Petraske was a bartender, but he did more than listen to tales of woe. Dissatisfied with the “bar scene” — where harried bartenders threw together drinks to be slopped down by sloppy people — Petraske wanted a more refined experience, and sought to recreate the higher-end experience of older days. On New Year’s Eve 1999, he opened Milk & Honey in his native Manhattan. It was an out-of-the-way place, with no big signs or advertising, but word spread quickly, and it was jammed with customers wanting something better: an experience, not just a drink. Indeed the bar didn’t serve drinks, it served cocktails, expertly made and served with care by well-dressed people. “Petraske helped define the modern cocktail renaissance,” says Imbibe magazine. His style was reminiscent of Prohibition-era speakeasys: smaller, more intimate, more polite, with customers who dressed up for the occasion. Petraske’s ideas spread, not only from copycats, but he opened more bars in New York, London, Los Angeles, Melbourne, and “helped drive the global cocktail conversation forward and further inspired a generation of bartenders,” Imbibe says. “Mr. Petraske’s role in the modern cocktail revival is difficult to overstate,” agrees the New York Times. His influence “can be seen in myriad details now common to cocktail bars around the world, including hidden entrances, a focus on classic cocktails, and a formal attire.” Petraske was found dead of so-far unknown causes in his home on August 21. He was 42.
From This is True for 23 August 2015