Meet The Pros: Jason Yu
Allow me to introduce Jason Yu (Los Angeles, CA)
If you have an Instagram account and have any interest in the cocktail and bar world, you’ve seen Jason Yu. He’s been inspiring bar professionals and enthusiasts everywhere via social media, appearing on various influential cocktail feeds and sharing his amazing work through his own account: @jasonfyu. The guy is an incredibility talented and creative bartender, but he’s not one to talk about his own successes. Even in this interview he mentions a huge list of friends and industry peers as his personal inspirations.
When you find someone with a rare balance of great talent and genuine humility, learn everything you can from them. Jason is definitely one of those people.
How did you first get into bartending?
Back in the day, I used to work in publishing, and after work, I’d swing by the bars and restaurants in my neighborhood on the way home. Each day, I would stop in to a different place, where I eventually became a regular and befriended a lot of the bartenders, servers, managers, owners, and other regulars.
When I got laid off, one of the places I frequented offered me a position as a bus boy as a way to help me make ends meet while I looked for another job. But I ended up falling in love with the industry and stuck around. Next thing I know, I’m a server, then bar back, then bartender.
What was the first original cocktail you ever came up with?
Ha! Looking back, my first cocktails were kinda terrible! I started off as a daytime bartender pouring mostly coffee, mimosas, and basic 2-ingredient drinks. At a point, I got bored of making mimosas, so I started playing around with other combinations: pineapple & coconut, pomegranate, lychee, grapefruit, stuff like that. They started out as sort of a “secret menu” thing for my regulars, then they got more and more notice, and eventually got so popular that it became a new mimosa menu.
What aspect of your job do you love the most?
Making people happy. I think this is the key factor that drives me.
What aspect do you not enjoy or would like to change?
I sometimes battle with the hours. I usually don’t finish work until around 4am. At that point, I look for whatever’s open so I can grab dinner, head home, and zone out. And when the sun starts coming up, I know it’s about time for bed.
I’ve gotten used to it in my years of service, but sometimes I can’t help but feel like I miss out on so much of what happens during the daytime.
How would you like to see your career progress?
This is a very difficult question. I bartend because I love it, and I create simply because I enjoy creating. I serve guests because their happiness is what keeps me going. I stay in this career because it makes me happy. I’m currently running the bar program at my bar now and consulting for others, but where this will all lead me, honestly, I’m not sure. Hopefully something good!
What other bartenders or beverage professionals really inspire you?
Wow, there are so many! Aside from all the people whom have trained and inspired me through their text - Jerry Thomas, Dave Arnold, Jim Meehan, Jeffery Morgenthaler, Gary Regan, Dale Degroff, Amy Stewart, Dave Wondrich, Robert Simonson– there are so many from past to present (some whom I have yet to meet) that have truly inspired me and helped me in one way or another to get to where I am:
Chris Bender, Keihaunani Liu, Brian Weller, Dave Webb, Jeff Mori, Bobby Lang, Brett Chovan-Hahn, Brian Brewer, Jesus Gomez, Peter Jones, Brian Klemm, Amanda Colom, Saeed House, Charity Johnston, Josh Suchan, Karl Steuck, Richard Allison, Elliott Clark, Raul Pool, Peter Barriga, Darwin Pornel, Kristie Jensen, Kevin Lee, Nathan McCullough, Aaron Plosky, Coleen Morton, Bethany Ham, Yael Vengroff, Christine Wiseman, Clare Ward, Cari Hah, Kat Corbo, Leo Degroff, Eric Castro, Sother Teague, Tobin Shae, Leo Robitschek, Dushan Zaric, Devon Tarby, and my team, Jesse Martinez and Elina Yakubova for inspiring me to do and be better.
I’m an accumulation of everyone I’ve encountered and associated with, and I am thankful for all of these people and their influences on me.
Excluding your current work place, what other bars do you enjoy visiting?
Any of the bars where my friends work. I make it a point to visit everyone whenever I can and hang out and support.
Try Jason’s “Second Hand Smoke” cocktail
45ml (1.5oz) Copper & Kings Brandy
20ml (.75oz) Amaro Averna
20ml (.75oz) Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth
3 Dashes Angostura bitters