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It’s all about the craft for Jim Meehan. Meehan has spent most of his career creating unforgettable cocktail experiences for lucky crowds and pouring his heart and soul into every step of the process and every single ingredient. One of the standout leaders of progressive cocktail culture today, Jim has spent time learning the ins and outs of the drink industry, mixing spirits, sharing innovative ideas and winning awards all the while.
Meehan began his bartending career during his years as a student at the University of Wisconsin where this young badass would make Long Island Iced Teas and Alabama slammers among some of the usual suspects of his cocktail mastery. In 2001, he would move out to the big city and further develop and establish himself in the New York bar scene. During his time on the east coast, Meehan showcased his talents, bartending at Five Points and Pace, Audrey Saunder’s Pegu Club, Gramercy Tavern and eventually one of New York’s best bars, PDT where he would win numerous awards including “Outstanding Bar Program Award” courtesy of the James Beard Foundation.
In 2011, Jim launched and authored his successful and reflective book, “The PDT Cocktail Book: The Complete Bartender’s Guide from the Celebrated Speakeasy.” In 2014, Jim and his family ventured out to Portland to mix his east coast finesse with the west where he spends time running a consulting company, Mixography, Inc.
His continued quest for industry innovation and the refinement of his skills led him to begin infusing wood-fired smoke into drinks. His Traegered cocktails create mind blowing flavor in liquid form. His humble and hardworking stature continues to propel him as a standout in the industry. Meehan has an undying passion for not just the craft itself, but for the experiences he creates for others around him. Cheers to that.
Tell us about your most memorable food experience?
Growing up, our family barbequed burgers, brats and hot dogs frequently, and when it was nice outside, or we had guests over, my parents served dinner or appetizers on our screened in front porch. Far from fine food or great barbeque, our family dinners were the only time we were all together each day, and these gatherings- when our meal was illuminated by the setting sun as the birds chirped and the summer breeze rustled the leaves in the trees surrounding the house made quite an impression.
Who do you credit with helping you most in your career, any mentors or people you look up to?
I’ve tried to pick up something from everyone I’ve ever worked with… and while some have taught me more than others, no one has been more integral to my success than my wife Valerie. We tended bar together for a couple years at Gramercy Tavern and each moved on to management roles afterwards. After a tough night of service, we worked through the evenings challenges and debated the decisions we made to address them. Her insight and feedback about my career remains invaluable to this day.
For beginner bartenders or mixologists, what’s the one bit of advice you would give?
Seek mentorship. The mentor protégé relationship is one of the most challenging to maintain and grow, but it’s crucial to have someone or ones that you can go to for pressing issues, advice and constructive criticism. The protégé must have faith in their mentor’s intentions and the mentor must be sensitive to the protégé’s aspirations; balancing their guidance by taking their ever-changing strengths and weaknesses into account. It’s a team sport so you look for the best coaches if you want to succed.
What’s your favorite thing to eat when no one’s watching?
I have no shame when it comes to my eating habits, so you won’t catch me eating or drinking anything I’m not proud of. You are what you eat.