Ask the bartender: Meet Raffi Jergerian, Colorado Cocktail contestant

Sean Kenyon knows how to pour out both drinks and advice. A third-generation bar man with almost 25 years behind the bar, he is a student of cocktail history, a United States Bartenders Guild-certified Spirits Professional and a BAR Ready graduate of the prestigious Beverage Alcohol Resource Program. You can find him behind the bar at Squeaky Bean -- and here every week, where he'll answer your questions. But right now, he wants to introduce you to our third Colorado Cocktail Contest contestant.

The Colorado Cocktail Project, with its mission to create the official Colorado Cocktail, has begun. Over the next five weeks, we will profile each of the bartenders and all of the Colorado distillers involved in the process -- and not only can you read about them here, but you can sample the contestants for yourself at any of the participating bars and restaurants, then vote for your favorites. We'll decide the ten finalists by June 15, and they'll pour out their hearts -- and drinks -- in a head-to-head competition on June 27 at the culmination of the Colorado Cocktail Project at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.

Today, Raffi Jergerian of Elliot's Martini Bar in Fort Collins tells us about his Uncle Nick, how to avoid "the box" and creative alcoholism...

Raffi Jergerian Elliot's Martini Bar

When and how did you start bartending?

My Uncle Nick is a martini-drinking machine. When I was just knee high (I'm about hip-high now), I was being shown the proper ratios for his martini and making sure to rub the lemon twist on the rim of the glass. If I did it wrong, I was verbally and physically scorned and put in "the box" for the remainder of the day. To this day, it is my goal to avoid "the box."

What sparked your interest in mixology? I prefer to be called a creative alcoholic. I love to cook with unique and complementary flavors, and bartending is no different for me. I love putting together new concoctions based on my mood and whatever liquor or mixer has got me excited at the moment. Mainly, I get bored easily and I drink too much, so I am always looking to put something new together.

Tell us about your bar. Elliot's Martini Bar rides a fine line between class and chaos. We give great service, make great drinks and we do it as fast as any crew of people could. The atmosphere is unique and fun, and the clientele is as diverse as the menu.

Tell us about yourself. I'm a Pisces and I like long walks on sandy beaches. If there was one word to describe me, it would be... jackass!

What do you love about bartending? No clever answers and booze.

What is your least favorite thing about bartending? It is still work.

Favorite cocktail.

Pre-noon=Bloody Mary; after noon=Manhattan

Favorite spirit. This depends on the day and the elements at hand -- i.e., temperature, humidity, wind direction, etc. Bourbon is my sweet little angel. though.

Describe your cocktail and why it should be THE Colorado Cocktail. It's colorful and beautiful, the ingredients are completely sourced from Colorado companies, and most of all, it tastes so damn good!

Bramblin' on About Nothin'

1.75 oz. Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey

.5 oz. Leopold Bros' Rocky Mountain Blackberry Liquor

1/4 of fresh squeezed lemon

Topped off with Tommyknocker Almond Cream Soda, garnished with a lemon twist and a fresh blackberry. Served on the rocks in a Collins glass. Have a question about the Colorado Cocktail Contest? E-mail [email protected]

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