A Tequila Morning at Gladstone Tavern
By Melo Porter ● Photos By Lauren Kearns
Mixologist Robby Seibert doubles on the sax.
I admire a man who openly attributes the success of his 13-year marriage to a tradition he calls
“Tequila Saturdays.” Robby Seibert [C1] and his passion for all things cocktail has earned him the coveted position of bar manager at Gladstone Tavern, NJ’s best-loved upscale restaurant and watering hole.
I had the pleasure of spending some time with Robby to chat about our mutual love of craft cocktails and, of course, to sample some of his latest creations. Seibert’s approach to mixology is an energetic and risk-taking blend of science and art. The son of musician/artist parents, he beams at the proverbial blank canvas while others might slink away in self-doubt. Now, I have a particular weakness for tequila, but I prefer it neat. One too many subpar margaritas in my youth nearly convinced me to swear off tequila completely. When I revisited the idea in recent years, however, I found that, minus the overdone margarita mix, a good tequila can be quite lovely on its own. I challenge Robby to give me a margarita I could feel good about.
Seated at the bar, I watch as Robby pours and squeezes and shakes, with a smile on his face and, I swear, a sway in his hips. My first drink is a Cactus Margarita - Milagro Blanco, prickly pear, Cointreau, lime and agave. It’s bright pink, as a summer cocktail should be, with a slice of lime perched on the side of the glass.
“This is more of a traditional Margarita,” Robby explains as I slowly start sucking it down.
It’s only 11 a.m., and I resist the temptation to finish it (I have to pick my kids up from school in a couple hours). The drink is sweet and tangy but not cloying, like the margaritas from my past. According to Robby, a killer margarita is all about using tequila that is 100% agave, as well as, the freshest ingredients you can get your hands on.
Robby is big on using seasonal ingredients straight from the Tavern’s garden or sourced from a local farm. A shelf in the bar is devoted to a collection of his homemade syrups, bitters, and tinctures. Different size jars with handwritten labels resemble props from a Frankenstein movie, but instead of eye of newt, you’ll find things like gentian root and cinchona bark, all used to give Seibert’s cocktails depth and complexity.
Seibert’s second take on the margarita, the Pineapple Smoke, is a drink that hits you in stages, the first of which is visual. Standing straight up out of the glass, like a blood red monolith in a pool of icy pineapple deliciousness, is an entire tabasco pepper. Before handing the glass over, Seibert pulls out an atomizer and sprays it with one of his homemade potions. The result is the sensation that you’re inhaling a pleasant puff of smoke with your first sip. The drink itself is refreshing and complex without being too sweet. This is now my go to margarita. Well done, Mr. Seibert.
I ask Robby what he thinks the next big trend in cocktails will be, citing the recent popularity of ingredients like Kombucha and Yuzu, a Japanese lemon. He tells me in Japan bartenders aspire to achieve a kind of perfection, not only as far as the cocktail goes, but in providing the customer with what they call Omotenashi, or hospitality and politeness. For example, you’ll never hear the clink of ice in a glass as it’s being stirred. The Japanese bartender’s presence is quiet and unobtrusive. To Seibert, the overall experience for the customer is more important than a trendy new ingredient, and in contrast to his Japanese counterparts, his infectious zeal for creating cocktails is anything but demure.
Gladstone tavern is located at 273 main Street, in Gladstone, NJ. gladstonetavern.com