Movers and Shakers: Hawaii's Up and Coming Bartenders
Meet Honolulu's new crop of bartenders who approach drinks like chefs craft dishes.
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12TH AVE GRILL
Across town, there’s no industrial grunge or casual counterculture punk aesthetic. This is Kaimuki, a little older, a little more family-friendly, a little more serious. Bar manager Julian Walstrom is more of an academic. He’s in the process of moving to 12th Ave Grill (which itself is moving to expanded, new digs), to work with another up-and-coming bartender—Mike Hall. But in Walstrom’s time developing the bar program at Salt, he cites consistency as one of his main focuses—always pouring to jigger, so that every drink by every bartender there is always the same, whether it be a gin and tonic or a Sazerac. In recent years, inspired by the previous bartender at Town, Dave Power, “who showed me that there’s really something more to cocktails than pouring wine and beer, or making a martini,” he buried himself in research on obscure spirits, reading up on the entire history of absinthe, and—recently—developing a particular fondness for ingredients out of the West Indies.
“That really spurred a deep passion for me,” Walstrom says. “Here’s something I’ve been doing for so long (10 years) and there’s a whole other realm of it that I haven’t even touched upon.”
Six months ago, he discovered Kronan, a “really one-of-a-kind” blend of sugar cane liqueurs with a delicate blend of sweet, spice and floral. But would the obscure name throw people off? Walstrom introduced it in a cocktail with whiskey, mole bitters and lemon bitters and dubbed it Kronan the Barbarian. “People would see it and say: ‘I want to try that drink just based off the name!’” he says. He later changed it to the Instant Gratification, named by a regular who loved it so much, he got it every single day.
“[People] do want to come to Salt and try something they’ve never had before,” he says, singling out regions like Kakaako and Kaimuki as areas that people go for the newest trends, areas that attract a demographic ripe and eager for something unique. “It’s like: ‘What’s hip? What’s cool right now?’”