Lambs Club head bartender Garry Severin has curated the beverage programs for some of New York’s biggest names, including Tom Colicchio’s Craftbar, Marcus Samuelsson’s Merkato 55, and Robert De Niro’s Drawing Room at the Greenwich Hotel. The demand is understandable: Severin has more than 30 years of experience behind the bar, from his first shift at Buddha Bar to his time at Flute, a Champagne bar that prompted him to obtain his sommelier certification. His work for top industry talent continues today at Geoffrey Zakarian’s The Lambs Club, where a “see and be seen” crowd congregates on the daily in the heart of Times Square for gussied up eats and drinks. Here, the Martinique native sheds light on the performance of bartending, the negroni twist he’s all about, and the behind the bar practice he could do without.
BoozeMenus: What's the last incredible food or drink experience you've had?
Garry Severin: It was at Eleven Madison. The atmosphere was electric. The food was amazing, and the cocktails were made to perfection. What really made my experience incredible was the staff’s subtlety and their attention to detail.
BM: How would you describe your approach behind the bar?
GS: It could be compared to a performer climbing the steps to their stage. I don’t sing or dance, but I do tell a joke or two, even though I am not a comedian. It’s a performance. You are the front line of defense or offense for the establishment that you work for. A great attitude and welcoming vibes is what I offer — along with great cocktails.
BM: What’s an ingredient, tool, or technique that you’ve been loving lately?
GS: Lately I have been working a lot with Italian Amari. I find that their herbal properties and flavor complexities are wonderful tools in creating amazing cocktails.
BM: Who would you love to grab drinks with right now, and where would you go?
GS: Right now, I would love to sit down with my dad and have a Negroni for “Negroni Week” — but one made with Punt e Mes and Ramazzotti.
BM: What's your signature cocktail?
GS: My signature cocktail is named after one of the greatest mixologists of our time: Sasha Petraske. The cocktail is called Sasha’s Tale. The ingredients used are formidable, and the combination is out of this world. Come to the Lambs Club for a confirmation.
BM: What music do you like bartending to, and what music do you like drinking to?
GS: I like to bartend to jazz, classical music, classic rock and just plain and simple lounge music. There are many genres of music I like drinking to, but I think I prefer the Blues.
BM: Where are you traveling this summer, and what are you most looking forward to?
GS: This summer I am traveling to Martinique and to the Outerbanks of North Carolina. I am looking forward to the Rum tastings and Tiki cocktails of Martinique, and to the relaxing moonshine cocktails of the Carolinas.
BM: What's surprised you most about this industry, so far?
GS: What surprises me more and more about the industry is the level of sophistication that our clientele has developed recently. It keeps you on your toes and makes you want to provide more.
BM: What hospitality practice would you love to see disappear immediately?
GS: The hospitality trend that I would love to see abolished is the demand for your identification when you present someone with your credit card for payment. It can be naïve of me, but I expect people to do the right thing in the establishments where I frequent or work.
BM: What’s on tap post-shift?
GS: Oftentimes after work my coworkers and I will end up at a nearby place for a cocktail or a beer. Most often we drink a beer or a Tito”s Martini — dry with olives.
By Nicole Schnitzler
(Photos from left: Cocktail courtesy of Kaitlin Esrich; Interior; Garry Severin courtesy of Kaitlin Esrich)