Tag Archives: Bar

Conversations with Hilary: Jacques Bezuidenhout, Bar Star

With the recent opening of Wildhawk, I found it fitting to feature the genius behind the cocktails, Jacques Bezuidenhout. A Johannesburg native, Jacques became captivated by the cocktail and spirits culture in London and then decided to take the great American bus adventure to discover the lay of the land. Thankfully for us, he found his favorite American city in San Francisco and officially planted roots here in 1997.

Jacques is a partner in both Wildhawk and Forgery, and is also a National Brand Ambassador for Partida Tequila and Campari. Both Jacques and partner Ken Luciano have worked extremely hard this past year to open two amazing bars, with one getting ready to celebrate it’s one year anniversary (Forgery) and the other celebrating its opening (Wildhawk), the future looks bright for our two bar stars.

What do you believe to be your greatest accomplishment?

Family and friends. My relationship with my family, friends and Alexis is my best accomplishment. Without any of them, nothing else really matters. I feel in that regard I have not accomplished as much as I can. I can always be a better friend, family member, son, father, brother or partner.

What qualities do you think others love about you?
I hope my passion, generosity and sometimes my jokes.

If you could do anything other than what you currently do, what would it be?
I wish I had the talents to be an Architect. I have always loved the talents and creativity of Architects. Designing something and then building it – Gaudy and Frank Gehry leave beautiful marks on this world.

What do you like most about what you do for a career?
The creativity and the people. I love the creative process about putting a bar idea together and then the people you work with and the people you serve bring everything together and make it special.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?
Kiss Alexis good morning and then slowly try and figure out my first cup of coffee.

The Wildhawk bar team

The Wildhawk bar team

What’s your favorite thing to do on a Friday night?
That could be many things. It could be something at home or out in a city. Usually involves either a cocktail or some food. I love our culture of food and liquids. Every day is a new adventure in food, wine and spirits.

What were you passionate about in your younger years growing up?
Basketball. I wanted to be a professional basketball player in the NBA. I loved the process of constantly shooting a ball every day and going through the process of getting better and improving.

What are you passionate about now?
Food, spirits and worldly culture.

What’s your favorite season and why?
Fall. I grew up in constant beautiful summer in Johannesburg so never experienced fall until I moved, and I love it. I love fall on the East Coast. Leaves change. Food changes. Smells change. You start to feel that chill and smell wood smoke in the air.

If you were a cocktail or a drink what would it be?
A Negroni. Maybe a little misunderstood, a little bitter, but full of complexity and fun at the same time. It’s the kind of cocktail that makes you happy at any part of the day.

What’s the #1 most played song on your iPod?
Jay Z – Ain’t No love like the Heart of the City.

If you could have lunch with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
I always go back to Nelson Mandela or Madiba as he is affectionately referred to back home. I would just love to connect with such a special person. Try and understand his Grace to humanity after everything he went through.

If your life was made into a movie, what would it be called?
I hope it’s a Will Farrel movie. Somewhere between Step Brothers, Semi-Pro and Other Guys, with a little sprinkle of the movie Cocktail and a small part of a River Runs Through It. So a little like a cocktail. Many small parts, all good.

Jacques behind the bar at Forgery

Jacques behind the bar at Forgery

Do you have any regrets?
Yes. I believe we all do but for the most part I am happy with my choices and decisions. I would say the biggest regret is not having more daily time with my Daughter or loved ones.

Define Freedom.
Freedom to me would be an open world of travel. No borders and an unlimited flight, hotel and food expense account.

What are your personal core values?
Love. Passion. Life.

What three things would you bring with you on a desert Island?
Alexis, Partida Reposado and Pasta Arrabiata and if I could smuggle a fourth then a few cases of great wine.

Jacques Bezuidenhout’s Favorite Classic Cocktails & Bar Essentials

In anticipation for the April opening of Wildhawk Bar, partner Jacques Bezuidenhout reveals his favorite classic cocktails and his essentials for his at-home bar.

What is your favorite cocktail to order at the bar when you go out?
I have three that I order regularly depending on what kind of bar I’m walking into. I cannot just have one. Generally a Negroni is one of my favorites, followed by a Margarita and a good Martini. For me, these three classics, if made well, will always put a smile on my face and make the days’ stresses disappear. They are timeless and very tasty!

Why are these your favorites when you’re out?
Most bars can make a Negroni, even if they don’t, they can be helped with a little direction. Then I love a great Margarita, but that really depends if the bar does fresh squeezed lime juice and if they carry quality Tequila. If that is the case, I will thoroughly enjoy a Margarita or two. Then lastly, I love a well-made Martini, I am very careful when ordering this cocktail. Most bars can make a good Martini, but few can make a great Martini. It is one of those drinks that require some passion and attention to detail. It can truly set the good bartenders from the great bartenders.

Jacques Bezuidenhout and Kenny Luciano of Forgery and upcoming Wildhawk Bar

Jacques Bezuidenhout and Kenny Luciano, partners in Forgery and upcoming Wildhawk Bar

What two things do you stock at your bar at home, that people don’t necessarily think to have or generally own?
A couple of things every home bar should have is a mixing glass and a home juicer. Get a nice mixing glass (Cocktail Kingdom), this will help you stir all sorts of great drinks from Martini’s to Manhattan’s. It is a great piece of equipment to have and looks great on your bar. Then always have a hand juicer for juicing limes, lemons or grapefruits. Do not ever, ever, ever buy pre-mixed citrus. The hand juicer ensures delightful fresh-squeezed juice, which makes for a much better cocktail experience. It takes a little extra effort but the pay-off is well worth it.

What do you think would make someone’s home bar a bit extra special?
For me it is not really a specific ingredient – I believe that is a very personal thing. If you love Gin then stock a great selection. Although, it is always handy to have a small selection of bitters and at the very least Angostura.