In this week’s bartender corner, we stopped by one of Cherry Creek hottest restaurants, Departure. The aviation-themed restaurant has kept us intrigued with its take on modern Asian cuisine offering soul-warming bowls of ramen, fresh slices of sashimi and sushi, and dim sum favorites. The cocktail program truly brings the concept together, as the bar itself serves as a centerpiece to the restaurant. We pulled up a chair around the illuminated bar and learned more about the man behind the bottle, Brandon Wise.
DiningOut: What drew you to bartending as a career?
Brandon Wise: Working behind a bar has always felt like home. Since my first shift, it has been a creative outlet for me, and I’ve always enjoyed interacting with people. When I moved to Portland, Oregon, I decided to get more serious about my long-term career goals and made it my life’s work. The biggest turning point for me was getting involved in the Oregon Bartender’s Guild, now a chapter of the USBG, which really allowed me to connect with the community. During that time, I learned more than I could have imagined about the craft of bartending, and after serving as Vice President and later President of the OBG, about being a leader. I now oversee a beverage program that extends across 75+ hotels—I’m designing bars, building brands, and developing talent across the portfolio. It’s been quite a journey from that first bartending shift all those years ago, but I couldn’t ask for a more rewarding profession.
Inspiration behind the cocktail:
The Shinobi cocktail is a version of a Whiskey Buck, which is a great platform for any season. I started there and reached for a locally produced Amaro from Leopold Brother’s Distilling, their Highland Fernet. The herbaceous qualities of the Amaro work nicely alongside the botanicals in a really incredible Pacific Northwest vermouth from my old pal Patrick Taylor—the Hammer & Tongs L’Afrique—it works to bridge those nuanced flavors with the spice of the ginger. The title refers to a classic video game of the same name (Shinobi is another word for ninja) and speaks to the contemporary interpretation of Asian food and drink at Departure.
Recipe for Shinobi
In a shaker filled with cubed ice, add 3/4 ounce Knob Creek Bourbon, 3/4 ounce L’Afrique Vermouth, 3/4 ounce lime juice, 1/2 ounce Leopold Fernet, and 1/2 ounce ginger syrup. Shake vigorously for 15 seconds until chilled and strain into a double Old Fashioned glass. Top with 2 ounces ginger beer and garnish with two blackberries and a sprig of fresh mint.
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