This Brooklyn Bar Owner Developed a ‘Fifth Element’ Cocktail to Give a Regular ‘a Reason to Live’

Contributor
“The Cocktail Guide to the Galaxy” author and The Way Station owner Andy Heidel talks nerd culture, movies, and cocktails
Andy Heidel, owner of the Way Station, and his latest book
Giles Clement, left, and courtesy of the publisher

Andy Heidel, owner of the Way Station, and his latest book

Featuring over 100 fun, movie-themed cocktail recipes, The Cocktail Guide to the Galaxy was concocted by Andy Heidel. Beyond being a published author, Heidel is the proprietor of Brooklyn’s The Way Station, a bar that considers itself a “mecca for nerd culture.” Sci-fi followers must visit – even for just for the TARDIS-themed bathroom (yes, it’s bigger on the inside). It even has a listing on World’s Best Bars.

Heidel also wrote a short story collection titled Desperate Moon under the name R. Andrew Heidel and was a book publicist prior to finding his own success as a writer. He was instrumental in the success of authors Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, and Neal Stephenson, also helping to launch the Eos publishing imprint. Harlan Ellison and Ray Bradbury were early champions of Heidel, leading him to pursue writing on a larger scale.

The Cocktail Guide to the Galaxy includes drinks like the George R. R. Martini, the Flux Incapacitator, Cognac the Barbarian, and the Shirley Temple of Doom.

 

The Daily Meal: How would you describe The Cocktail Guide to the Galaxy to someone who hasn't yet seen the book?
Andy Heidel: The book is a compendium of delicious drinks for the nerd in all of us. Just imagine your favorite sci-fi show in convenient liquid form.

Which recipe within the book did you come up with first?
That’s a three-fold answer:

One: Once upon a time I was given a shot called the “Rocky Mountain Mother F—” that took me 10 years to reinvent because no one else in the country knew how to make it. I tell the story in the book and that most amazing of drinks is now “The Awesome Mixed Drink” for the book.

Two: Once I opened the bar and Doctor Who fans started showing up, I knew I had to make a Sonic Screwdriver. That was the first drink I came up with for my customers after The Way Station opened.

Three: When Doc Wasabassco, Andrew Morton, and I started coming up with names for drinks for the cocktail book, the first one I created was “Warp Core Sex on the Breach” for Star Trek fans. With a name like that, how can you lose?

Do you have a favorite recipe in the book?
It would have to be the Fifth Element cocktail, Divinian. Originally, I made it for a regular who wanted “a reason to live.” The cocktail combines all four taste elements in the right proportions and simulates umami, the fifth taste.

What is the most challenging recipe in the book for a non-bartender to make?
That would have to be the Ghostbusters “Stay Puffed” cocktail. I state at the beginning of the book that all the cocktails will be easy to make, but this one involves whisking an egg white into the cocktail. I wouldn’t have included it if Dana hadn’t come home with marshmallows and eggs only to be beset by a Babylonian god. I didn’t have a choice. Sigourney Weaver made me do it!

Did any recipes crafted for this book not make the cut? Do you potentially have enough ideas to write a second edition?
Unlike the TARDIS, the book contains finite space so many cocktails didn’t make it into the book and will show up in the sequel, The Bar at the End of the Universe. While creating cocktails for CGG, I was fortunate enough to have regulars to experiment on. I would either one, spit out the creation because it was awful and I couldn’t subject anyone else to tasting it, two, get it right the first time and have incredible feedback, or three, be close to perfection and spend an hour or a month fine-tuning the cocktail with my regulars and employees. (My employee Corey’s solution was always mezcal.)

What was your transition from book publicist to an actual author? Had you been a writer all along?
I’ve been writing all my life. I self-published my collection of short stories after 100 rejection letters so I could move on and let go. At the time, I was Ray Bradbury’s publicist at Avon Books, and I sent him a copy as a Christmas present. After Ray read it he faxed me a note saying “Superb, Stirring, Bravo.” By the way, for those of you born after 2001, a fax is like an email that magically comes out of a printer connected to a phone line.

Anyway, I asked him if I could quote him. He said yes. After that, Harlan Ellison called me unexpectedly to tell me a story about a cowboy/writer with the following moral: “You’re not a writer until another writer says so.” Then he told me I was a writer. So with a Bradbury and Ellison quote, I sought out a publisher and found PS Publishing in the U.K. to publish my second short story collection, Desperate Moon. I loved being a publicist because I was promoting literacy. Being a writer again after this long is even better. I set out to be a writer, I opened a bar, and became a writer again.

Did your upcoming press tour include stops at bars?
Obviously, it included a book launch party at The Way Station, where I did a dramatic reading of a cocktail recipe and additional contributors to the book will also read.

As a bar owner, how often are you behind the bar these days?
I jump behind the bar to back up my bartenders when needed, fill in shifts, and work with them to create drink specials.

When not busy with writing or The Way Station, what do you like to do for fun?
I love to cook. It’s the most creative thing I know aside from writing or creating cocktails.

What's the last movie you saw in a theater?
IT. The book terrified me. The movie had me grabbing my girlfriend by the arm and I was afraid of tossing popcorn all over her. When I was [Stephen] King’s publicist at Houghton Mifflin, I hope I terrified him back, but that’s a story for another day.

Finally, Andy, any last words for the kids?
For the love of god: eat before you drink, never order a Long Island Iced Tea or a mojito, drink lots of water, tip well, and never use the Oxford Comma.

 

[Editor note: Sorry, Andy, The Daily Meal supports the use of the Oxford Comma and as such have added it throughout your interview.]

 

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