Tales of a craft cocktail bar

Sean Murphy

People ask me if my mom taught me to cook.

Mom was a strict adherent to the Irish cooking maxim, “Take everything that walks, swims or flies across the face of the earth and boil the livin’ bejeezuz out of it.”

My love of food did not start with mom. It began in New Orleans.

Almost 40 years ago I landed there as a frostback, an illegal alien from Canada.

I was hired at Arnaud’s in the French Quarter and learned the waiting tables trade from some of the world’s best table service veterans.

My wife and Beach Bistro partner, Susan, mastered senior bar duties at one of Le Vieux Carre’s busiest and most visible bars, Le Booze at the Royal Sonesta on Bourbon Street.

During our New Orleans time, we developed a great friendship with Fred Sullivan, the popular bar master at Beach Bistro.

Every year since they were old enough to travel and until they preferred to travel without us, we packed up our children, Ben and Alexandra, and made a pilgrimage to New Orleans to visit Fred and to teach them about America’s greatest culinary city.

New Orleans is the true birthplace of American cuisine. Food was celebrated in New Orleans as a uniquely American art form when restaurants in New York and San Francisco were still opening cans and hiring Frenchmen.

Our son Ben worked summers and holidays at the Bistro. He earned his stripes as a pro waiter and bartender on the Bistro staff before heading off to university. Ben further honed his bartending skills in the dorms of Connecticut College.

Our daughter Alexandra studied in America’s other great culinary cities, Atlanta, Nashville and Seattle, and travelled and researched all things culinary throughout  Europe, Asia and Africa.

Three years ago, Ben returned to New Orleans to attend the world’s foremost chef-bartending conference, the Tales of the Cocktail, and to revisit his family’s birthplace in America.

Ben’s Tales of the Cocktail visit marked the beginning of what became a truly family effort to create an authentic craft cocktail bar on Anna Maria Island.

The craft cocktail movement is a revival of America’s love of classic cocktails – mixology from America’s earliest experiences with tavern punches and the cocktail cultures of the gay 90s and the speakeasy 20s.

It is also a celebration of the creative mixing of the very best of spirits, ingredients and authentic flavor infusions.

America has developed the best culinary product in the world by combining our increasing knowledge of world culinary skills with the world’s best product – American lamb, beef and fresh seafood. The craft cocktail movement is the natural extension of our passion to excel at all things culinary. We now celebrate that passion at The Doctors’ Office and are grateful to Ben and Alex for leading our way.

After I left New Orleans people asked me why I did not stay.

My response, “I feared for my liver.”

When Ben was asked why he did not spend some time living in New Orleans as his parents had done he quipped, “I decided it was a bad idea for me to live in a town with no last call.”

Some days, and in some ways, apples don’t fall far from the trees.