Johnny Cocktail has been VERY busy!

There are many more posts to come so stay tuned. This Blog is getting ready to see quite the face lift!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Reflection. My Time at Food Matters

Funny, one of the very first cocktails I ever put together, The Reflection, an after dinner drink that consisted of clear Sambuca and Stolichnaya Vanil served in a small port glass, has a bit of irony by today's standards.  I'm still using Stoli to make great cocktails (Such as the current Seasoned Strawberry Sangria).  It's funny how full circle things can be and it's in this reflective mode I remember my roots.

But I've come a long way from the simple blendings of store bought mixers, liquors and juices.  Food Matters showed me an entire culinary world in the art of cocktail making utilising whatever is in season, at it's peak of freshness to concoct some of the best drinks I've ever had any where in the DMV area.  Almost "Chef-Tending", I factored in layers and balance to making cocktails much like Chef's Tom & Christy Przystawik look at creating a great dish.  There needed to be salt, acid, sweetness, bitterness and the perfect level of heat from the alcohol and it was important to be able to taste every ingredient that went into the drink or else it did not serve a purpose.   Food Matters taught me that cocktails didn't have to be constricted to the confines of commercial ideals.  Because of them, I've made drinks with strawberry infused balsamic vinegar, fresh dill muddled kosher salt, black peppercorn simple syrup, sweet sorghum, roasted cardamom, orange blossom water, wine, beer and sherry.  I've made amazing drinks using fresh eggs and from vegetables like beets, cucumbers, carrots, celery and peppers.  I've used just about every fruit, spice and herb under the sun and took on speciality tasks such as creating my own barrel aged whiskies, salts, sugars, syrups, home made lemoncello's, infused whiskies, home made sparkling waters, ginger beers and other mixes.  They've given me the greatest method to producing the best Sangria's and Eggnog's money can buy.  They really took a chance on someone like me but gave me one of the greatest opportunities in my life, for this I am forever grateful.

Reflection.  I remember the first time Christy made a mint iced tea for me just because or when Chef Tom asked me to try a sauce or other project he'd be working on.  To better ourselves, I remember doing boot camp every morning before sunrise with Chef or that time we put a bottle of Tennessee whiskey up in a contest to see who could lose more weight in one month.  The day when he turned forty and I gave him a Miller High Life big boy and a card wishing him "to have a good 40".  I'll forever remember their daughter Amelie, because she was the very first child I ever picked up and held.  Food Matters is the reason I can say things like "Ayrshire, Wegmeyer and Hollin are some of my favorite local farms!"  I'll take with me the countless (Free, mind you) wine classes Christy gave me and other staff members.  Because of her, AOC's like Ch√Ęteauneuf-du-Pape, regions like Chile, Uruguay, Oregon and grapes like Gavi, Torrontes, Tempranillo and Tanat create wines that I can truly say I love over your traditional Chardonnay or Cab (These two are very good grapes, just massive commercial success drives me to find the next thing).  I was taught that real men eat quiche and you can still be bad ass but enjoy a South African Rose.  I love sparkling Mascato, raspberry Merlots, Tanat and Monastrell dessert wines, things I would never consider to drink until  I learned how to appreciate them for what they are.

Names like David Powell, Rachel Martin, Doug Fabbioli, Bill Butcher, Rick Wasmund, Joe Dangler and Scott/Becky Harris are not only in my Rolodex because of what transpired here at Food Matters, but I can even consider them as friends.  I am fans of their wine, their beer and their whisky from here on out and are among my favorites of each respected category.  Thank you for the chance to meet, eat, drink and work with these people.

And thanks for getting Mary and I through the Great Urban Race.  Calling Chef on reconnasaince and getting tip offs from Dad made that race all the more exciting!


