Bar News: A push towards Craft

It’s another perfect, summer day in San Luis Obispo and Bar Manager, Jason Nuss, is working out recipe details for the next cocktail to be featured in the Bartender Roulette. “There is so much great produce available this time of year, it can almost be distracting.” Jason, however, decides to use what is readily on hand rather than have Luna Red’s Farming Liaison, Matt Kubat, pick up ingredients from one of the many local farms that the restaurant partners with. “I’ve definitely had it hammered into me to never be wasteful. Working with Shaun as long as I have has taught me what sustainability really means.”

What does the word sustainability mean to him? “Really you could define it in a lot of ways, from buying local or being organic, but for me it’s just not being wasteful and making everything from scratch. It would be so easy for me to order pineapple juice and make Mai Thais, but where’s the creativity or challenge in that?”

One of the cornerstones of the bar program that Jason has established is a push towards being a truly craft bar. All of the syrups, garnishes and many of the juices are made fresh in house using only local ingredients. “One of the biggest challenges in being a high volume craft bar is walking that line between having what most people expect from bars and maintaining the high standards we have set at Luna Red. Everything is made by hand, from scratch or if I have to supplement with juices, they are organic and only have one ingredient on the label.”

When asked how difficult it is to maintain this, Jason laughs and shrugs the question off. “I mean, it could be a lot easier, but fortunately there is a great community of bar managers here in SLO. We all have friendly rivalries with each other, sure, but we are all working toward a common goal. We all want more local spirits to choose from, more locally sourced organic ingredients, and we want to support each other’s establishments. It’s the only way we’re going to grow and have more of these options available to us by creating the demand for them.”

You can definitely see the passion for a healthy community at every level of Jason’s bar program. It starts by having strong relationships with farmers, to the tight knit bartending staff, all the way up to the restaurants and bars in the downtown area. Everyone is in this together and if we want more out of our cocktails, we have to support the places that are willing to work harder and establish higher standards. For Jason and the Luna Red bar, that starts with sustainability.  -- Kielly Lewis

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