Though Adam Seger isn’t based in Milwaukee, we feel his influence in the cocktails served at iPic in Glendale.
The refreshing VeeV Spa-mopolitan with acai spirit, Hum botanical spirit, coconut water, pomegranate juice, agave and lime? That’s Seger’s. That El Corazon Margarita? It’s Seger’s signature. In fact, all the cocktails at every iPic is Seger’s.
In addition to creating drinks for a wide range of venues, Seger is also a cocktail entrepreneur that has founded (or co-founded) Hum Spirits, Balsam Spirits and Rate Tea Syrups & Shrubberies.
Seger has studied as a chef and is an advanced sommelier and certified culinary professional. That means he knows his way around the kitchen and the bar and he blends this variety of talents and skills together in his work.
At the moment, Seger is working on a book about cocktails. We asked him about his experience, his work and some of his favorite Milwaukee places.
OnMilwaukee.com: You’ve had some pretty wide-ranging experience, can you tell us a bit about your background.
Adam Seger: I have been in the restaurant business since I was 12, doing everything from dishwashing and cooking to being a hotel F&B director to being GM of some of the top restaurants in the country. During that process, I have become an advanced sommelier and a certified culinary professional.
Mixology was a very natural, organic progression from there as I had the food, wine and culinary base from which to create my own style.
OMC: Did working as a bartender ever figure into your road to mixology?
AS: Absolutely! I bartended at The Regent Lounge at Cornell Hotel School's Statler Hotel during college and have always been fascinated with the bar since. You cannot be a great chef without first being a great cook just as you cannot be a great mixologist without first being a great bartender.
OMC: You’ve started some spirit companies, haven’t you? Are you always experimenting and inventing?
AS: I have an arsenal of homeless spirit prototypes in mason jars at home. I never stop experimenting and innovating.
OMC: You’ve been called the "Charlie Trotter of Cocktails" because of your "chef-like" approach to mixology. Can you tell us a bit about that intersection?
AS: I grew up in food-centric South Louisiana and have cooked since I was 5. That combined with the good fortune of working with Michelin Star Chefs Serge Knapp, Thomas Keller, Rick Tramonto and Gale Gand has given me a culinary lense through which I view cocktails
OMC: Does your approach make it easier to collaborate with chefs to help create a cocktail list that reflects their menu?
AS: Yes, I speak their language. Plus, a mixologist does not have to have the tough conversations a sommelier has to have when the food needs to be changed to not overpower the wine. A culinary and wine-centric mixologist can adjust a cocktail's acid, alcohol, flavors and viscosity to complement any food.
OMC: Do you have a specialty/signature drink?
AS: El Corazon, served at every iPic Theatre, a passion fruit, pomegranate, blood orange margarita with a kosher salt and tellicherry rim. TimeOut calls is "As balanced as Mary Lou Retton."
OMC: I hear you’re working on a book. What can you tell us about it?
AS: "Drink Like You Eat: 40 Cocktails from the Garden to the Glass" ... still in progress. I'm doing it with Sun-Times Food Critic and "Alinea Cookbook" contributor Mike Nagrant with stunning photography by Tuan Bui.
OMC: I’ve got one night to go out and have the best cocktails in Chicago. Where do I go?
AS: Aviary, it's a trifecta. Grant Achatz's vision, Charles Joly's bartender correct, but molecularly mind boggling cocktails and Chef Andrew Brochu's inspired bites to pair with the cocktails.
The Barrelhouse Flat is the second stop as the uber neighborhood cocktail bar by Violet Hour opening team alum Stpehen Cole, former Aviary manager Jeff Donahue and former Office manager Gregory Buttera.
OMC: What’s the one tool you can’t do without?
AS: Sharp chef's knife
OMC: When you go out, what do you drink?
AS: Generally whatever is the specialty of the place, whether it is beer, wine or cocktails.
OMC: Any favorite places for drinking and dining in Milwaukee?
AS: I love Lakefront Brewery for food and great, fresh beer. Big Daddy's for BBQ, The Pfister for Sunday brunch and Bryant's for old school bartenders making the classics.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.