When Olaf Harmel arrived to San Antonio, he got here at a time when the craft cocktail revival was in its infancy. All these years later, the longtime barman is gearing up to relocate from his modest upstairs bar at Bluebox to Brigid, a modern American restaurant expected to open soon in Southtown, where Harmel will run a more culinary-driven cocktail menu. At the bar, Harmel said he wants to circulate spirits regularly to accommodate the always-changing food menu. Still, the one bottle he always wants to have on hand is Kinsman Rakia.
How did you get into bartending?
I didn't do it intentionally. A friend of mine opened a bar in Corpus Christi and I helped run the bar for awhile. But I needed to learn how to bartend. So I read a lot and applied myself. When I came to San Antonio I had to be full on focused. You can't be a bar manager without knowing how to bartend.
What makes Kinsman Rakia an interesting spirit to use in cocktails?
It's one of those spirits that elevates people. It's just so unique that it broadens people's drinking perspective. It has a unique flavor and texture but still has some heat to it. I love products that have a full-flavor profile. As a bartender I enjoy being in a position of introducing people to new things they haven't had before.
What ingredients play well with the spirit?
Gin, citrus go well with it. Raspberries, plums, grapefruit, mandarin, ginger. It blends really well with almonds, basil, pretty much anything that goes well with apricots. Just a small amount of Kinsman will enhance the cocktail. It's very supple. It's a year-round spirit you can use to make refreshing, luscious cocktails.