“There are things you don’t know when you’re not from here. You think the Sopranos — so you think it’s either the Jersey Shore, or North Jersey, which are cities. But we have mountains, we have a coastline, we have forests.”
Steven looks down at his bar and chuckles. Born in Germany but raised in Texas, he has been in New Jersey for seven years and truly, genuinely loves it here.
“I’d never been east of Houston before work brought me to New Jersey. I saw the skyline, and I fell in love immediately.”
To backtrack: we’re in Jersey City, at Mathews Food + Drink, having a drink and a chat with Steven Nichols, who happens to have been the New Jersey winner of this year’s World Gin Day Brocktail Competition. We met Steven down in New Orleans and he fit into our eccentric team. It was like we’d known each other for years. Which is why we are surprised to learn that it has only been a few months since he’s had his “a-ha” moment—that moment that bartenders always describe as when they realised this job was a career, and not just a placeholder.
“The support from the Brockmans competition really helped me believe in myself,” he adds, and we blush. “Everyone has that self-doubt, but your support system helped me realise, I could really do this.”
Steven now tends bar at Mathews, an unpretentious-yet-legitimate cocktail destination in the centre of downtown Jersey City. But it was an actual journey to get here, one that started in Germany (he was born to Air Force parents), continued in California, and ended up in Texas. Working for the corporate Joe’s Crab Shack brought him “east of Houston for the first time”, where he settled in New Jersey, and never looked back. After working a job in nearby Hoboken managing two restaurants simultaneously, he decided management was no longer for him.
“I might manage my own thing one day, but when it comes to managing a restaurant, I’m not really good at taking sh*t.”
Instead, the creative side to tending bar kept him in the game, and when he landed the job here at Mathews, everything clicked.
“Management really wants you to be creative here,” he tells us, as he excitedly begins to make us his winning Brocktail, the “Raspberree’s Knees.” “It’s so awesome to find a home, especially with people who appreciate what I’m doing and want me to succeed.”
It becomes obvious, quite immediately, why the Raspberree’s Knees was a winner. A cross between a Bee’s Knees and a French 75 with a few additions—“why not add berries and cool it off with mint?”— this concoction is a no-brainer. Summer may be over now, but that doesn’t mean we have to drink like it.
by Steven Nichols
- 2 oz/60 ml Brockmans Gin
- 1 oz/30 ml 1:1 honey syrup
- 1 oz/30 ml lemon juice
- 4-5 raspberries
- 6 mint leaves and a full mint sprig
- dry Prosecco
- Muddle the raspberries and mint leaves at the bottom of your shaker.
- Add Brockmans Gin, honey, and lemon juice.
- Shake vigourously until the shaker is cold.
- Strain over crushed ice into a hurricane glass.
- Top with Prosecco, and garnish with mint sprig and another raspberry.