A jigger of this, a splash of that went into the glass first.
Adam Hayden muddled some mint in the bottom of a small pitcher, adding a little bit of rye and some ice. He mixed the concoction with a brass bar stirrer, strained it into a tumbler brushed on the outside with a fresh peel of lemon.
Forget the traditional rum and Coke or vodka tonic. Like a mad scientist behind the bar, Hayden has studied the finer points of mixology to bring patrons the most unique drink creations as well as reviving some old favorites that had fallen out of favor.
He came to Greenwood from the popular throwback Libertine Liquor Bar in Indianapolis and is now the lead bartender at Bar Rev, the speakeasy companion to Revery in the Old Town Greenwood area.
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His goal is to help people rediscover the skill and enjoyment that comes from a sturdy, well-made cocktail.
“Indiana has been such a champion of craft beer, of slow food and farm-to-table food. That’s deep in the bloodline of Hoosiers,” Hayden said. “Now we see that in craft distilling. People want to see what you’re putting in their drinks. It all goes together.”
His idea of a bartender is to be a “pinnacle of the working class,” he said. Like the drink-slingers of yesteryear, he tries to get to know his customers as people, learn what they did and be a part of their lives.
Tracing his drink creations to classics such as the Manhattan, gimlet and the Moscow mule, Hayden adds his own touches to cater to modern tastes.
An Indiana English blends fresh mint, Bone Snapper rye, Pimm’s No. 1 liqueur and sugar and is served on the rocks. A mezcal mule combines mezcal, Ramazotti Italian bitters, fresh lime, agave and ginger beer for a smokey flavor.
“If I’m creating something new, I think about what style of drink — old-fashioned or sour or highball. I let that template shape the direction of the drink,” he said. “It all sounds very self-important; at the end of the day, we’re just trying to serve good drinks.”
Hayden came to be a bartender through another beverage-centric profession.
He started working at Starbucks at age 20 after leaving college and needing a job with benefits. Throughout his 20s, he found success in the company, eventually running a store then entering the development department for the company.
But as he was about to turn 30, Hayden re-evaluated his career path.
“I felt like a Monday-through-Friday, 9-to-5 thing was nice, but it was a lot of working in a cubicle, and I wasn’t sure that’s what I wanted,” he said.
Hayden returned to college, finished his undergraduate degree in philosophy from IUPUI and entered graduate school. Since he needed to find a job that would allow him to attend class but still make money, bartending made the most sense.
He was hired as a bar-back at Libertine, cutting lemons and limes, making sure the coolers held plenty of ice and beer, and ensuring the liquor didn’t run out.
“The bar-back role is a thankless job — your head’s down, your hands are always moving. But I showed promise, and a few of the guys there took me under their wing to teach me,” he said.
His interest in small-batch liquors and craft drinks paralleled his work at Starbucks.
“When Starbucks first came, there was a lot of this feeling about why spend $4 on a cup of coffee when you can get a cup at the gas station for 99 cents?” Hayden said. “A lot of the conversation was on an experience, a handcrafted product. There was a similar approach to liquor.”
With the skills he learned at Libertine, Hayden was a natural fit for what Revery owners Mark Henrichs and Danny Salgado were looking for on their new project.
“He lives down here and was always intrigued by what we were doing with this restaurant,” Henrichs said. “We were opening up this back bar, and he had the experience creating the kind of atmosphere we were looking for.”
Just like Hayden’s bartending style has its roots from a century ago, so does the look of Bar Rev. Black ceilings accentuate exposed brick in the back of the historic Van Valer building.
Bottles of MacCallen 12 scotch and Ron Zacapa rum, Peychaud’s bitters, Carpano Antica vermouth, Ferret Branca Menta and dozens others line the wall. An old-style jail cage that was constructed to store excess liquor and beer helps the bar feel like a speakeasy.
“There’s no signage on the door, for a play on the underground kind of place with classic cocktails, craft beer and liquors,” Henrichs said. “You don’t see it when you drive by, but then you come in and we direct you back there.”
Education about liquor is a foundation of Hayden’s work. Whenever a customer comes in, he’s ready to explain which ingredients do what, what kind of flavor profile a particular drink will have, why pouring equal parts gin and sweet vermouth will result in a dry tang.
He is less familiar with the mass-poured drinks and shots that many bars specialize in.
“I joke with people that I’m the best-worst bartender. If you come in and order a bunch of typical shots, I have no idea how to do that. But if you want a really nice Manhattan, I can do that,” he said.
Hayden gravitates toward bitter Italian digestifs, drinks that aid digestion. One of his new favorites is the Forester for the Trees, made with Forester 100 bourbon, small batch American brandy, sweet vermouth and creme de cacao.
“It’s a cool boozy, sweet kind of drink that reminds people of a Manhattan,” he said.
He’s found that small touches can make a big difference.
Hayden squeezes fresh lemon juice each day behind the bar and has small-batch syrups ready for whatever people order. Lemon bitters, citrus zest and aromatic bottles sit on the edge of the bar.
Just as craft beer has gained a massive following throughout Indiana and the rest of the country, small liquor producers are artfully distilling gins, rums, bourbons and others, perfect for what Hayden wants to create.
“Prohibition kind of messed up America’s history of distilling and drink-making, and we’re just now starting to rediscover what the old bartenders used to know,” he said.
Occupation: Craft-cocktail bartender at Bar Rev
Education: Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in philosophy from IUPUI
The art of mixology, past and present
Drinks offered by Adam Hayden at Bar Rev in Greenwood.
Description: “Boozy, wine notes, slightly sweeter than the old-fashioned”
Ingredients: Bulleit 95 rye, Carpano Antica vermouth, bitters, served up
Description: “Thirst-quenching, spicy ginger beer, subtle lime citrus.”
Ingredients: Hangar 1 vodka, lime, Fever Tree ginger beer, served in a tall glass
Description: “Boozy, a good sipper, bourbon forward.”
Ingredients: Bone Snapper rye, bitters, sugar, served on the rocks
Description: “More than just a rum and Coke, worth a couple extra bucks.”
Ingredients: Crusoe spiced rum, Q Kola, lime, served in a tall glass
Description: “Smoky and spirit forward.”
Ingredients: Herradura Reposado tequila, Sombra mezcal, agave, served on the rocks
Description: “Lighter, fresh mint, citrus forward and summery.”
Ingredients: Bone Snapper rye, Pimm’s No. 1, mint and sugar, served on the rocks
Description: “Herbally, mint and spirit forward.”
Ingredients: Ransom Old Tom gin, Fernet Branca Menta, Cynar, served up.
Description: “Tart, floral and not-too-sweet.”
Ingredients: Crusoe white rum, Luxardo maraschino and violette, served up.