Behind the pine with Adam Rath
Opening a dialogue with a thoughtful cocktail
Rath’s theatrical experience comes in handy for behind-the-bar showmanship.
Photos by kc kratt
Name: Adam Rath
Title: Bar manager, Hydraulic Hearth
Years behind the pine: 10
Previous employers: Handlebar, The Lodge (the early years), Bar Louie, and a few breweries and kitchens along the way
Hydraulic Hearth is the heart of Larkinville, open year-round to throngs of diners and drinkers. Some might not realize that it’s not only a great place for pizza and good fun, but also a beer production facility for Community Beer Works. Much of the beer sold to patrons here is brewed on premises. Bar manager Adam Rath works to create and maintain a bar with an equal level of attention to and appreciation for both its beer and cocktail programs. As a stage actor, choreographer, and occasional stuntman, the affable barman has found success and career stability in a market crowded with bar stars and transient staffers.
How does having a brewery on-site change things for you or your program?
We don’t fully identify as a cocktail bar; we’re every bit as much a brewery. I like to think about how a new beer can enhance a cocktail.
What is your least favorite drink?
The Dirty Martini. I know, I know; I’m sorry. But I love great ingredients and the liquors that people put decades and generations into creating. The thought of so many beautifully crafted things obliterated with the briny leftover byproduct of an olive just kills me a bit.
Is there an original cocktail you’re particularly proud of?
The Green Negroni. Any cocktail where I can reclaim absinthe and break down misconceptions about it, to me, is a win. It’s equal parts gin, Besk, and Absentroux. Although there is no actual absinthe in the drink, the latter two are absinthe derivatives. A wormwood-based Negroni is always a great place to open a dialogue.
What was your proudest moment behind the bar?
Last year I made it to the regional finals of Bombay Sapphire’s Most Imaginative Bartender Competition with the help of a Star Wars lunchbox. I love playing with people’s expectations and the look on the faces of the judges when I pulled a PB&J sandwich out of my lunchbox to make a cocktail will always make me proud!
Who inspires you?
In all honesty, it’s the chefs, distillers, and food historians of the world. People related to the industry but from different food and beverage backgrounds always help me look at things with a new perspective—people like J. Kenji Lopez-Alt of Food Lab or the ladies of the Gastropod podcast.
If someone was only ever going to have one chance to visit the bar at Hearth, what would you suggest they have to best enjoy themselves?
Order a barrel-aged cocktail. Each one is aged a minimum of 200 days, though some age as long as two years. I put a lot of thought into them.
Favorite meal at a Buffalo restaurant that’s not yours?
Root and Bloom’s Sir Nigel’s Full English Breakfast. I’m a vegan and on a Sunday morning after a super long and stressful week, it speaks to my broken soul.
If you could only have the fixin’s for a single cocktail in your home bar, what would it be?
Rusty Nail hands down. For me, it’s the one cocktail that can do no wrong. The portions are almost unimportant. Ice or no ice, it doesn’t matter. Amazing single malt scotch or the rail blend, it still turns out just fine by me.
What is the last thing you Googled?
How to play Go, that game with the black and white stones? I’ve had a board for a while, and I’ve been meaning to sit down and play. But I need a partner, and it’s just so daunting—not only to learn it, but also to try and walk someone else through it. Seriously, if someone out there plays, please hit me up!