Meet Pusser’s Rum Bartender on Deck Shannon Mustipher

pusser's rum bartender on deck

Shannon Mustipher of Glady’s Caribbean in Brooklyn, New York.

Tell me about yourself. What’s your background, and how did you end up as a bartender/mixologist?

I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia and Charleston, SC; close to a large extended family. We cooked most of our meals and did a fair amount of entertaining – I associated hospitality with eating early on.

I took up cooking as a hobby in college, and briefly entertained pursuing a career in cooking. While working as a barista, I realized I enjoyed interacting with guests, making their coffee and serving it to them in a way that added something positive to their day. Soon after leaving college, I bought my first cocktail glassware and tools and began to throw cocktail parties. I became obsessed with the Manhattan. I began to tinker with it, coming up with countless variations, hunting around for the little twist – the unusual ingredient or combination of flavors that would yield a memorable cocktail was a source of endless fascination for me.

After several years if working as a barista and server, I got a shift behind the bar in a restaurant in my neighborhood. From there I picked up shifts at friend’s bars until I landed at Glady’s Caribbean 4 years ago. We pour 60+ rums by the glass and serve traditional Caribbean punches and rum cocktails with a rotating menu of tiki specials.

What’s your favorite Pusser’s Rum cocktail, and what is the recipe for making it?

With Navy Style Rums like Pusser’s, I like to go for fuller bodied, Tiki style drinks.

pusser's kill devyl grog

Kill Devyl Grog Recipe:

2 oz Pusser’s Gunpowder Proof
1/2 oz Allspice Dram
3/4 oz Pineapple Gomme Syrup
Barspoon Jagermeister
3/4 oz lime juice
Ginger Beer

Combine all but ginger beer in a shaker. Shake and strain into a ceramic vessel over ice. Top with pebbles and garnish with a dusting of fresh nutmeg and flaming lime shell, then serve.

Why are you a Pusser’s fan? Why choose Pusser’s Rum over another spirit?

I am a huge fan of English Style Rums made according to traditional recipes, be they from Jamaica, Barbados, or Guyana. I love knowing the connection to history these rums have, and how they set the bar for quality in distilling, blending, and ageing.

From a drinking perspective, I am a neat spirits kind of person. I prefer rich, earthy, full-bodied, and full-flavoured rums. Rums with a floral and expressive nose and full, rich taste, dried fruit, a good finish, and a good amount of heat. Pusser’s Gunpowder Proof is a shining example of this. In my experience, 55 is the best proof to enjoy a rum at the height of flavour. I choose Pusser’s as it is a rum I can share with guests that will show them what traditional style rums have to offer as a drinking experience.

Where do you find inspiration for your cocktails?

It can come from a number of places: an ingredient or a flavour combination that I want to play with, a catchy phrase or song, a mood that I want to evoke. Classic cocktails are a heavy influence as they are tried and true templates for structures and ratios that create balance.

Please tell me about your greatest achievement in relation to the spirits industry.

My greatest achievement has been building a bar program that makes a STRONG case for rum as a top-flight sipper and base for cocktails. Before I opened the bar at Glady’s, there were a handful of places in NYC to try more than the usual suspects of rums. Four years later, there are more products available now than ever, especially with the growing popularity of premium rums: single stills expressions and special cask finishes. The generation that had its unfortunate run-in with Malibu is fading away. Research has shown a steady increase in the number of millennials showing a preference for wine and craft beer. There is an overall bigger demand for quality, and rum is a category can offer it in a number of styles at a range of price points. I am proud that I have been able to create an accessible space for people to experience this change.

What’s an interesting fact about yourself?

I’m a taxonomis. I LOVE to collect things: photographs, stamps, baseball cards, paper currency, coins, comic books. I worked as a curatorial assistant in a museum following college ( where I had studied, among other things, art history and printmaking). These days I enjoy making collages and reading. I am constantly reading on topics ranging from food to history, business, and politics

Any advice for those aspiring to be in the industry?

Be prepared to put in the work. Yes, there are easy jobs in the industry–some of them pay well, to boot. Meanwhile, there are bars where learning is required – be it in the areas of building knowledge, refining your palate, investing in tools and equipment, or sharpening your techniques. These environments can place demands on you that require you to work on yourself, your discipline, and your dedication. They are hard, but what you take away as a professional–integrity, a good work ethic, a genuine care for other people–makes you a better human being.

If you are good at your work and good at connecting with people, you will find that bartending can lead you down many paths depending on your interests, be it consulting with a brand, as I do with Denizen, educating other bartenders, and travel. There is a lot of opportunity beyond what we see on the surface to grow and see the world at large.

How can people get in touch or learn more about you?

Instagram: @shannonmustipher
Facebook: Shannon Mustipher