We Ask Chefs: What's the First Drink You Learned to Make?

What Chefs Drink

Hey Chef, what's in your glass?


Hung Huynh of CATCH in New York

There's always a first time for everything. Most chefs will happily give you full details of the first meal they ever made, but we were curious about their inaugural drinks. What drinks did they first learn to make for themselves? Some chefs recalled beverages as innocent as peanut butter milkshakes, while others started out simple (with vodka slugged straight from the bottle.)

We asked chefs from across country about which drinks they first learned to mix themselves. Here's what they had to say...

"A White Russian. I was in culinary school and 'borrowed' some half & half and Kahlua. I really love the flavor of coffee, so I enjoyed learning how to make this drink." —Hung Huynh (The General, CATCH)

"A Long Island Iced Tea. My first bartending gig was in the Statler Hotel's lobby bar when I was 18. I remember thinking how easy the recipe was—a little of everything in the well, with a splash of Coke." —Braden Wages (Malai Kitchen)

"Chocolate milk. You were never a kid if you didn't make chocolate milk. Hershey's syrup mixed with milk. Best invention ever." —Peter Coenen (The Gage)


Harold Dieterle of The Marrow in NY [Photo: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

"A rum and Coke, a drink I first started making over 10 years ago. I used to mix Captain Morgan's with Coke and a twist of lime—it was the perfect drink for a long night ahead—the sugar and caffeine would keep me up all night." —Harold Dieterle (Perilla, Kin Shop, The Marrow)

"My grandparents had a house on Lake Michigan, and every summer I would go up. One year they taught me how to make an Old Fashioned. That was their drink of choice, and by the end of the summer I was like their personal bartender." —Vinny Dotolo (Animal)

"Sangria at my family's Spanish restaurant when I was 13 or 14 years old."—Kevin Nashan (Sidney Street Cafe)

"Pretty sure the first drink I made does not have a name, but it was whatever terrible booze I found in my parents' liquor cabinet. I mean a splash of this and a splash of that, topped with some sort of soda—gross!" —Ben Bettinger (Imperial)


Adam Leonti of Vetri in Philadelphia

"The first drink I learned how to make was a peanut butter milkshake." —Adam Leonti (Vetri Ristorante)

"Bourbon old fashioned...at family get togethers, depending on whether we were at my grandmother's, my aunt and uncle's, or my folks' house, you would always see a different way to make one. I definitely come from a bourbon centric family. I always liked how adamant they would get about whose was better." —Sean Temple (Paulee)

"Negroni (so Italian)!" —Giuseppe Tentori (GT Fish & Oyster)

"Orange Julius was the first beverage I ever concocted on my own. I was probably eight years old." —Chris Pandel (The Bristol, Balena)


Richard Gras of Oak in Dallas

"The first drink I learned to make was a Caesar. It's a Bloody Mary with Clamato juice. My Canadian friend showed me how to make them, and I loved them." —Richard Gras (Oak)

"Watermelon slushy." —Eddy Thretipthuangsin (PakPao Thai)

"Vodka from the bottle." —Jon Shook (Animal)

"The first drink that I learned to make would have been my college go-to: a Jack and Coke, garnished with two olives. I guess the salty, briny olives balanced that sweetness for me." —Gabrielle Quinonez Denton (Ox)


Marco Canora of Hearth in NY

"A Greyhound."—Marco Canora (Hearth)

"Screwdriver, but I made them too strong and puked." —Gabe Rucker (Le Pigeon)

"The first drink I leaned to make was a Dark and Stormy, while on vacation with my uncle." —Marc Marrone (LAVO Italian Restaurant, TAO Asian Bistro)

"A Suicide. I was only 5 or 6, so it was made of as many different fruit juices mixed together as you could find in the house. Not until I was older did I learn that it was based off a drink my parents used to drink in college. To be economical they would mix all the alcohol they had together (brandy, tequila, gin...), add some juice and have at it. Pretty much what we call 'Jungle Juice' today." —Hank Costello (Andina)


Michael Ferraro of Delicatessen in NY

"I think it was a Cosmopolitan when I was 18 years old and working in my brother's restaurant, when I did half my time working in the kitchen and half my time in bar. It was 2000, and they were really popular." —Michael Ferraro (Delicatessen)

"Tequila shot."—Shaun Hergatt (Juni)

"Rum and Coke! I cooked in the Bahamas for a year. If they know you well enough at the bar, they'll put a bottle of Bacardi Anejo and a can of Coke and let you pour your own." —Kyle Bailey (Birch & Barley)

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