Best Bartender - 2011
The craft-cocktail renaissance sweeping Orange County these days can be attributed to a small handful of people, one of whom is 320 Main's owner, Jason Schiffer. An old-school bartender with an eye for detail, he sets twists of citrus carefully on top of ice so the scent is there when the glass is tilted for a sip, without the twist disappearing into the drink. He spanks his herbs, placing them in his hand and clapping to release the essential oils. Schiffer is a tweaker of recipes, an inventor of drinks and a passionate customizer of alcohols. His Negroni's Loss is a sweeter, less-acrid take on the famous Italian drink; rather than gin and Campari being paired with sweet vermouth and a lemon twist, he uses Bols Genever for its funky maltiness and Gran Classico for a little extra fruitiness. (It's the little things.) Schiffer is also a mentor, hosting a group of professionals who research drinks and discuss the finer points of the craft, based on the noble idea that shared knowledge advances everyone's career, as well as helping to train bartenders. A passionate, skilled hand who wants to elevate Orange County's level of cocktail sophistication past the fruity freshman martinis? Yes, please!