Damien Mastrogiacomo

A bartender of 22 years, Damien Mastrogiacomo is the self-proclaimed “da Vinci of Nitrogen.” Confused? You’ll see…once the cloud dissipates.

You started bartending because…
The bartender never showed up. I was waiting tables and they needed someone to hop behind the bar, so I lied about my age. I was 17.

Your approach to mixology…
I look at every cocktail as a chance to show off and if they’re not impressed, I’ve failed. You can’t be afraid to get creative. My daughter was selling Girl Scouts cookies and I had a trunkful, so I made a cocktail for each cookie and used it as a garnish. One was with Malibu and Godiva and I used Samoas. People loved them and it helped my daughter win the contest. 

Your most-popular drink…
My margarita, hands down. I have a variation called “Tequila Mockingbird with Cucumber.” I was bartending on Fire Island a while back and someone called from another bar to order a pitcher of it. That’s the ultimate compliment. I love working with tequila, people are just generally happier when they drink tequila.

Your favorite post-shift spot...
My buddy bartends at Bobbique, so I’ll go down there and say, “Karl, what am I drinking tonight?” I’ve really gotten into beer recently and they have a great menu with local stuff.

You’ve bartended for 22 years. What’s changed?
It’s gone from everyone wants to be a bartender, to everyone thinks they’re a bartender. [Laughs]

The “da Vinci of Nitrogen”? Explain…
We have refurbished a KitchenAid mixer and supercharged it to handle liquid nitrogen. It oxidizes the alcohol, which restrains it from the drink and slowly releases it back as it melts. Your last sip is the strongest. Any drink works. And with the big cloud of vapor, it’s a show, too.

Advice for the home-tender and/or aspiring bartender…
Try to put your own spin on things. If you have a Long Island Iced Tea, muddle some orange and mint at the bottom and replace Coke with iced tea. They’ll want a name for it pretty soon.

Thirsty? Visit Damien Mastrogiacomo at George Martin’s Strip Steak on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday.

photo: Kenny Janosick

niko krommydas

Niko Krommydas has written for Tasting Table, BeerAdvocate, Munchies, and First We Feast. He is editor of Craft Beer New York, an app for the iPhone, and a columnist for Yankee Brew News. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.