Monkeying Around

On November 15, bartenders, beverage directors and discerning drinkers from far and wide descended upon Polite Provisions for the can’t-miss industry party of 2017. Presented by Monkey Shoulder Whisky and featuring guest bartenders Sam Ross, Michael McIlroy and Andrew Rice (owners of New York City’s famed cocktail spot, Attaboy), the venue was packed with San Diego’s hospitality hotshots. For Ross in particular, the occasion offered an opportunity to see the results of a movement he started here nearly a decade ago. 

A legend in the international cocktail community, Sam Ross is a native Australian who made a name for himself by crafting cocktails at Milk & Honey, the 500-square-foot mixology mecca in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. It’s there that he met McIlroy and Rice and worked side-by-side with Sasha Petraske, the patron saint of countless bartenders and the man credited with restoring cocktail culture to its pre-Prohibition popularity.  
In 2008, while working at Milk & Honey, Ross was approached by the minds behind Consortium Holdings, a San Diego-based hospitality group that sought his expertise in launching their initial effort, a speakeasy named Noble Experiment. 

Ross took CH up on their offer and traveled to San Diego to teach Noble Experiment’s founding crew the art of concocting exceptional cocktails, including his own signature drink, the Penicillin – made with Monkey Shoulder Whisky, honey-ginger syrup, lemon and Islay Scotch. Over the ensuing years, as Noble Experiment prospered and CH has opened a bevy of additional venues around America’s Finest, Ross’s influence on the local industry has disseminated through countless bars and bartenders, setting the standard for the city’s quality cocktails.  

A day after the epic party at Polite Provisions, Ross and McIlroy spoke about the event over drinks at Carlsbad’s Campfire, where they joined by celebrated San Diego bartenders Adele Stratton (Jaynes Gastropub) and Eric Long (False Idol). 

PACIFIC: What were some highlights of last night’s party? 

Sam Ross: Just getting my ass kicked for three hours straight. And seeing people who started at Noble Experiment and Neighborhood back in the day; seeing where they are now and seeing them all come out to the event. And seeing how f***ing serious people take events like this out here. It was packed to the gills. 

Michael McIlroy: The past few events we’ve done have been fantastic, but last night, there was one point where Sam and I turned around and went, “This is f***ing nuts.” It was like, “Turn the music up. Let’s keep this going.” 

Andrew Rice: Last night was awesome. It was a good crowd of cocktail enthusiasts and people who’ve spent time at Attaboy in New York. And then a bunch of friends and cool industry folks too. It was a good mix. And Polite Provisions, they’re all pros there.  

How has your time at Noble Experiment influenced your career? 

Eric Long: Before Noble, I was working at Ironside, and I was like, “I can bartend.” Then I went to Noble, and I completely sh*t myself. It was a kick in the face. My first day, I think it took me 14 minutes to make three or four drinks. It was a reality check, and it frustrated me so much, but it was motivating. Even though I’m not at Noble anymore, the things I learned there still apply at False Idol. It’s a completely different bar with a different dynamic – it’s high-volume, and we’re making mai tais and piña coladas for savages – but the attention to service and the attention to detail is still there.  

Adele Stratton: It was like going to a really strict school where there’s a certain way you do things – and, regardless of what bar you’re in or where you go, there’s a certain way, a standard that you have to maintain in terms of spec, and balance and dilution. 

Sam Ross: We’ve always placed a huge emphasis on training, and it’s great to hear these reactions. We’ve never asked people to do things our way because we want them done our way. We show you that there’s no other way to do them. We make them believers.  


Become a believer and learn the finer points of cocktail-making with the completely rebuilt Bartender’s Choice app, created by the co-owners of Attaboy. Browse through more than 600 cocktail recipes, histories and how-tos, all sorted by spirit, style of drink and sensation. Here are a few libations from the app, all made with Monkey Shoulder Whisky.  

2 parts Monkey Shoulder Blended Scotch Whisky 
¾ part Lemon 
¾ part Honey syrup (3 to 1 honey to water) 
¾ part Ginger syrup (3 parts ginger to 2 parts water/white granulated sugar). 
Islay Float 

Midnight Stinger 
1 part Monkey Shoulder Blended Scotch Whisky 
1 part Fernet Branca 
¾ part Lemon 
¾ part Simple Syrup 

Monkey Carlo 
2 part Monkey Shoulder Blended Scotch Whisky 
½ part Benedictine 
Angostura bitters 

Athol Brose 
2 parts Monkey Shoulder Blended Scotch Whisky 
½ part Honey (3 to 1 water ratio) 
float of coconut whipped cream 

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