Sasha Petraske, Man Who Pioneered Modern Cocktail Renaissance, Dies at Age 42

by Emily Lee on Aug 26, 2015 in Culture

The craft cocktail world lost an idol today. Sasha Petraske, the man who pioneered a renaissance of interest in pre-Prohibition era cocktail culture, passed away at his home in Hudson, New York. He was 42 years.

In 1999, Petraske opened Milk & Honey on New York's Lower East Side. The speakeasy-style cocktail den quickly went on the radar for its top-quality booze and elaborate garnishes. If bespoke cocktails weren’t enough to lure customers to the door, the mystique surrounding the tiny bar sure was. Eager New Yorkers needed to acquire a secret phone number to secure a reservation behind 134 Eldridge Street's discrete door.
 
His influence can be seen in countless details now common to cocktail bars around the world, including hidden entrances, a focus on classic cocktails and formal attire worn by bartenders. He also championed the “bartender’s choice” found on many cocktail menus, the use of jiggers to measure out drinks, and even the use of cucumber slices in water glasses.
 
But Petraske’s role as a cocktail innovator and legendary proprietor had a circuitous start. As a teenager, he attended Stuyvesant High School but dropped out to take a job in a cafe. Soon after, he took a cross-country bicycle trip, lived in San Francisco for a while and joined the Army, serving for three years. Back in New York, he worked at Von, a bar in East Village and began to dream of opening his own—one that would reflect his love of jazz, vintage clothes and old-fashioned decorum.
 
Petraske stumbled upon his break when he saw an ad in The Village Voice for a narrow commercial space priced at $800 a month. He learned that the landlord had been a childhood friend of his and promised to run a well-mannered establishment. Broke but determined, Petraske borrowed money from friends and eventually opened Milk & Honey on Dec. 31, 1999. He adopted many stylistic aspects — rules of etiquette, quiet atmosphere, large ice cubes — from Angel’s Share, a bar he admired in the East Village.
 
Petraske went on to open other similarly styled bars with a number of partners, many of them former Milk & Honey bartenders. These included Little Branch in Greenwich Village; Dutch Kills in Long Island City, Queens; Middle Branch in Midtown Manhattan; the Varnish in Los Angeles; and the Everleigh in Melbourne, Australia. Petraske also opened a roomier version of Milk & Honey in London with Jonathan Downey, a British entrepreneur.
 
According to Robert Simonson of The New York Times, Petraske was a man who “gave many bartenders their careers and their names.” Sam Ross, creator of the Penicillin cocktail, cut his teeth at Milk & Honey under Petraske’s guidance. He now operates Attaboy at 134 Eldridge in place of the original Milk & Honey.
 
Simonson says Petraske always maintained “humility and perspective” – qualities not often found in bartenders. “He was an endearing, necessary anomaly, an anti-business idealist who reinvented bartending as a profession."
 
In 2012, Milk & Honey moved to a larger space on West 23rd Street, but the new location did not last long. The building was sold, and a demolition clause in the lease forced him to vacate. Although Petraske had suffered financial setbacks in recent years, he planned to open a third version of the bar. Petraske had also been planning to open a new bar, Falconer, this fall in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood—a testament to his independence and commitment to the craft cocktail scene.
 
Check out the video below for a little more about Sasha Petraske.

Photo and video via YouTube

 


Tags: Cocktails
Recent Articles
spacer

Feedback

How are we doing? Tell us what you like or don't like and how we can improve. We would love to hear your thoughts!

*Name:
*E-mail:
*Suggestions:
 
Pabst Blue Ribbon Launches Blue Ribbon Whiskey in Select US Markets

Pabst Blue Ribbon Launches Blue Ribbon Whiskey in Select US Markets

PBR has launched their own whiskey. Let's keep an open mind and see what is inside this bottle....read more ›

by Carrie Dow Sep 24, 2019
The Master Sommelier Scandal is Now the Subject of a New Investigative Series

The Master Sommelier Scandal is Now the Subject of a New Investigative Series

There's a new investigative series about one of the biggest scandals to ever hit the wine world....read more ›

by The Drink Nation Sep 13, 2019
Using Peas to Make Gin Might Lead to More Environmentally Friendly Spirits, Studies Show

Using Peas to Make Gin Might Lead to More Environmentally Friendly Spirits, Studies Show

Scientists may have discovered a more environmentally friendly way to make one of the world's most popular spi...read more ›

by The Drink Nation Jul 23, 2019
SPONSORED
Drink Nation Store Rectangle
Drink a Classic Cocktail for a Good Cause During Negroni Week, June 24-30

Drink a Classic Cocktail for a Good Cause During Negroni Week, June 24-30

Negroni Week 2019 is June 24-30, so drink this classic cocktail for a good cause....read more ›

by The Drink Nation Jun 19, 2019
What to Do if Your Uber, Lyft, or Cab Driver Ever Strays From Your Destination or Makes You Feel in Danger

What to Do if Your Uber, Lyft, or Cab Driver Ever Strays From Your Destination or Makes You Feel in Danger

If you're taking an Uber, Lyft, or cab and feel unsafe, there are steps you can take to protect yourself....read more ›

by Nina Starner Jun 19, 2019
Behind the Bar: Kat Corbo of The Study & Winner of Speed Rack 2019

Behind the Bar: Kat Corbo of The Study & Winner of Speed Rack 2019

This time on Behind the Bar, we spoke to Kat Corbo of The Study, who recently won Speed Rack 2019....read more ›

by The Drink Nation May 15, 2019
Boston Beer & Dogfish Head Have Merged in a $300 Million Deal

Boston Beer & Dogfish Head Have Merged in a $300 Million Deal

In a huge move for the American craft beer community, Boston Beer and Dogfish Head have agreed to a merger valued at $300 million dollars. ...read more ›

by The Drink Nation May 10, 2019
A New, High-End Blend of Jack Daniel's Whiskey is Now Available in the United States

A New, High-End Blend of Jack Daniel's Whiskey is Now Available in the United States

A new, high-end blend of Jack Daniel's whiskey, known as Jack Daniel's No. 27 Gold, which was previously only ...read more ›

by The Drink Nation Apr 15, 2019
Coopers' Craft Bourbon Is Now Available in 12 States With a New Barrel Reserve Expression

Coopers' Craft Bourbon Is Now Available in 12 States With a New Barrel Reserve Expression

Coopers' Craft Kentucky Straight Bourbon has debuted an entirely new label design, has expanded to more states...read more ›

by The Drink Nation Apr 3, 2019
PBR is Making Its Own Whiskey For the Perfect Shot & Beer Combo

PBR is Making Its Own Whiskey For the Perfect Shot & Beer Combo

Pabst Blue Ribbon has filed documents to create its very own whiskey, making for the perfect shot & beer combo....read more ›

by Drink Philly Mar 18, 2019
SPONSORED
View all Articles

Sign up to get weekly drinking news, bar reviews, events and more sent directly to your inbox!

Close