Writing the Cathchin’a BUZZ column is one of my favorite assignments. It allows me to meet some of the most exciting people in the food and beverage industry; today was no exception. I made my way down to the newest hot spot in downtown Jacksonville MLG to meet with Marlon Hall for an early morning interview and learn more about what makes Marlon tick and what a fun morning it was.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got into the business?
I have been in the service industry since 1995. I started as a server, then one day someone did not show up for their bar shift, I was asked to fill in the rest is history. I then left home and went to New York to study acting and like most actors do you wait tables, and bartend between gigs. My experience was a little different, I was surrounded by passionate people and learned that I could make an excellent living working in the bar industry. I moved from New York to Jacksonville and started working at some of Jacksonville’s great iconic restaurants, and my career blossomed from that point forward.
How did you get involved with MLG?
So Ted Hayes, who is the restaurant manager here at MLG and I opened Candy Apple together. Once Marcus Lemonis who owns this building housing Sweet Pete’s brought his idea here for the restaurant, he asked for us to return, and when Marcus Lemonis calls you answer.
Is there a philosophy behind the MLG drinks program?
Our idea is to give people what they want to drink. We have an extensive bar but are trying to stay away from craft cocktail. I think the craft industry has come and gone, Jacksonville is 10 to 15 behind cities like New York, Chicago or San Francisco. We want to give them a good drink that they don’t have to wait 10 or 15 minutes.
What can you tell us about the MLGs drink menu?
So being in this building and attempting to do our own thing yet stay true to the candy store and the child-centric nature of the structure we have a mix. We offer a few dessert style cocktails on the sweeter side and a few classics as well. We cater to everybody, you can have a Chocolate Martini, a Classic Daiquiri, or you can order a shot and a beer. That’s what our menu entails. We could evolve into a craft cocktail bar, we are so new here and feeling out our client base to see what they want to drink.
What’s the most important skill a bartender should have?
There are two terms, mixologist and then the bartender. A mixologist could have never worked in a bar. A mixologist likes to study spirits and cocktail history. Can a bartender also be a mixologist? Yes, a bartender has to deal with people, where a mixologist deals with recipes and theory. So I am a bartender who likes to dabble in the mixology realm. I am always trying to better myself and trying to learn about new spirits and new bar trends.
Will, there be Happy Hour drink and food specials and what are they?
Yes, Tuesday thru Friday from 4 to 6 pm with $5 bar snacks like gourmet hot dogs, chicken kabobs, and southern nachos.
Will there be any special events like Wine pairing dinners that will showcase the foods and spirits?
Down the pipeline for sure, we do not want to get too far ahead of ourselves. We want to make sure our game is stable before we start giving the public anything but the best.
Where do you head on your night off and what do you order?
Well, I have a new daughter, so she occupies much of my time. We are not very frou-frou at our house. We go to SideCar, Grape and Grain, Taverna, Tow Hall, and Sherwood’s
And finally, any tips on how to make cocktails at home taste as good as the ones you mix up?
There is no wrong answer to that. Make whatever you like, it’s a very subjective industry. Just use quality ingredients.
Making the cocktail is the part I like the best; I usually request a cocktail with the recipe, Marlon has his agenda so we will have two smashing cocktails this go round.
First up the: Amaretto Sour
1 1/2oz Amaretti Di Saronno
1/2 oz Old Overholt Rye
1/2 oz Coconut Water
1/2 oz Lime Juice
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
Fill the container with ice, add ingredients shake well strain into a rock glass filled with ice. Garnish with Orange.
The second offering was a drink not to be taken lightly, the MLG version of the Chocolate Martini, or the ChockyChicliceChocChoo
1 oz Vodka
1 oz Irish Cream
1/2 oz Fernet
1 oz chocolate syrup
Mix all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice, shake well. Drizzle chocolate syrup around the inside of a chilled Martini glass strainer and pour.