Today we speak with bartender and co owner of Sweetwater Social, Justin Noel.
I had a unique journey to get to where I am today. Not to say that everyone has the same route in this industry, but American that I am, my bartending career started overseas. While living in Amsterdam, playing soccer and studying, I got the opportunity to work for at a nightclub in Rembrandtplein (one of the busier nightlife areas in the city). This offered me my first taste of bartending and I never looked back. I worked in this nightclub slinging cocktails and beers to people ordering in Dutch. If anyone has been to the Netherlands you’ll see that they are a very fashionable people, so I not only had to learn the language to understand their orders, but had to step up my style as well. One of my fellow bartenders introduced me to WE clothing company, a Dutch fashion retailer, while I was there and then I was set. WE men’s loose fit jeans became the only thing I wore when not wearing cleats and soccer attire.
From the Netherlands I found my way to London. It was there that I learned what a ‘real’ cocktail was, as well as the art of flair bartending. I worked at a couple of spots in the Leicester Square and Covenant Gardens areas of London, learning the intricacies of the gimlet and throwing a bottle over my head. This is where the fun of bartending set in and I knew this was something I could do other than soccer. After graduating back in the States it was my mom who suggested I apply at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel after she saw an ad for a bar position. I took her suggestion and found myself at the age of 21 working for the luxury hotel chain. At the Ritz, not only did I receive an education in spirits but, because of the clientele, I was forced to learn the classics (cocktails) and what made a quality suit. My first was a tailored Brooks Brothers classic black slim cut two button accompanied with some French cuffed shirts and cuff links.
The Ritz not only gave me a spirits education but it got me to Miami, and from there I ended up working with Bacardi USA which then led me to take a job in New Zealand. From New Zealand, my bartending journey took me to Southeast Asia, Australia, Greece, back to South Florida, and finally back to New York. At the time, New York was where everything was happening in terms of the cocktail world.
My career took me around the world in order for me to learn the craft of bartending, but it also introduced me to new cultures and new fashions. While in Southeast Asia my brother and I had a lot of tailored suits and shirts made. These became the backbone of my style when I got back to New York, as the tie-and-vest look was dominating the scene. The Double RL store became my one stop shop for jeans and waistcoats. My look was influenced by my overseas travels. I rocked classic Adidas Gazelles for footwear (always multicolored), an Adidas track jacket zip up, while behind the bar Double RL jeans, Double RL vests, and Banana Republic fitted shirts. Who would have thought that I would open a bar one day right across from the store where I bought my jeans and vests, but that is exactly what happened when I opened my first bar as an owner in 1534 Bar.
Recently I had the opportunity to open Bleecker Kitchen & Co. and Sweetwater Social with my friend Tim Cooper and our partners Shaun Rose, Josh Berkowitz, Udi Vaknin, and Jeff Nessani. I am currently the National Brand Ambassador for Espolon Tequila, and will be starting my own tailor made suit company and haberdashery in Toronto known as Thomas Henry. My partners in Toronto and I are also looking to open a bar of the same name. As I said before, my story, like most bartender’s is unique, but mine has taken me on one hell of a journey.
Here Justin tells us about his personal style:
Jeans: Double RL Boot Cut Dark Denim
Shirts: Banana Republic slim cut button up
Pants: Express Producer Pants
Suits: Thomas Henry Tailored Made
Accessories: Lots of stuff on my wrist, and a black and neon pink Nixon watch.
Your favorite fragrance: Hugo Boss Green
Favorite piece of technology: My Samsung Galaxy 4
Next tech purchase: I travel a lot for work and don’t like to travel with a big camera so my next purchase is: Sony DSC-QX10 Smartphone Attachable Lens for my phone.