When we first began to conceptualize our Highballs at High Noon series, Jon East was at the top of our list of bartenders to reach out to. Until recently, Top Note was headquartered in the same Bay View warehouse complex as Twisted Path Distillery, who distill some of our favorite Milwaukee spirits and craft some of the most creative and inspiring cocktails out of their tasting room. These days, they’re slinging bottled cocktails from a walk-up to-go window, which is great news for those of us looking for ready-to-drink cocktails that buck the ordinary.
Q: What was it that first got you into cocktails?
Jon East: I got into cocktails because it seemed like a fun way to get creative behind the bar - I was originally most interested in beer, but who has the patience to wait for it to ferment?
Q; What new cocktail discoveries are you exploring right now?
JE: Right now, I’m exploring acidity in stirred drinks - I think there’s a lot of untapped potential in balancing these traditionally spirit-forward cocktails with a bit of acidic brightness.
Q: Why do you think people at home may be intimidated by making cocktails?
JE: I think people might be intimidated by not understanding exactly why drinks work, or unfamiliarity with ingredients. In the same way I don’t know what ingredients I can swap out when baking a cake, I think most people aren’t sure what ingredients are okay to substitute in drinks!
Q: What are some of your favorite cocktails to make at home?
JE: Anything I don’t have to shake - I make a lot of Manhattan/Martini/Negroni variants at home, since they don’t require any syrups or juices.
Q: What do you take to a party?
JE: Good vibes and Miller High Life.
Q: Where do you think the cocktail and bar industry is going?
JE: Two thoughts: Hopefully to-go cocktails are here to stay, and we’re heading towards another roaring 20’s! I have a feeling people will be in the mood to go out and socialize after the pandemic.
Q: What has the pandemic taught you?
JE: The importance of structure and routine - while it was nice doing whatever I wanted in the beginning of the pandemic, having a plan day-to-day has been really helpful for me.
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