You know that 25 year-old Julian Goglia, partner and principal barkeep at the Pinewood Tippling Room in Decatur, crafts some of the city's best cocktails. But did you also know that he owns three motorcycles, has mostly metal in one leg, and once lived in apartment building that now houses Abattoir? Here's the bartender, also one of the Eater Young Guns semi-finalists, on the nomination, Pinewood's one-year anniversary, what it's like to be part of a motorcycle club, and why he has no shame mixing a margarita.
Congrats on your Young Guns nomination. What was your reaction?
It totally made my day. And not just because it coincided with my first vacation since we opened a year ago. It's great to be recognized by others in your field. I mean, Mario Batali may not know my name, but that people like him were on the selection committee, and that I was nominated along with Ryan Pernice [owner/operator of Table & Main]— it's pretty awesome. Ryan and I have actually talked and planned to get together soon.
How did you get into bartending?
I went to school for pharmacy, and I worked in that field for about six years. And one day, I was sitting at my desk at lunch, and I called my friend and said 'I really want to go to New York City with you this weekend,' but I couldn't get off work. They wouldn't let me have that Monday off. And I just said 'screw it.' I wrote this handwritten note, 'due to unforeseen circumstances, I will no longer be able to part of this company.' And that was that.
So I left, went to New York and then on to what was basically a six-month road trip. I drove my motorcycle to Asheville, Louisville, Columbus, Charleston, all up and down the East Coast. And I kept going to all of these really awesome bars.
I had always wanted to open my own business. And I was kind of a nerd about pharmacy. And I liked visiting all of these bars, the connection was there. I thought maybe it was something I could do.
Eventually, you landed in Atlanta. What made you stay?
I grew up down the street from the Pinewood. I still had my house in Atlanta [in Castleberry Hill], and it had this huge bar. A friend of mine came to a party at the house, and I had made all kinds of goofy drinks and such for people.
That same friend told Jerry [Slater] at H. Harper Station that I had a cool bar set-up at home, and when Julia [Goglia's girlfriend] and I went in there one weekend, he asked me to start working for him. So, I started bartending for him.
How did you get to the Pinewood?
Brooks [Cloud, partner at Pinewood] noticed me at H. Harper and asked me to be part of the Pinewood team. I initially started as bar manager, and then just took over more and more responsibilities. I became a partner a few months later.
I like to talk to people. I'm kind of a nerd. So, this position works out well. One of the reasons I loved pharmacy was because I wanted to open my own business. And now I'm in a situation where I'm doing exactly that. This was kind of the most direct route to being able to socialize and have fun with people and do something for myself and my future.
How did you get into motorcycles?
I used to race bicycles. I got my first bike when I was 15. When I was 17, I bought my first motorcycle, which is actually why I moved out of my parents' house, because I wasn't allowed to have one. I moved into an apartment with five other guys. My bedroom was actually where Abattoir is now.
I got into a really bad accident a few years ago— I have mostly metal in one leg. But I still love riding. There's no better way to see America than on a bike. I road all the way up to New York City, on the trip that inspired this whole bartending thing, on a bike. It's pretty cool. I've been riding with the same group since I was 19. They come into the Pinewood from time to time.
That must get rowdy.
What happens at the Pinewood stays at the Pinewood.
How does your pharmacy background influence your bartending style?
There were a lot of old pharmacy books I liked to read. You get nerdy about it. For example, if you're into writing, you start to look at typography. Same thing with pharmacy. Back before the industry was regulated, alcohol was used for pharmaceutical purposes. A lot of the formulas are the same.
And the cool thing I learned about pharmacy as it pertains to bartending is that if you can make a whiskey sour, you can essentially make nine out of ten of all whiskey drinks. Because you've learned how to balance sweet and sour and all the other ingredients.
So, it's one of those things when someone tells me they want a drink that tastes like x, y, and z, by knowing all those recipes that are 150 years old, you can build pretty much anything.
