The Bartender Diaries
Barman John Coltharp Piques Our Curiosity
Whether you are a whiskey aficionado or merely whiskey-curious, get yourself down to Seven Grand, and sidle up to John Cotharp at the bar, if you are lucky enough to catch him on a slow night. He carries around an encyclopedia of whiskey knowledge in his head, which he’s willing share with a brown-spirits enthusiast, and he’ll mix you up a damn fine drink. (Personal Aside: John made the best Blood & Sand I’ve ever had!)
Coltharp has chosen the hospitality industry since he was 13, and spent the last 4 years behind the bar. Prior to Seven Grand, John worked at respected spots such as Sona and La Frite, and explains that he’s unable to get away from restaurants: “Every time I did something else for work, I always wanted back in the service industry.”
In addition to honing his skills on the job, he credits Sammy Ross with kick-starting his education on classic drinks and bartending style. He also recently graduated from the prestigious B.A.R. Ready training program led by some of John’s other mentors: Dale DeGroff, Paul Pacult, Steve Olsen and David Wondrich.
We all know that its take more than a good cocktail to make a great bartender. What is John’s secret? “Make your guest feel comfortable. Not everyone knows a lot about spirits or cocktails. Some people want to learn. Some people just want a drink. Don't get on a high horse.”
So what does a great bartender want when he’s the one on the barstool?
In his opinion, the ideal bar “looks old, and is well stocked with well trained staff.” Some of his current faves include Cole's and The Association, in downtown, and he also adds an unexpected hotspot: “One of my of all time favorites is The Pineapple Hill Saloon and Grill in Sherman Oaks. Just a regular bar, but a good place to get some well needed drinking done.”
His describes his perfect night off as hanging with his girlfriend Maria sipping cocktails made by his buddy Matty Eggleston at The Hungry Cat. (Personal aside, again: I concur, Matty rocks and will soon be a Bartender Diary feature, too.)
How does working night and weekends affect a devoted bartender’s personal relationship? “It strains some while improving others,” John explains. “I've made a lot of good friends, that's for sure.”
What keeps a guy like John up at night? “How to make my bar better,” he says. “I'm not kidding. It's sad.”
If he could meet one historical figure, Coltharp would choose Carrie Nation, (in his words): “So I could sit her down and tell her what was going to happen during and because of prohibition.”
Although his ideal drink is “ice cold, balanced, and made in under ten minutes,” he says that his favorite cocktail is the one in his hand, waxing poetic and citing the wise turtle in Kung Fu Panda: "Everyday is a gift, that's why they call it the present.”