Most Influential Current Bartenders

8th January 2024

You have tasted the cocktails and learned the recipes, but behind every drink is a smug bartender who invented it. Here are a few of the most influential bartenders around the world today. They may well have invented your favorite cocktail.

Salvatore Calabrese

The Italian “Maestro” is responsible for the creation of many modern cocktails, including the Breakfast Martini and the Chocolate Truffle Martini. In 2012, Salvatore broke the Guinness World record for creating the World’s Most Expensive Cocktail, costing £5,500. The ingredients used were over 200 years old and the creation was named Salvatore’s Legacy.

Calabrese is now based at his bar, Salvatore’s, at the Playboy Club in London. He is respected as one of the leading cognac experts and has a collection of them worth over £1million. He has published many cocktail books and also works as a consultant for selected companies. He often judges cocktail competitions and runs Master Classes for those wishing to improve their cocktail making skills.

Sasha Petraske

Petraske is responsible for many of the newer cocktail bars in New York. His first bar, Milk and Honey, is a 20s style bar and is credited for making cocktails cool again. Most of the cocktails served are modern versions of retro classics, and Sasha really throws himself into the theme by coordinating his dress sense and music to his bars. He refuses to make cocktails that he feels are tacky, such as the Cosmopolitan and the Long Island Iced Tea, and instead makes sophisticated concoctions including the Fallback Cocktail and Shifting Sands.

Milk and Honey is also in Soho, London and there it is a members only bar. Both bars have won a lot of awards including Time Outs Best Bar 2004 for the London establishment.

Petraske also owns Little Branch, Dutch Kills and White Star, all cocktail bars in New York. Two of his former employees relocated to Melbourne, and so he also has a bar down under.

Audrey Saunders

Saunders has been mixing cocktails since 1996 when she worked at the Waterfront Ale House in Brooklyn, New York. From then on she trained with the well-known Dale DeGroff and worked at various different bars. She had already begun to build up quite a reputation, but when she opened the Pegu Club in 2005 she really made her name. The bar was inspired by the Pegu Club in Burma which served drinks to British officers. She has been named as one of the top 10 bartenders by Playboy Magazine in 2007 and the Pegu Club earned the title of Best Bar in 2006 by Time Magazine.

Saunders works hard to perfect her cocktails, changing the recipe as often as she feels is necessary to get it right. She created the Gin-Gin Mule, the Old Cuban and the Earl Grey Mar-tea-ni. She is now considered a leader in modern mixology.

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Bartender's top tip

Balance is key in mixology. Always measure ingredients. A dash less or more can transform a drink. Experiment with fresh garnishes; they can elevate even the simplest cocktails to new heights.

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