Photo: Pangalactic Gargleblaster by The Way Station on Facebook.
Alcohol and sci-fi movies are two of Andy Heidel’s favorite things. In his new book The Cocktail Guide to the Galaxy, the owner of Brooklyn bar The Way Station brings both his passions together in over 100 out-of-this-world cocktails. Pop culture touchstones like Back to the Future, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and Game of Thrones become imbibe-able through his pun-derful recipes. Heidel makes it easy to play mixologist at home with just a few ingredients, minimal accouterments, and easy instructions. He also slips in a few “Heidel Hints” so booze-drinking rookies don’t embarrass themselves at the bar. Comic illustrations throughout make this a visually intoxicating read as well.
We asked Heidel about this fun and unexpected confluence of entertainment and alcohol.
Crave: What made you want to write a book uniting cocktails and sci-fi?
Andy Heidel: That’s kind of what my bar does. It connects nerdom and sci-fi cocktails. After seeing all the other bars coming out with their own cocktail books, that’s kind of what gave me the idea to come out with The Way Station’s book. It’s that tip of the hat to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy with [the title] The Cocktail Guide to the Galaxy.
What initially sparked your interest in sci-fi?
That started years ago, reading things like Dune, watching Star Wars, playing Dungeons and Dragons.
At what point did that interest cross paths with your interest in cocktails?
Not until I opened up The Way Station. I’d always bartended on and off my entire career between jobs. But when I opened The Way Station – which has a kind of steampunk vibe and a replica of the Doctor Who police box, the TARDIS – that’s when I started developing sci-fi cocktails. The fans loved ordering a drink that represented their favorite doctor from Dr. Who or having a fun, punny name like the Shirley Temple of Doom for Indiana Jones.
What makes a movie cocktail-worthy? How did you pick and choose?
I chose a lot of my favorite films and television shows, then thought about what would be a good cocktail for that or what traditional cocktails had a name that we could do a spin on to make it relate. So there’s the cocktail Sex on the Beach and then I decided to do a play on words on it and turned it into Warp Core Sex on the Breach. And then it’s like, “Oh. Now I have a Star Trek cocktail.” So sometimes the cocktail name came first and I was able to figure out which franchise and which fandom it applied to. Or when I was working on 2001: A Space Odyssey, there’s lines like, “Open the pod bay doors.” And there’s a cocktail called The Bay Breeze so I made a Pod Bay Breeze.
What are the best sci-fi shows or movies to watch while getting your buzz on?
Definitely Star Wars, the original three. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The Star Trek reboot.
Most of your cocktail recipes are very simple – they have three or four ingredients. Why is simplicity important to you?
The whole idea of the cocktail program at The Way Station is to make a really good, well-balanced drink fast and serve it fast. So on a busy night, we can crank out four cocktails in a minute. I just kind of kept that very simple, uncomplicated method for the cocktail book because there are enough mixology books out there already. This is kind of an introduction to tending your own bar, so I wanted to make it as simple and un-intimidating as possible.
Some cocktails go to the extreme – they glow in the dark or have fog. How do you feel about those theatrical cocktails?
If there is a reason, then I say do it. For Star Wars Day, we made a light saber cocktail and threw a glow stick in it. So it was like you were holding a very tiny light saber.
When you’re at home, what do you like to drink? Do you have a signature cocktail?
I usually make a Manhattan and add a little St. Germain to that sometimes or a couple drops of ginger liqueur.
You have tips on bar etiquette throughout the book. What are the biggest etiquette mistakes drinkers make at your bar?
We get a lot of first-time drinkers so I’ve noticed myself and my bartenders are educating them and I thought it would be a good service to everyone to kind of educate them with the book. Most important is knowing how to tip. Not wandering away from the bar right after you order your drink and your bartender’s wasting time looking for you, trying to find you to give you your drink. And then the most important things before going out drinking: make sure you’re hydrated, eat some food, and then keep drinking water during the night out.
What is the most challenging parts of being a bartender?
One is being on your feet for eight to twelve hours. That definitely takes a toll. Helping be conducive to throwing the party [is another challenge]. You are a host as a bartender. You’re trying to make sure everybody is having a good time. That takes a lot of energy, especially as a bar owner. People see me and think, “Oh, it’s great. He’s at work. He’s having fun.” But if you’ve ever thrown a house party, that’s what I’m doing almost every single night. And while I love it, it is exhausting.
How do you deal with disrespectful or rowdy people when you’re on the job?
If they’re rowdy, or they inappropriately touch a woman, I tell them they have to leave. It’s unacceptable. There was one person who was a little too rowdy and I actually made them run around the block to burn off their energy. I said, “You’re not getting another beer until you run around the block.” And he came back and he was winded and he was tired and he was mellow.
As a bartender, do you feel like you have some authority over the people drinking at The Way Station?
Oh, absolutely. Authority and responsibility.