Cocktail master Jason Asher is a founding partner of Century Grand, Barter & Shake Cocktail Entertainment’s award-winning cocktail destination in Phoenix, Arizona. Within Century Grand are three unique cocktail bar concepts, all of which serve specialty craft cocktails and offer captivating hospitality experiences.
Century Grand, is an award-winning cocktail concept that houses three unique bars under one roof: UnderTow (now in Gilbert, too!), Platform 18 and Grey Hen Rx. Collectively serving world class drinks alongside unmatched immersive experiences, Century Grand pushes creative boundaries by giving guests the opportunity to choose their own cocktail adventure during every visit.
This paradise for imbibers opened its doors back in 2019 when Asher decided to bring his creative vision to life. With over 20 years of hospitality experience under his belt, the Phoenix native employs his vast knowledge of cocktail chemistry to make sure each of the three bars offer experiential cocktails that leave guests in awe. But just how does he do it? And why experientially? Chilled had the pleasure of chatting with Jason to learn about the current trend and how he has perfected it.
Talk to us about Barter & Shake Cocktail Entertainment and Century Grand.
Within Century Grand there are three unique cocktail bar concepts, all of which serve specialty craft cocktails and offer immersive hospitality experiences.
- GREY HEN RX: Home to 514 selections of bourbon and whiskey from all over the world, Grey Hen Rx transports guests to New Orleans in the mid-1800’s. Much like the early apothecaries that operated as a “first-port-of-call” for medical advice and cure-alls, Grey Hen Rx is fit to remedy every craving with its beverage menu featuring original and classic cocktails, whiskey flights and nonalcoholic drinks.
- UNDERTOW: UnderTow offers a one-of-a-kind, immersive atmosphere that whisks guests away on a 90-minute journey in the belly of a spice trader’s turn-of-the-century Clipper ship. With two locations in Phoenix and Gilbert, UnderTow delights locals and travelers alike with a treasured cocktail experience featuring exotic drinks and rare rums from around the world.
- PLATFORM 18: When guests step into Platform 18, they’re immediately transported onto a glamorous, Presidential Pullman-inspired train car from the 20th century. With interactive special effects, Platform 18 brings drinkers on a memorable journey through the Rocky Mountains while sipping on original and classic cocktails or scooping spoons full of spirit-infused ice creams and sorbets, all of which are made entirely in-house.
What kind of cocktail adventure can guests expect?
Our menus offer approximately 40 cocktails – a mixture of classics and originals. With the classics, we’ve remade them and re-worked the specs and ingredients to make sure they are the best versions possible. And for our originals, these drinks have been created with a lot of intention in mind. My approach to cocktail creation is through how flavors integrate with one another. It’s a bit scientific (flavor molecules). So, from a flavor perspective, you should be taken on an adventure every time you take a sip. From an aesthetic perspective, we include one over-the-top experiential cocktail on every menu – a cocktail that just “wows” our guests with presentation. In addition to that one drink, we select a few additional cocktails that showcase our artistry of “plating”!
Why is the experiential cocktail trend so popular now?
People love to drink with their eyes first. Food has always had the platform to show elevated plating techniques! It has finally moved into the cocktail world and guests expect something avant-garde when it comes to presentation. We make sure we offer approximately six out of 40 drinks with that elevated level of presentation.
How can bartenders create interesting experiential cocktail?
- Create a concept for the drink. What’s inspiring this cocktail?
- Create a delicious cocktail, one that’s balanced, thought provoking, and beautiful.
- Combine them together and wow your guests.
What are some important tips when creating interesting experiential cocktails.
I love to draw inspiration from bars around the world. Cocktail bars such as Oriole & Nightjar deliver incredibly beautiful cocktails to their guests. They post photos that truly inspire and awe others from around the world!
Don’t buy stuff, buy experiences. I travel as much as possible. Your life experiences will influence your creativity. I try to find cultural things, like visiting museums, to do in each city I visit.
Taste everything you possibly can and take notes. (wine, spirits, beer, food, local ingredients).
What trends do you see coming and going this year?
I think you will begin to see a touch more science applied across the cocktail community. As for your national account/chain restaurants, they are attempting to maintain a fresh produce and juice program while still finding a way to save on cost. Fresh on the gun products are making a push into the market in a big way!
What types of cocktail experiences “WOW” guests?
Guests truly love interactive cocktails that just swoop them up into the moment. Like the drinks they can’t help but snap photos of before taking the first sip.
What kinds of ingredients are your go-to?
I love to mix it up as often as possible! We often find a familiar flavor/ingredient to pair a more interesting and slightly esoteric ingredient with. For example, we may pair strawberry with palo santo!
El Robusta @ UnderTow
Photo by Grace Stufkosky
- 2 oz Bacardi 8-year rum
- 1/2 oz dark roasted dandelion root infused Carpano Antica
- 1/4 oz St. George Nola
- 1/4 oz Averna Amaro
- Bamboo leaf
- Pandan tincture tabelside
Preparation: *coconut oil wash entire batch, stir on artisan ice in glass, orange peel discard, bamboo leaf, cinnamon vape, pandan mist tableside.
100 years, 100 more @ grey hen rx
Photos by grace stufkosky
- 2 oz balvenie 14 / balvenie 21 blend
- .13 oz Grand Marnier cuvee du centenaire 100
- .13 oz Martini & Rossi Bitters
- .13 oz Tempus Fugit Banana
- .13 oz John Taylor Falernum
- 1/4 oz Lustau East India Sherry
- 1/4 oz Carpano Bianco vermouth
- Angostura bitters
- Lemongrass tincture
- Orange peel (discard)
Preparation: stir on draft, strain into egg over artisan ice, orange peel, discard, secure egg in cage, serve.