Co-founder & Creative Director, Sweetwater, Saxon.
Our first Cocktail Hour is with a charismatic guy, having the vision to create a cocktail-driven culture in South Florida, through one bar. Befittingly, Sean Iglehart, who owns a copy of the elusive El Morocco Family Album* - the source of Cha-Cha-Cha's inspiration - is high on our list for thoughts on the very best.
From America’s first family of ten-goal polo, Iglehart established a destination specializing in rare whiskeys and craft cocktails. Forward thinking, his concepts offer a pleasurable drinking experience.
By fusing Old Guard tastes with modified techniques, he never ceases to surprise and delight guests. We take a seat at his Sweetwater establishment, to hear how Iglehart is elevating cocktail culture and, of course, his Whisky Ultimatum.
What makes Sweetwater different?
Sweetwater was the first of its kind in Palm Beach County. An idea dating back to 2009: to bring the New York, London or San Francisco cocktail scene to South Florida. We have established ourselves as a beacon for cocktail enthusiasts and bartenders.
The most unique feature of our operations is our extensive spirit collection. Sweetwater was the first whiskey bar in the state, now offering the largest selection in the South East! I remember when I could buy Van Winkle off the shelves at the local liquor store, but now whiskey has been in a frenzy. It has been said that we were ahead of our time down here.
What inspires you to make a new cocktail?
Food. Culinary arts have inspired many aspects of how I perceive the industry. From cocktail creation to mimicking kitchen hierarchy and operations to the bar. I love to travel, and when I do, I am looking up the best restaurants and bars in the area. I have more food based books by chefs than I do bar-related! Although, sometimes I will reverse engineer, per se, a cocktail – maybe I see a unique glass while antiquing or online and think: what would be great in that? Many different facets of inspiration.
What would you say your style of mixology is?
A hybrid. I am a bit of the old school but always willing to work on new techniques, staying ahead of the cuff. I love using a glass on tin shaker setup; when building the cocktail, the glass provides a window for the guest to view the build. I believe service and personality go light years further than your cocktail skills, but it is essential to round out and have the full package. I train my colleagues to focus on the guest and their desires, more than which Rye whiskey would go better with a Manhattan.
There is a resurgence in classic cocktails. What are your thoughts on New versus Classic?
When training my team, I always start with the classics. They are a great foundation, but I remind them that most of these cocktails were developed over a hundred years ago, i.e. different palates, different times.
I use classic cocktails as a guideline. Mostly, I modify classic cocktails to better suit the modern taste; there is a great middle ground category of Modern Classics that will bridge the two. However, we have an obligation as industry leaders to push forward and build new envelopes!
"I modify classic cocktails to better suit the modern taste... however, we have an obligation as industry leaders to push forward and build new envelopes!"
In your opinion, what is the single most important thing to making a great cocktail?
Balance. So often do green bartenders make this mistake. They tend to rely on the sweeter side, because we are naturally drawn to it. You must balance the cocktail – if you add sugar, add acid, if you add bitter, add acid and so on, so forth.
What are the must-haves for creating a tasteful in-home bar cart, or home bar?
As borderline-obsessive about bar tools and details, I could go on forever about a sexy at-home setup. I remember when I was contacting agents in India to get the first copper plated shaker tins! It’s easier to pick up nice bar tools nowadays. Cocktail Kingdom is the go-to for professionals, but there are many out there springing up.
For spirits, always have your bases: whiskey, rum, gin, tequila (for the bartender), vodka. The modifiers, I would suggest: a sweet vermouth, Aperol, amaro, Campari, anything sweet or bitter really. Keep some fresh fruit on hand – lemons, limes, oranges for juicing or their oils in the peels. And most of all keep the ambiance dim lit, music on – no one likes to drink in a dull setting!
What do you want to accomplish in the next year?
What I wanted to accomplish this year, haha! (Thanks COVID!) I have been working on a project in the background, for a few years now. All I can share: an eco-conscious restaurant/bar with some revolutionary ideas!
Cocktail Hour: can you share a cocktail creation that’ll have us moving our hips?
The Whiskey Ultimatum.
2oz Bourbon (Buffalo Trace)
1oz B & B (Benedictine & Brandy)
2-3 Dash Rhubarb Bitters (Fee Brothers)
Bar spoon of French Strawberry Jam
Combine, shake & strain into old-fashioned (rocks) glass with ice!
The Whiskey Ultimatum.
Sipping Vibes Anything Blues – Louis Armstrong, Waters, Vaughan, Buddy Guy, etc.
Primer Drinking Distilled by Jeffrey Morgenthaler. It’s funny and witty
Cocktail The perfect match for the guest
Cocktail Food Anything spicy, makes you drink more
Decade This has varied throughout my life, but currently it's the Nineties
Instagram Account I go to @ArchDigest and branch off from there…
Wine Any dry Riesling for white. Caymus Suisun Grand Durif for red, although I drink mostly Old World
Style Icon Johnny Depp meets Ryan Gosling
Person to Create a Drink For Oliver Reed, heard that guy was a maniac! And Matthew McConaughey
Images, first and last, courtesy of Ella Bergquist. Second image taken by Libby Vision.