It’s no accident that The Skylark has one of the top cocktail menus in New York City. We went behind the counter and sat down with Johnny Swet, the man who crafts the liquid magic at The Skylark, on his past, his process, and how to properly name a drink.
Where are you from?
Pittsburgh, then seven years in the Navy, then a stint in LA, then to NYC in 1994
Where do you find inspiration?
A lot of my friends are chefs, and hanging out with them gives me a different perspective on how to do drinks. What are you playing with this season? What’s new at the market? These are the things we talk about. And chefs are intense, so you have to think outside the box with them.
For the Skylark [the cocktail], it was inspired by the view. I knew I wanted to do a spin on a classic Vesper, and I was in the space, looking at the gorgeous view of the Empire State Building. My goal was to get the cocktail to match the lightest blue sky that day, so I added blue curacao.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
I love figuring out a challenge, and helping people bring a vision to life. My background is in fine art (started as a Russian Lit. major in college, then discovered a passion for painting), and I parlayed that into the bar realm. My artistic edge definitely comes into play when I’m working– when I’m working on venue design, instead of a canvas you have an 8,000 square foot space. And in terms of cocktails, I work on creating ones that not only are beautiful, but that taste great and make sense with that space. It’s about finding balance and cohesiveness. And the name, of course. The name needs to make sense.
Your go-to drink?
Easy and simple — Templeton Rye Whiskey on the rocks