Long Now is pleased to announce that longtime Interval bartender Ty Caudle will become The Interval’s next Beverage Director. He takes the reins from Todd Carnam, who has moved to Washington, D.C. after a creative three-year run at the helm.
“We are very excited and grateful to have Ty in such a strong position to make this transition both seamless and inspired,” says Alexander Rose, Long Now’s Executive Director and Founder of The Interval.
Caudle’s bartending career began at a small backyard party in San Francisco. He was working as a caterer for the event, and when the bartender failed to show, he was thrust into the role despite having zero experience.
“We had no idea what we were doing,” he says, “but there was definitely an energy to bartending that wasn’t otherwise present in catering.”
After a friend gifted him a copy of Imbibe! by David Wondrich, Caudle knew he’d found his calling.
“The book opened up a world that I otherwise would’ve never known,” he says. “It traced the history of forgotten ingredients and techniques, painted a rich tapestry of the world of bartending in the 01800s, and most importantly taught me that tending bar was a legitimate profession, one to be studied and practiced.”
And so he did. Caudle devoured every bartending book he could find, bought esoteric cocktail ingredients, and experimented at home. He visited distilleries in Kentucky, Tequila, Oaxaca, Ireland, and Copenhagen to learn more about how different cultures approached spirit production.
“Those trips cemented my deep respect for the craft and history of distillation,” he says. “Whether on a tropical hillside under a tin roof or in a cacophonous bustling factory, spirit production is one of humanity’s great achievements. As bartenders, we have a responsibility to honor those artisans’ tireless efforts with every martini or manhattan we stir.”
Breaking through in the industry during the Great Recession, however, proved challenging. Caudle eventually landed a gig prepping the bar at the now-shuttered Locanda in the Mission. This led to other bartending opportunities at a small handful of spaces in the same neighborhood as Locanda.
The Interval opened its doors in 02014 with Jennifer Colliau as its Beverage Director. Colliau was something of a legend in the Bay Area’s vibrant bar scene, having founded Small Hand Foods after eight years tending bar at San Francisco’s celebrated Slanted Door restaurant.
Caudle was a big fan of Colliau’s work, and promptly responded to an ad for a part-time bartender position at The Interval.
“The job listing was decidedly different,” Caudle says. “It gave me a glimpse of how unique The Interval is.”
Following a promising interview with then-Bar Manager Haley Samas-Berry, Caudle returned to The Interval a few days later for a stage. Expecting to find Samas-Berry behind the bar, Caudle was mortified to find Colliau there instead. Caudle was, suffice it to say, a little intimidated:
I walked over with my shakers and spoons and jigger, hands trembling, and she asked if I wouldn’t mind making drinks with their tools instead. I said, “Sure,” as I walked into the other room to set my things down. Inside I was completely freaking out. It took every bit of my strength to emerge from that space. I already felt in over my head and this amplified it. For the next hour or so I welcomed guests and set down menus and poured water. Every time a drink order came in Jennifer would stand over my shoulder and recite the recipe to me while correcting a litany of technical mistakes that I was making. The torture finally relented and we went upstairs and had a good conversation. But I remember leaving that night thinking there was just no way in hell I was going to get that job.
Caudle got the job. And now, following years of excellent work, he’s got Colliau’s old job, too.
We spoke with Caudle about his new role, his approach to cocktail creation and design, and what Interval patrons can expect once the bar fully reopens.
Your promotion to Beverage Director brings the opportunity to try new things, while also contending with a rich legacy from past Beverage Directors Jennifer Colliau and Todd Carnam. What new things are you excited to bring to the table? What do you hope to maintain from the past?
I feel uniquely positioned as I have worked in the space under the tutelage of both Jennifer and Todd.
Jennifer set the standard and created the beverage identity of The Interval. She taught us that we can’t unknow things. To that end, I’m excited to continue the pursuit of the best version of a beverage, meticulously molding it while uncovering its rich history.
Todd is a storyteller and a curmudgeonly romantic at heart. He taught us that a drink can evoke a feeling and connect to a larger narrative, of the cocktail’s role as a totem. I hope to honor that spirit and the creativity it fosters in my approach to menu development.
Foremost, I’m excited to feature wine, beer, and spirits made by people that don’t look like me. I’m personally captivated by the fantastic complexity of what eventually winds up in a glass on the bar. Every drink is the confluence of many brilliant makers and I seek to pay respect to their efforts. I think it is easy for us to forget that alcohol is an agricultural product. It started as a plant in the ground in a corner of the world and so many things had to go right for it to find its way to us. I hope to imbue our staff with a passion for the process of making these delicious products and to craft drinks that honor them.
What’s your approach to cocktail design and creation?
I can be somewhat reluctant to design new drinks. The cocktail world has such a rich history and so many people have contributed across generations. With that in mind, I often find myself focusing on making the very best version of a beverage that we know well or that may have been overlooked.
It tends to take me a long time to mold a bigger picture of what the theme of a cocktail or a menu should be. Once I have that in place I get excited to uncover pieces that fit into the whole. Our Tiki Not Tiki menu is a great example. After we established that template, I found myself scouring cocktail books and menus for tropical drinks that didn’t fit into the Tiki canon. Each discovery was a revelation, a spark to continue forth.
What’s one of the most challenging cocktails for The Interval to make?
Generally, we like to do as much work behind the scenes preparing ingredients and putting things together ahead of time to ensure cocktails get to guests quickly.
I will say that one of our biggest challenges in development came with the Kalimotxo. This simple Spanish blend of Coca Cola and box wine was incredibly difficult to replicate. For starters, it was extremely trying to imitate the singular flavor of coke, eventually replacing its woodsy vanilla with Carpano Antica and its baking spice notes with lots of Angostura. Harder still was finding a red wine that didn’t overpower the rest of the ingredients. In the end, we wound up bringing in an entirely new wine outside of our offerings just to get the final flavor profile we were looking for.
Everyone has different tastes, but what would you recommend as a cocktail for a first-timer to the Interval to highlight what distinguishes the establishment from other cocktail bars?
The Navy Gimlet perfectly encapsulates what we strive for at The Interval. With the time involved to infuse navy strength gin with lime oil and to slowly filter the finished product, its preparation takes days but arrives to the guest in no time at all. The gimlet has been maligned for decades as a result of artificial ingredients and certain preparations and we’ve done our very best to correct those deficiencies. We make a delicious lime cordial and stir (rather than shake) our pearlescent iteration. It’s a drink with a history, deceptively simple and infinitely refreshing.
What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about tending bar?
I think the physical act of bartending is unnecessarily heralded in the public eye. Anyone can mix drinks. Sure, there are hundreds of classics to memorize and plenty of muscle memory to establish, but that side of tending bar is overwhelmingly a teachable skill.
The component that cannot be taught as easily is hospitality. There is a degree of empathy and emotional availability necessary to do this work that isn’t required in many other professions. Bartenders absorb the energy of every guest that sits in front of them and a genuine desire to serve is essential to providing a superior guest experience. This comes naturally to some and can be a lifelong pursuit for others. Putting aside the day thus far and being truly hospitable behind the bar is the goal we spend our careers striving for.
For the latest on opening hours, placing to-go orders, and events, head to The Interval’s website, or follow The Interval on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
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