So many things in Cameron Station consolidate it as such a remarkable neighborhood.  They've impacted me so hard, that I had to ask for some of them to come be apart of my wedding and reception.  A reception where Mary and I shared a beautiful evening at Food Matters amongst friends and family.  I thank all of those who participated in that event and the contributors to our three honey moon getaways.  Gerry & Victoria for making Cape May New Jersey a go to location for Mary for the rest of our lives.  You are more generous and lucky to have had that space and to have shared it with so many people.  Truly, you are some of the most spectacular people I will ever know.  Anyone who bought a framed picture during the Art in The Parks.  How the staff blasted me with silly pet names like Johnny Bravo/Bannana, Tween Hands or the now Canadian residing guest Tim gave me DQ (short for Dancing Queen; long story, ask me about it sometime).  Nance and Adan, thank you for making the signs supporting my cocktails, you both always made a coolest picture displays, it made this place homely and personal.  It made people want to drink my cocktails.  I appreciate the books given to me from Peter, Ellen, Christy, Nance and Sam.  I thank Wolf for the first few years bartending always being there on those nights where it would be just the two of us shooting the mess for hours on end.  Good times!  Sheryl for helping me win just about every "sell the most of this product" contests by buying out more than your share and getting everyone involved, that and your over the top generosity.  I will always remember you.  Everyone who brought me a clip from a magazine, website or news paper regarding drinks and drinking, knowing it would inspire me one way or another.  Sheryl, Yoko, Brad, Michael / Michelle, Jen, Wolf, Harry, Cliff / Kitty, Addie, Lenore, Niel, Clara & John, Mary, Carla, Cassandra, Jim, big Mark, Brett & Mark, Eva, Nance, Giovanni, Daniel, David, Stevie, Luca, Tom, Christy, Gerry, Victoria and everybody else who ever contributed a bottle or sample towards The Next Rounds on Me.  And to Barbie and Jeff for hiring Mary and I to do all your promotional and retirement parties.

Reflection.  Mary, I love you so much and I thank you for showing me this place, your time here was invaluable and truly made Food Matters the well oiled machine it became and you simply always threw the greatest events.  You made things like Oscar night and the Derby real parties that people just HAD to come to, things that most people would simply over look in my opinion.  You are the best.  To this day you make every day feel special no matter what's going on in the world.  I love you.  To all the families who hired me to do private events and tastings, thank you.  Christy and Tom for all their pot lucks, bowling and house parties, you have always been so gracious.  The amazing Joe, for giving me a magic gig when that was hot on my to do list, that and for teaching me how to make it snow, a great Christmas gift to Mary and one for the books.  Carla for all your continuous support for Mary and Wish Craft, you are such an awesome person and forever giving, I wish there was more than a sash from Middleburg to give you.  Michael and Michelle for the computer, the IPhone and the Nano Adapter.  Remy and Jackie for that video and photo shoot during my Catoctin Creek Cocktail Event.  Cliff and Kitty for hanging out on Rolling Thunder that afternoon and for reintroducing me to Travis, a past life friend of whom neither of us could remember until I saw him. 

Patrick and David, during the blizzard when you shovelled my car out of the streets so I could get home.  Thank you Gwen for teaching me how to handle flowers, it's really come in handy!  Nance for fixing my house, mainly installing that toilet and the slip cover (That and Bourbon Pie).  Chocolate Smoovies prior to being on the menu were exclusive to my house parties right?  To her and Atena as well for making yard sales one of the funnest activities in the summers of Cameron Station.  Phil for all the hot CD's he would always bring me.  Rob & Shara for the Riedel glasses we simply were never supposed to have as we continued to break each piece of that set one by one!  Tom and Gerry both for all the great cigars.  Brandon and Bryce for the video games.  Bill for all of those Market Watches, it's like my favorite magazine now!  I think Ann from the Grooming Lounge in Tysons thanks us too as half her clients live in that neighborhood and were either introduced by me or people with good taste ironically request her exclusively.  Such a riot!

To the crew that was the direct cause and affect of every day there, I don't have enough words.  The days when Alicia, Atena, Nance, Mary, Giovanni, Acacia, Bryce, Mauricio and myself were the ONLY people there making a miracle out of a means, I enjoyed those times at Food Matters most of all.  I went to the hospital when both of Gio's kids were born, Nance ventured off with Mary and I countless times and Atena's house parties were some of the most famous, until Bryce had a going away party or a game night.  Phil helped to remind me that there were only 18 seats at the bar and sometimes I had to do "Less talkie talkie, more workie workie", though no matter how much we needed it, if Eggnog was needed, he wasn't the one to ask upon as he would scream to the kitchen "I DON'T MAKE NO EGGNOG!".  Our latest bartender, Paul, I can't help but say, because of you, I will never look at Grand Marnier or Vanilla Vodka the same.  Thanks for sharing the same passion as me, I hope you keep that with you.  Kaitlyn for always being a bubbly person and someone legitimately fun to be around.  Keep playing around with the drinks, learn as much as you can and don't stop creating.  To think girls like Kate and Christy's sister Brooke used to bartend here!  Those were awesome times!  That first kitchen click; Oscar, Vicki and Russ set the tone for the place and created the atmosphere for what Food Matters became.  Folks like Ana, Marilu, Liz, Kat, Stevie, Bill, David and Daniel who just stuck around that made the place what it is.  Particularly, Bill for his self humbling nature (he walked outside in a carrot suit for Earth Day and was the butt of so many jokes, but he gave himself to that role and we love him for it).  Stevie was a work horse, but the countless Top Golf nights brought clarity in working friendships.  The spontaneous sessions between Daniel, David and myself brought sanity and reason to some of the most hectic nights and working out with the newest and last crew, Adan, Karina, Eva, Scott and Claire, has rejuvinated me into believeing that I can do absolutely anything if I simply put my mind to it.  Thank you for being here, you are all the best.  All of you made it what it was though, don't think for a second becomes names like Alex, Hannah, Blake, Abby, Luca, Sean, Tamer, Davey, Sammy, Aubrey, Eugene, Paul (BOH), Phil 2, Carlos, (understand that this list would seriously go ON and ON and ON) weren't mentioned due to being forgotten or level of importance, but the fact that this list is so long to stay individual, though let's say, I gave it my all to do my best and you have all, at some point, touched my life.

