Behind the Bar: DelFrisco’s Mike Saul Advises Martinis Before Steak, Hopes You Don’t Order Mojitos


Vintage steakhouses, like Bill’s Food & Drink, are having a moment, and head bartender Mike Saul at DelFrisco’s in Midtown knows the scene well. For the past decade, the old-school veteran has poured out hefty cocktails for the expense account set, while also altering to the Rockefeller Center masses who swarm his neighborhood. But much like his preferred drink — a Ketel One on ice — Saul is smooth and likable, with a bit of a bite. So much so that he was once revisited (and apologized to!) by a patron he had kicked out the night before. “We’ve all been there before,” Saul says coolly. “It’s a necessary evil.”

In this week’s Behind the Bar, Fork in the Road chatted with the booze expert about the best cocktails to prep your palate before a big steak dinner, how to break your drinking rut in 2013, and why bartenders don’t want you to order a mojito.

At Del Frisco’s, people are likely looking to drink as well as they’ll eat. What cocktails help ease you into a big steak dinner?
I like to a good, stiff Martini before dinner. Whether my guests are out celebrating their big holiday bonuses, or trying to get a buzz on to prepare themselves for dinner with the out-of-town aunts, uncles, and cousins, a Martini is the go-to while waiting at the bar. The simple flavors of the drink are a good prelude to a night of indulgence.

We’re past Champagne season. What should people resolve to drink in 2013?
I like to find out what people generally order at a bar, and try to work closely to that. If they love a great Manhattan, they can switch up the bitters to something like Bittercube’s Cherry Bark Vanilla Bitters. If a Negroni is more their speed, I’d suggest changing out the Campari with Aperol for a lighter, brighter cocktail with a slight orange tang to it.

You’ve been at this gig for a while. What do you dread making?
I give people what they want. But when our bar is five deep and people are getting antsy, if I keep getting hit with labor intensive cocktails, it can slow my groove down. Next time you are at a busy bar with throngs of thirsty people waiting for drinks, give the bartender a break and don’t order a Mojito.

Answer this question: When it’s last call, I’ll pour myself a glass of…
Ketel One on ice. When the last guest leaves after an insane night of service a simple drink that requires no mixing, shaking, or pony tricks is just what I need to take the edge off!