Discovering Unique Spirits With Gareth Howells of NYC’s Forrest Point

Forrest Point Poitin Milk Punch  | Facebook

Forrest Point Poitin Milk Punch | Facebook

This is the second part of our unique spirit series spotlighting Poitin. We are drinking a little bit of Ireland in New York City and sharing bartender interviews about how to use Poitin. We are honored to have interviewed Gareth Howells from Forrest Point about unique spirits and his inspiration.  Follow the interview below and meet the fabulous and super talented Gareth Howells. 

About Gareth Howells

Gareth Rory Howells an English/Irish immigrant, has been involved in the beverage industry for over twenty years. Starting as a dishwasher in his local pub located in Guildford, Surrey, UK, he has held almost every conceivable position in the service industry. He started bartending at the age of 18 and has been ever since, in one form or another.

Upon moving to New York, he worked as the Beverage Director of the Smyth Hotel in Tribeca. Upon leaving, he moved on a short-term contract to work at ‘Le Pescadeux,’ Soho as their interim Assistant General Manager. During this time, he continued to sling drinks with the gents (and ladies) at Yerba Buena (Perry St). Following these jobs, he opened up ‘The Leadbelly’ with Colin Asare-appiah for the Fat Radish Boys. After a jaunt back to Tribeca, he found himself working at Bagatelle and Forrest Point, where he is currently their Bar Manager and Head Bartender.

Foodable: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Gareth Howells: I love stories, especially those that evoke memories of certain events, places or people. I try whenever possible to have a story in mind whenever I create a cocktail. People love stories and I have found that attaching stories whether personal, historical or otherwise is received warmly by customers and translates exceptionally well with the staff I work with.

 Foodable: What is your favorite spirit to work with?

GH: I have no favorite spirit to work with, everything will depend on the story I am telling and which spirit I feel will help express this in the best possible way.

Foodable: How would you describe the flavor of Poitin?

Margot McGowan's Milk Punch  | Facebook

Margot McGowan's Milk Punch | Facebook

GH: Spending huge tracts of my youth in Dublin, Poitin had the reputation of being made from potatoes and making the people who drank it temporarily blind. Needless to say, my perception before trying the craft distilled version was that of a bathtub Gin or lighter fluid. But once the gents from Glendalough Distillery came by, I was blown away. My residing memories were of a beautifully balanced and incredibly complex spirit with Sake-like qualities.

Foodable: What are some current Poitin cocktails you are working on?

GH: I am currently making one of Forrest Point’s 4 Milk Punches, Margot McGowans Milk Punch using the Glendalough Mountain strength Poitin.

Foodable: What inspired you to craft these particular cocktails? 

GH: This milk punch was originally made for Jameson Black Barrel to be showcased at their Metro Area Annual Bartender's Ball. Jameson selected two accounts and bartenders from the Boroughs to provide a cocktail for the event. Needless to say, this was a huge honor and as with most of my drinks, I decided to create something that evoked memories of visiting my Grandmother in Dublin when I was a child. Drawing from those Celtic influences, I needed a spirit that would accentuate the drink's spicy undertones and draw on the vanilla notes I was looking to highlight. As with all things Celtic, I also wanted the drink to kick like a mule without the astringent aftertaste of other high proof spirits. The Glendalough Mountain Strength ticked all the boxes, hence its inclusion.

Are you drinking any unique spirits at your local watering hole?  If so, what cocktails are being utilized?