I want to single out Addie too, she's like a mother to me and has always brightened each day with her always promised high energy, wit and sharpness.  I love her so much and she's always been so great to me and my family, I will miss her possibly  most of all.  Thanks for your lucky number, when Mary and I went to Las Vegas, you paid us out big at a roulette table!  She always kept my bar stools straight and perfectly spaced for service and I always enjoyed betting a dollar on games with her, she was always going to go for New England, I can tell you that!  She LOVES creamy clam chowder and is able to eat it at the heat of liquid fire and it still could possibly be cold. 

I'll never forget her one liners.  Her car doesn't know how to make left turns and it doesn't ever travel very far.  The fact that the only Mexican food she likes is Margaritas and that her favorite wine is "red and wet".  Some nights, Addie has dessert.  The only dessert she's ever had at Food Matters came in a flute shaped glass with bubbles.  "I only have one beer once a year on Oktoberfest!"  The fact that regardless of what she's been drinking, whatever glass she is holding is the "first one today" and sometimes my Bloody Mary's would be "I don't know....PICKY!" - She always told me not to spend my money, "I can't afford it", to live in my means and one day she's going to own the apartment I live in because of all the rent she pays through her nightly tips.  "AHH JEEZ!" - She always likes to tease and speak her mind.  Every night she'd ask me "What are you going to eat tonight John?"  Whatever my answer, she would puff her cheeks up with air to make a fat face.  Unless I told her I was having salad, then she'd stare at my stomach and say "I don't know John, sounds like a pretty good idea to me!" - Such a brat!  I love her to death and aim to remain forever in touch, she is absolutely the greatest and Cameron Station/Food Matters was very lucky to have her around, she made the place a restaurant on the corner of a neighborhood all more real.  It felt like home because of her.

Reflection.  To everyone else who graced my life while working at Food Matters, thank you.  Thank you for your generosity, your patience, your love and your support.  In almost five years, there is really too much to cover in one post this size already, but you've all touched my life, help mold me into the character I am today and really took me in to your hearts and homes.  Thank you, thank you and thank you again.  This has been life changing and a huge blessing for me.  Continue to look for me on The Next Rounds on Me, Twitter and Facebook.  I'm sure I'll be somewhere shaking things up.

Passion, Laughter & Love



  1. This was a beautiful post. I really miss you guys and am saddened to hear about Food Matters.

    I hope that you keep the Next Round going, though! You are such an amazing host/MC, it would be a shame to not have Johnny Cocktail continue on...

  2. Rest assured Ben,

    I will continue to post for as long as it's in me. I'm going to attempt to still bring you all a monthly cocktail, review whatever I lay my lips on and any events I participate in. This I will strive for. I've got one more cocktail of the month to write about here shortly and so much more to offer, so stay tuned. I have a feeling that this blog as only just begun.


  3. Thanks for everything John. Your first cucumber cocktail inspired the mixologist in me. Best of luck in all your endeavours and I hope to be drinking a concoction of yours in some high falutin' DC or NoVA bar soon.




  4. Paul,

    Thank you very much for your thoughtful comments and your support. I will let you know, via The Next Rounds on Me where I end up. Follow me on Twitter as well.

    I'll see you around.


  5. John - What a great post! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Food Matters means so much to us all.

  6. Wow! I could tell that you know a lot of tricks and tips when it comes to making cocktails. Would you share with me a recipe using fresh eggs? I want to learn something new and different, so I can have something delicate to offer to my friends the next time they visit me. Thanks!