15 Minutes With the Death & Co. Founder
With a name like Death & Company, it has to be good (or at the very least, interesting). We spoke with David Kaplan, the 32-year-old founder and owner of this New York-based bar, on what makes him tick — from pear brandy cocktails to the perfect martini recipe:
Where does Death & Co. get its name?
David Kaplan: Those who drink keep company with death, or live a life shadowed by death, therefore we are Death & Company.
Bar tool you rarely use:
DK: A shaker.
Recipe from Death & Co. that you cherish:
DK: Every single one, but the Conference has a special place in my heart.
Recipe from book you're most eager for readers to make:
DK: The Elder Fashioned — it's so easy, takes very few ingredients, and is absolutely delicious.
Restaurant or bar that recently impressed you so much you can't stop recommending it:
DK: I just came from San Diego and Consortium Holdings — a restaurant and bar group down there — is just killing it. So inspiring. They just opened Ironside and it's breathtaking. Everything about it is on point.
A drink in Death & Co. that best reflects your personality:
DK: Joy Division — a brilliant martini variation from Phil Ward. Slightly pearlescent from a bit of absinthe, the drink is austere but complex. I could have them all night.
What's the biggest lesson you've learned since opening your own bar?
DK: I've had to learn to remove myself from my business a bit. In the early days we had a long legal battle due to one angry neighbor and I took it all very personally. It was a good lesson to learn that what happens to the business is not happening to me — there's some separation there.
Any recent cocktail fails?
DK: There's rarely a fail. Everything can be worked through and shaped in to a great cocktail. It may not be similar to what it started as, but there's great ideas in almost everything.
One ingredient you could do without:
DK: Bottled simple syrup. How can you not make your own? Sugar + water, people!
One ingredient you can't stop using in your cocktails:
DK: Pear brandy.
What advice do you have for people learning to mix up their own cocktails at home?
DK: It's easier than you think. Start with some basic recipes and ingredients to gain confidence and explore from there. Stirred cocktails are quick and easy to whip up at a moments notice.
Why do readers need Death & Co on their bookshelves?
DK: I think the D&C book is a love letter to cocktail culture. It lets readers partake in this world in a way that few other books have done.
One craft cocktail you wish more people knew about?
DK: The martini is probably the best cocktail of all time and getting a perfect one is still surprisingly rare.