WASHINGTON -- Mike Isabella isn’t the only star at Bandolero.
Diners at Georgetown’s newly-opened small plates oasis may crane over their plates of tostadas and guacamole for a glimpse of celebrity chef Isabella of "Top Chef" fame. But between bites of charred asparagus tacos and sips of margarita, satisfied customers should also raise a glass to a tattooed mixology expert named Sam Babcock, who oversees Bandolero's cocktail experience.
A native of New England, Babcock came to the nation's capital from Portland, Maine, where he split his time between bartending and competitive snowboarding. After working with Isabella at Graffiato in Chinatown, Babcock came along for the ride at Bandolero, mixing up creative concoctions like the "Scofflaw Cocktail" and his versions of the "Blood and Sand" and "Aviation."
Settling into his new job, Babcock took a few minutes to chat with HuffPost about his roots, extreme sports and the international influences on his spicy new cocktail creation. Oh, and he threw in a few expert tips for the amateur and aspiring mixologists out there. Read more below the slideshow ...
The Huffington Post: I see that you got your start on Nantucket -- are you a New Englander? How did you get interested in mixology?
Sam Babcock: Yes, I am a New Englander! I was born in Brattleboro, Vt., and grew up in Portland, Maine. I began working in the industry at 18 in Nantucket, Mass., working as a doorman at a bar called The Muse. Eventually, a friend of mine who was a bartender at Cap'n Toby's (also in Nantucket) asked if I would be interested in learning the craft. He got me a job there barbacking for him, and I jumped at the opportunity.
HuffPost: How does your previous occupation of professional snowboarder fit in with your current job? These sounds like two extremely different occupations -- have you discovered any unexpected similarities?
Babcock: Competing in snowboarding taught me quite a lot about myself that I apply in my current profession. I thrive while performing for people, and in the bar industry you are essentially on stage -- guests want to see what you can do and how well you do it.
HuffPost: What's the weirdest night you've ever had on the job in a restaurant/bar?
Babcock: Interestingly enough, I can't pick just one -- pretty much every night something quirky or weird happens. It's one of the many reasons I love being behind the bar!
HuffPost: Where and what was the best drink you ever had?
Babcock: An old restaurant and bar on Nantucket, called the Westender, was set on the very west end of the island, where you could see the most spectacular sunsets. After a day of surfing, one of the best things to do was show up at the Westneder and have their famous Madaket Mystery, a rum punch made from fresh fruit juices and (obviously) a load of rum.
HuffPost: Do you have any tips for amateur mixologists?
Babcock: For amateur mixologists, I'd say it is important to build a decent bar kit (shakers, strainers, spoons, etc), but don't go crazy. Find one cocktail you really like and buy just those ingredients. After you've gotten them, look into what other drinks you can make from those same ingredients.
HuffPost: Can you describe a simple summery drink to make at home?
Babcock: Painkillers are great simple "boat drinks" for the summer, made from silver rum, orange and pineapple juices, Coco Lopez and freshly grated nutmeg. Take a half gallon of each juice, combine with a can of Coco Lopez, and refrigerate. When you're ready to drink, grab a tall glass and fill it with ice, pour in the silver rum (I use Cruzan) and then add the juice mixture. Give it a stir and then sprinkle a little nutmeg on top. Delicious!
HuffPost: What's your favorite drink at Bandolero?
Babcock: My favorite drink at Bandolero right now is called El Dorado (The City of Gold). I love experimenting with liquor and spices from all over the world to create interesting flavors. El Dorado is made with Espolon Reposado Tequila from Mexico, St. Germain from France, Cardamaro from Italy, Asian-inspired 5 Spice Syrup and fresh lemon juice.
HuffPost: What are your future plans for Bandolero’s bar?
Babcock: I've got some new cocktails up my sleeve that we'll debut at Bandolero before too long. I'm also really looking forward to switching up the flavors of our frozen margarita, showcasing some fresh ingredients. Stay tuned!
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