Sother Teague (@creativedrunk) is a busy guy. A former chef, renowned mixologist, twice-published author with more books on the way, podcast and weekly radio host, and part owner of 11 different food and drink establishments, he doesn’t exactly get bored.
And in recent years, he’s perhaps best known for bitters. There’s his much-lauded time beverage directing the bitters-based institution Amor y Amargo, the iconic watering hole where some claim “he got New Yorkers to care about amaro long before it was trendy.” But there’s also his limited-release, hand-numbered, autographed line of his own bitters, Driftwood, that will be relaunching second and third flavors in the coming months. In some ways, Teague has become synonymous with aromatic drips of botanical spirits.
Much like anyone else, though, he has to work to fight his own bitter nature as a human being. Some days are better than others, of course, but he’s got loads of excellent methods for making the most of every situation, no matter how awkward or unexpected. On a recent morning, we asked him to share a few of them.
Always be gathering information.
I listen to podcasts on a broad range of things. In my downtime, how I’m not being bitter, is I’m inadvertently just gathering information. Who knows what I’m going to do with it, but I feel like the more information you have, the more ready you are for any situation that might pop up. Because I listen to such a wide range of things, it makes me a pretty good conversationalist, which is highly important to the field I’ve chosen.
Meet people wherever they are.
When I first started bartending 22 years ago, I would show up every day for work with a copy of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. I would lay them out at the bar and my guests would come in and have their drinks and lunches or whathaveyou, and the papers would get passed around, and you could start to identify who people are by which paper they gravitate toward. By bringing those papers every day and reading them myself, that helped me connect people to one another.
Lean into the process.
The place I moved into [recently] has a backyard. It’s not huge, but it’s a chunk of property that’s big enough for a table for eight people, a little bit of walking around that table room, and then a big ol’ grill and smoker in the corner. For Christmas, I bought myself a half of a heritage pig from a local farmer. It’s therapeutic for me to sit out there by the grill, tend it all day, make sure the temperature remains constant—it’s a 10-hour process. I get to sit there by myself, listening to podcasts, drinking vermouth and tonic, just being very casual and alone. And then the culmination is that a whole bunch of people come over to my house and we drink some whiskey and pick at the pork. Finding the joy of the process is a big part of a lot of stuff I do in my life, both in work and my off time.
Take a long walk.
I take a lot of them. I try to take a different route as often as I can. I will walk a pretty great distance out of my way to make sure that I have an interesting walk and get to pay attention to things. The mundane can become exciting if you allow it to. Or you can choose to be mundane. I’ve got lots of alleyways I can duck down, there’s always something to see here, take a snapshot of.