Raising the Bar: Sam Ross

The man behind New York City bar Milk & Honey shares his success story


For fans of New York’s cocktail culture, 134 Eldridge Street is hallowed ground. It was here, back in 2000, that Sasha Petraske’s Milk & Honey first introduced many of us to egg whites, honey syrup, jumbo ice, and the modern-day speakeasy. And for the last seven years, the charming and talented Australian bartender Sam Ross has been running the watering hole.

He cut his teeth in Melbourne’s seminal cocktail bar Ginger, which he opened with his mother and sister. After three years, he came to New York and joined Petraske’s burgeoning empire, helping to start Little Branch and the East Side Company Bar. At the same time, he was pulling shifts at Audrey Saunders’ legendary establishment Pegu Club as well.

Even after moving over to Milk & Honey, Ross managed to create drinks programs at Comme Ça in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, while also assisting with the launch of Noble Experiment in San Diego. And his efforts have been recognized with a number of Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Award nominations and the 2011 prize for American Bartender of the Year.

Ross commands respect for his mastery of and commitment to classic recipes. Ask him to make you a drink and you’re likely to get a Manhattan, Negroni, or Daiquiri — quite possibly the best you’ve ever tasted. "You’ve got nowhere to hide when it comes to classic cocktails," he says. "With three-ingredient drinks, it is glaringly apparent if the drink wasn’t executed properly."

With Milk & Honey preparing to move uptown to 23rd Street by year’s end, 134 Eldridge will be remodeled by Ross and business partner Michael McIlroy, expanding the notoriously tiny space to accommodate two bartenders. Though the name will change to Attaboy, the unwritten menu and devotion to standards will remain.

"We’ve been refining and shaping these drinks together for eight years, and this place means a lot to a lot of people," Ross says. "Classic cocktails is our bag."

Click here for Sam Ross' Penicillan recipe. 

This story was originally published at Raising the Bar: Sam Ross. For more stories like this, subscribe to Liquor.com for the best in all things cocktails and spirits. 


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