Summit's Greg Seider on the Bar's First Anniversary, His Garden-to-Glass Philosophy, and the Best Tipping Story in History
Summit made headlines when it opened a year ago on Avenue C for offering great cocktails and -- gasp! -- a fun atmosphere. Imagine: bartender who knows how to shoot the shit and not a suspender or waxed mustache tip in sight. Summit celebrated its first anniversary on Tuesday with a punch party and pulled pork sliders in the backyard (with tequila-infused watermelon for dessert). Partner and bartender Greg Seider discusses his first year in business.
Summit's Greg Seider
How was your first year at Summit?
It was kinda tricky opening a business on Avenue C. When we first opened, there was nothing past us, we were like the last frontier of Manhattan. People say how good we are and it's, like, you have no idea. People don't want to walk over here in the wintertime. So, we knew we were gonna make it work, but if you go over to the West Side it's all bougie money. Over on this side, it's a whole other element.
What's been your secret?
We have a great staff -- not the typical mixologist staff. It's almost easier working with the guys who have less experience but have great attitudes and do great service than gathering all the top mixologists. We have big snowball fights right in the bar in the winter.
What do you hope to achieve in the second year?
Just to keep being the best cocktail bar. It's a different paradigm from the Death & Co./PDT type of cocktail bar. You can get a great cocktail, but it's not so proper and conformed. I have my friends come back and guest-bartend in the middle of a shift. So, we have a little more leeway to have fun. Bartenders and mixologists come here to relax. I want to keep offering the highest quality of cocktail in the funnest way possible.
Has the whole Prohibition theme peaked?
I think people want to be in a bar, to not have to whisper. All these rules [some cocktail lounges have] -- like, I can't talk to a girl unless she talks to me first. That's kinda crazy. You're drinking alcohol. You should be able to have fun.
What was your first bartending gig?
When I was 11 or 12, my grandmother had this five-gallon jug of Burgundy wine. I was somehow addicted to wine coolers -- my father used to let me have one sip and I'd guzzle the whole thing down. So, I decided I'd figure out how to make my own wine cooler. I took my grandmother's Burgundy wine and mixed it with ginger ale, and that was my first cocktail.
And now you make cocktails with ingredients from your own community-garden plot.
My brother studies permaculture, so he set up the garden on 8th Street, around the corner. It has stuff that we use in cocktails in summer, like basil and shiso leaf. We're trying to get peppers and cucumbers, but those take a little while, so maybe by next season. He's actually going to enclose it as a greenhouse so things can grow all year round.