feel challenged?
TAL: Every day.
And what do you do when you’re stressed?
TAL: Close my computer, sit outside, have a drink and talk - really talk to someone I love.
Photo cred: @Pharmacie_LA with @enjoyeventsco
And In your professional life are you insecure about anything?
TAL: I do have insecurities, but if I feel insecure about something, I really try and find a way to understand it. I am a HUGE fan of therapy. You have to learn how to use your emotional patterns or they will use you.
Where do you find Inspiration for your different recipes:
TAL: Everywhere: Music, literature, chefs and the way they put food together.
Can you share an example:
TAL: I’ll give you a Literary one. I wanted to create a drink that had a connection to The Great Gatsby, because it's one of my favorite stories and time periods.
So here’s the recipe:
Needs to be representative of the era: Gin (b/c those were the days of gin)
Part romance, yet melancholy: Blueberries come to mind
Part wisdom (to represent the lessons of life and times): Sage
Yet as bright & crisp as Fitzgerald's Prose: Meyer Lemon
The result is a kind of vibrant pink a valentine's-esque color.
As featured on @100layercakelet
Best bar in Los Angeles (why)?
TAL: My favorite is Varnish on Tuesday at 7pm. It's quiet and cool and the expertise behind the bar is unmatched. But my favorite neighborhood spot is Sonny's Hideaway. Unpretentious, friendly and secretly making some of the best cocktails in LA.
You heard it here folks.
Interestingly, I went into the interview excited to learn about this concept of craft cocktails (whatever that means) from one of the best event bartenders in the business and came out with an appreciation for how Tal uses the cocktail to enhance a gathering. For Tal, it's not not just about mixology, or food pairing or great service, it's about creating a way to enhance the moment, the mood, the season, the discussion.
So. Now only if the good folks at the James @beardfoundation had a category to fit this Cocktail Afficianado.
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