Straight Up: Tricks of the Whiskey Trade

In celebration of Jack Daniel’s launching the new Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Rye, Notable Life had the opportunity to sit down with Marta Sobiesiak, the Midnight Manager for Jack Daniel’s in Toronto. She filled us in on her “must-have” bar cart tools, her favorite things about working for this iconic spirit maker and she shares her favorite cocktail recipe exclusively with us!

Jack Daniel’s is not known to create new innovations very often because let’s face it – you don’t mess with perfection! What was the thought process behind distilling a new product?
We’ve learned a thing or two in the last 150 years about making high-quality whiskey, and we’re proud to use that expertise in new ways. Rye has always been a part of our grain bill, and so many of our friends have been requesting a Jack Daniel’s rye whiskey, so the time was right!  We made a rye whiskey Jack’s way, from our small town distillery; matured in barrels we make ourselves to create a spicy flavour that’s smooth in character.  And we couldn’t be more proud to share it with everyone!

What tool on your bar cart can you not do without?
It seems simple, but I couldn’t imagine working without my fine strainer. That last little step — double straining your drink to ensure there’s no errant ice shards floating in your cocktail, is the kind of fine detail I truly appreciate.

What are some of the stereotypes about rye and whiskey that you find yourself correcting through your work as a Jack Daniel’s Midnight Manager?
The biggest one is explaining the difference between bourbon and Tennessee whiskey – we’re a Tennessee whiskey! I love explaining the Lincoln county process – this is how our whisky is filtered through sugar maple charcoal to remove impurities and create its smooth and balanced flavour. It’s exciting to spread this knowledge.

If someone were to tell you that they were hesitant to try rye because they prefer sweet cocktails, what would you recommend for them they try?
A Manhattan made with a heavier dose of good quality sweet, red vermouth, stirred to chilled perfection and garnished with a brandy-soaked cherry or three. Try not to love rye after you’ve had it made that way!

What is your favorite cocktail?
See the Manhattan above….but I go lighter on the sweet vermouth and like to use unexpected bitters as well.  Black walnut really compliments the notes of baking spice in the new Jack Daniel’s Rye, so that’s been my go-to drink lately.

What is your new favorite cocktail to make? Can we have the recipe?
That’s got to be the Crafty Jack & Coke. Start by reducing the Coke by simmering it for three hours, then let it chill. Build 2oz Jack Daniel’s Rye, 0.5 oz Coke reduction, 0.5oz Amaro, 0.75oz fresh squeezed lemon juice, and two dashes black walnut bitters in a shaker full of ice. Shake and fine strain over fresh ice, and garnish with a twist of expressed lemon peel.  Beautiful!

What should people know about Tennesse Rye, and whiskey in general?
About our Tennessee rye and our classic Tennessee whiskey — it would have to be the craft, care, and time that goes into every step of the process. I want to shout it from the rooftops: we are the original craft whiskey!  From the quality of our grains, to the purity of our on-site natural spring water source, to our homegrown yeast, and the fact that our whiskey is mellowed and matured in barrels of our own making — this is a process that has scarcely changed in 150 years. We might be available everywhere, but it takes a lot of time, care, and honest hard work to make a bottle of Jack.

Can you share your bio as well as a description of your current role?
I’ve worked in bars and restaurants for 14 years, and found my niche behind the bar.  Whether I was slinging speed rail or crafting complex cocktails, whiskey was my number one love in the spirit world.  That’s why I was thrilled when Jack Daniel’s Canada approached me to be their first female brand ambassador in Canada. It’s such an honour. Now I work closely with consumers, bartenders, and bar managers to educate and deliver experiential moments that help spread the word on what our amazing whiskey and this iconic brand is all about. Whether it’s through tastings or parties, I want everyone to know that Jack Daniel’s is the real deal, and has been for over a century and a half.