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Cocktail Guru Dishes on the International Barman of Mystery

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Cocktail Guru Dishes on the International Barman of Mystery

Rimas Zailskas

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Cocktail connoisseur and historian Jeff Berry hosted an evening dedicated to revealing the secrets of mystery-shrouded mixologist Joe Scialom, the multi-lingual tender of top-notch bars the world over whose high-placed regulars made some question whether he was involved in espionage.

"Joe was thought to be a spy by the Egyptian government because he served so many British and American generals and journalists. ... Joe spoke eight languages fluently," Berry, author of a book on Scialom, told Niteside. "But in reality he was just a bartender."

The Museum of the American Cocktail along with the Occidental Grill & Seafood hosted "The Suffering Bastard: Joe Scialom, International Barman of Mystery" seminar last Thursday where guests learned about Joe the Bartender while served spy-inspired spirits prepared by Berry.

Scialom is credited with creating some of the most flavorful cocktails in American history. Berry, who has carved out a niche as a tiki drink specialist, said the bartending great had a sophisticated approach to the fruity drinks now rarely taken seriously.

"Joe gave us a feel for how complex and culinary vintage tiki drinks were, contrary to their latter-day image as syrupy slush. And also [gave] a sense of the people behind the drinks," Berry said.

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