If you’ve paid a visit to Bistro du Midi in the past five years, chances are you’ve crossed paths with Ray Osborne. He’s worked his way through the ranks on both the restaurant and beverage management side of things, and here he opens up about which type of drink order is the toughest to craft, why gin gets him giddy and his new life as a dad.
Where do you work now? What’s your position? Where else have you worked in the last five years?
I have been with Bistro du Midi since 2012 and am currently the Head Sommelier and Assistant General Manager.
Briefly, how did you get involved in restaurants (and, specifically, bartending)? What draws you to this line of work?
I started working in the restaurant industry when I was a teenager as a summer job. I quickly realized both the excitement and vibe of restaurants were perfect for me. I have encountered so many great people in the industry with idiosyncratic passions, and those passions have rubbed off on me. It’s all about the people.
What’s your favorite drink to make (or wine or beer to pour)? Least favorite?
My favorite drink to pour is anyone’s first drink of the meal. As you’re shaking, pouring or pulling a tap, you know that that first drink is going to hit the spot for the guest. I don’t really have a least favorite order, other than the request to approximate a drink someone can’t remember. It’s a little harder to make that kind of experience perfect.
How do you feel about the “mixology movement”? Does that term appeal to you, not appeal to you? What do you think it means to be involved in the bartender culture, if you agree that there is one?
Mixology has taken some well-deserved ribbing for focusing on the bartender’s wants rather than the guest’s, but the culture is a great thing overall. I love the enthusiasm.
On your days off, what kind of places do you frequent? A lot of industry folk are happier with a Miller High Life and a Fernet than composed cocktails or craft beer. You?
My days off are typically filled with taking care of my one year old — who is currently smooshing banana into his hair — and unwinding with my wife at many of the Chinese joints in Quincy, where we currently reside. She orders corny cocktails and I’ll do a Cynar, if anything. Just for the hell of it, I ordered a Galliano recently and the bartender didn’t know what to do with the stuff so he poured basically a goblet for me. “Here’s your 5 ounces of Galliano, cheers!”
What do you always keep stocked at home? Are there different things you like to drink or to make for special occasions?
I always have Zywiec Porter stored at home. It’s perfect for when friends and family come over.
Are you excited about one spirit in particular? Is there something really overrated or underrated, in your opinion?
Gin on its own, taken in moderation. It’s not exactly a secret product, but St. George Botanivore Gin when chilled is a total knock-out. I don’t know if any product unduly gets a bad rap, but the most entertaining beverage is hands down Andie MacDowell’s sweet vermouth on the rocks with a twist… the face Bill Murray makes when he takes a sip in Groundhog Day is classic. I like vermouth, but I like that face more.
What’s something you wish the average guest knew about your job?
So many of us love the craft behind this line of work. We really appreciate how considerate you are, but we also want you to be able to relax, cut loose and order whatever you want — labor intensive or not — because we’re having a good time behind the bar to begin with.