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417 Magazine: How would you describe the recent changes in Springfield’s local bar scene?
Cacey Ball: We’ve had some really great new bars pop up in the last couple of years. Springfield is catching up with bigger cities as a place where you now have multiple options of cool bars to visit and enjoy a craft cocktail or beer. CB Social House opened this past year, debuting a talented bar staff and super-innovative cocktail menus. You have bartenders like Rogan over at Golden Girl Rum Club pumping out some of the best tiki drinks I’ve ever had, without a tropical coastline in sight. These kinds of things are what help to increase public interest in cocktail culture and why our bar scene will only continue to grow with these creative individuals stepping out. I’m just stoked to see what the future holds!
417: What is your signature drink?
C.B.: Over the years I’ve had several “signature” drinks, but I’d say the most significant to me is a drink I made a few years back called The Kenny. It incorporated a couple choice spirits of a friend and regular customer of mine that left us before his time. It was nothing groundbreaking as far as cocktail making goes, but I make it with extra love, and it’s a special feeling when his friends still come in and order it. I really like getting people to try new things or cocktails that I’ve personally created, but when I serve a Sazerac it’s like I’m also giving out this subconscious fist bump.
417: What bottle of liqueur should every home bar have?
C.B.: I think it’s always nice to have a good bottle of Scotch to dip into from time to time, especially in the winter months. If whiskey isn’t for you, invest in a high quality version of your favorite spirit. You should definitely spend the most money on something you will enjoy.
417: What is your go-to drink when you’re not on the clock?
C.B.: I’m a little bit of a cocktail chameleon, and I love trying new things, but bourbon, scotch and beer always hit close to home. Now read that in a George Thorogood voice.
417: How did you learn to make drinks?
C.B.: When I started working at The Outland I had almost zero knowledge of what went on behind a bar, but I did have a genuine interest to learn and absorb all the information I could. I remember the first time I expressed interest in learning to tend bar I was given an empty 750 milliliter bottle and pourer and was then told to go home, fill the bottle up with water and practice my “pour count.” This requires practicing counting in your head while pouring a shot, which develops a skill of being able to “free pour” specific ounce measurements without using a jigger to measure. Although The Outland was more cracking beers and slinging whiskey shots than assembling classic cocktails, working behind the bar in general sparked an eagerness to expand that skill set. I already had a love for cooking and experimenting with flavors, and as a curious person by nature, I began reading and researching about cocktail culture and the history of bartending. From there I started working at the Bistro Market Bar, where I was able to start executing some of the ideas and knowledge I had acquired, as well as, experimenting with new and different spirits, produce, and other ingredients.
417: What’s your favorite ingredient to use year-round?
C.B.: Whiskey, because whiskey.
417: What about seasonal ingredients?
C.B.: In the colder months I tend to gravitate towards bolder flavors. Right now I’m experimenting with different Rock and Rye variations, which incorporates dehydrated stone fruits and pie spices infused into rye whiskey. In the warmer months I tend to make more shrubs, utilizing the abundance of in-season produce to add bright fresh flavors to summer drinks. Shrubs are so fun and easy for anyone to make (like, sooo easy), and you can also use them for cooking or homemade sodas. Basically you’re just cold macerating fruit or other produce with sugar, adding vinegar, letting it set a bit, and straining. Get creative. Add herbs. Add Spices. Have a party! Make a shrub.
417: What’s your favorite bar tool?
C.B.: A shaker and a good tune.
417: What advice would you offer to someone who isn’t sure how to choose a drink when they’re out at a bar?
C.B.: Be adventurous. Personally, I have found so many things that I never knew I loved by making a conscious effort to try cocktails or ingredients that I’d never heard of or had before. If you’re not feeling like branching out too far, tell your bartender what you usually gravitate towards and we can help you decide on something you will enjoy. The cocktail world is vast and wide, and variety truly is the spice of life.
417: When there are a ton of customers waiting, how do you determine who to serve next?
C.B.: I try to be pretty diplomatic and go in order of who came to the bar first. Busy nights can get a little chaotic when there’s a ton of people standing around the bar, so patience is always appreciated. Also, having a general idea of what you want to order helps the process. It’s definitely not my favorite thing to be whistled or shouted at, so general politeness can always get you a little further, as it can with about anything.
417: How do you develop new cocktail recipes?
C.B.: New ideas come from all over the place. I’ll come across a flavor combination while cooking that I think I can implement into a cocktail. I may be inspired from drinks that I’ve tried while traveling, or I’ll just randomly come up with an idea. If I think I’m onto something good, I’ll ask for feedback from a coworker or customer. Sometimes I’ll fail miserably, tweak the recipe and be satisfied, or hit a home run. It’s all about trial and error.
417: Where do you go for a drink when you’re not on the clock?
C.B.: Lindberg’s and JOB Public House are some hot spots for me. Aside from having great staff, the dudes that have developed these bars are passionate about what they do and lending to our local bar scene. JOB has a great whiskey selection, late night eats (those pizza balls till bar close—HELLO!), and you can actually sit and have conversation while expanding your bourbon knowledge. Lindberg’s has such a chill vibe, cool bands performing and phenomenal food and drinks. You really feel like you’re leaving with a little piece of Springfield history after a night at Lindberg’s.
417: How did you get your current jobs?
C.B.: I love music, and The Outland was always one of my favorite venues to hang out at and catch live shows. I eventually talked the bar manager into letting me barback in exchange for teaching me some tricks of the trade. When I first came on, the other employees had been there for a number of years, and the bar was fully staffed, so I wasn’t expecting to actually be hired. When I had finally picked up some general knowledge, I was given a few shifts at the small, cash-only satellite bar that we opened on busy nights. That just kind of segued into a bartending position, and I’ve been there ever since. A couple years later I acquired my job at The Bistro Bar through a friend I had made at The Outland. My co-workers have become more like family members. Shout out to my work families!