Where do you get your inspiration for cocktails?
A lot of it comes from stuff that's just going on around me. Most of my drink names usually have something to do with something I find interesting, fascinating, or funny.
Like the Confederados, I just think that whole story is hilarious. There are people that were like 'we're not going to be part of America anymore, because they don't agree with us, and so they moved to Brazil [after the Civil War] to live the same sort of life—owning slaves, plantations, and the like. And then Brazil outlawed slavery a few years later. Five generations later, they still identify as 'Confederates," e.g. 'Confederados.'
That Roots Radicals drink comes from a punk band named Rancid. We were listening to it one day, and there's a line, 'give 'em the boot, the roots, the radicals,' and I'd wanted to do something with beets for a while, so that's where that came from.
What's your favorite thing to drink?
Usually, I drink beer or whiskey. I have over 200 bottles at my house. I don't drink a whole lot. But when I do, it's whiskey. In a mason jar. Always in a mason jar.
E.H. Taylor, Jr. has single barrel it put out a while back, and it's just really good. It's affordable, it's about $68 a bottle, depending on where you are. Also Parker's Heritage Collection 27 year bourbon or Michter's 10 Year Single Barrel Rye when I am feeling fancy.
What's your least favorite drink to make?
Here's my philosophy about this. If you want a Long Island iced tea, I'm going to make you the best damn Long Island Iced Tea you've ever had. I have friends and parents who don't care about fancy cocktails.
We just took my mom out for Mother's Day, and she and my sister both ordered margaritas. And they were pink. And my mom said, 'This isn't anything fancy like you would serve at your restaurant.' And I looked at her, and said 'Why the hell wouldn't I? I totally would.'
Here's the thing. We have all of the ingredients [for a margarita] here. They're all natural. They'll taste like what you're used to— except maybe less sweet because I'm not using artificial flavoring with high fructose corn syrup— but to not be open to the idea that some people just want to drink pink margaritas in a pint glass, you're not only ignoring the fact that the customer wants something familiar and approachable, but you're ignoring and excluding a whole group of people who like that sort of thing. Now, my margarita may not be pink, and it won't have all of those artificial flavors, but I can find something here to make for people who like the taste of a pink margarita.
I'm really sick of this idea that we need to 'educate' people. Some people don't want to be educated. Yes, I like making craft cocktails at the bar. And yet I have Coke. I have things to make cosmos. I make cosmos with $25 orange triple sec, and they're awesome because of it. I use organic cranberry juice, and super expensive triple sec— and it'll probably be the best [cosmo] you've ever had. That's my mentality on drinks.
Do I like it when people order a dirty martini at the bar? Of course not. Because it's a boring drink to make, but with our house olive brine, lots of vermouth, coriander, and pink peppercorns, I can make a dirty martini, and it's better than anybody else's, because it's something we make from scratch. Is it something I like making? No. But am I trying harder than other people to make something someone likes and to make it better? Yes.
It's not so much educating people as it is elevating the norm, so that people trust you. 'If you like that drink, you might like this drink, because it has the same vinegar base or what not. Try this.' And then the person actually trusts you. You're not giving them something they don't want, and you're also giving them something that's familiar.
What's the most unusual drink request you've ever gotten?
A few weeks ago, I had this guy come in and ask for three Ode to Mercy drafts with a shot of Pappy Van Winkle 20 year divided into them. He stood there watching me and 'helped' me decide exactly how much whiskey went into each beer. Apparently, he liked one of his friends a quarter-ounce less than the other.
Before leaving he explained that he absolutely hated bourbon, but read somewhere that Pappy Van Winkle was amazing, so he had to try it.
Pinewood just celebrated its one year anniversary. Anything exciting in the works?
Well, we just hired a new guy for the bar, my buddy Mike Searles [formerly of Restaurant Eugene and Holeman & Finch Public House]. And we're launching a guest bartender program this summer.
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Julian Goglia. [Photo: Sarah Dodge/Eater Atlanta]