Arizona native Kevin Ferguson grew up the ultimate Disney devotee. He dreamt of one day working for the “House of Mouse,” in fact. But, when he took a high school job at Mimi’s Café – where served President and Mrs. George H.W. Bush, randomly – and then a job at Earl’s, he was intrigued by the hospitality field.
By 2012, he was ready for the big time. Enter The Four Seasons Scottsdale Resort Troon North, where he spent five years working in their concepts, including Proof Canteen. It was at the Four Seasons he found his calling, thanks in part to one of his mentors, Four Seasons Food and Beverage Director Bryan Feigenbaum.
For Proof, Feigenbaum focused on having exactly 50 beers, 50 wines and 50 spirits in-house. This gave Ferguson the chance to hone in on specific brands, especially wine, which became a passion. Within a year, he had his level-one and -two certifications, and he is working toward the coveted advanced sommelier designation. He also focused on craft cocktails, spirit by spirit.
Ferguson left the Four Seasons in 2016, and after a quick stop at Farm & Craft, took the position of assistant beverage manager at the Wrigley Mansion in 2017. Within a few months, he earned the lead position. The cocktail program is meant to be elegant and simple, but also a touch whimsical. Case in point: he has “build-your-own old fashioned” and “build-your-own mule” options on the menu. Oh, and boozy popsicles are perfect even in the winter months.
He sees his role as a guide at the venue, be it to the perfect wine, beer or cocktail experience. And his role is only getting bigger at The Wrigley Mansion prepares for a massive expansion, reimagination and new concepts in 2019.
We sat down with Ferguson to talk spirits, cocktails and everything in between:
Tell me about the oddest drink request you’ve had.
A certain celebrity who will go unnamed – who was popular in the 1990s and in action movies, but never as big as Sly, Arnold or Bruce Willis – required I find a very specific brand and type of tea for a cocktail he wanted made using it. But that wasn’t the weird part – he required we make the tea exactly six hours before combining it into the cocktail. Six hours. Oh, and he would only allow the chef to make the cocktail once my team and I gathered all the proper items (and made that tea). Chefs don’t even make cocktails.
That wasn’t here at Wrigley, however. My Wrigley Mansion story is a good one, too. Some people don’t know, but today the Hormel family – founders of Spam – owns the Wrigley Mansion. Given the Spam connection, we’ve done dinners using the ingredient. And on those nights, I don a full Spam suit (yes, I had one made) and pair drinks with Spam. So, while not an ingredient in the cocktails, it’s certainly an interesting and fun one to pair with cocktails for sure.
What is your No. 1 pet peeve when working?
We strive in every way to make a trip to the Wrigley Mansion an experience for our guests. We have a lounge, wine bar, patio and full restaurant all developed with care, attention to detail and with the guest in mind. But, every so often we get a guest who wants to change elements and ingredients to the point where our vision is long gone. While that would be OK if they were happy with the result, more often than not they end up complaining the item they altered isn’t right anymore. I love when guests trust us to give them the full Wrigley experience, because we always deliver.
What is your go-to drink when you’re at a bar other than your own?
I am such a beer guy. IPAs are a passion of mine. I am especially into IPAs from Stone Brewing, Ninkasi Brewing Company and Modern Times. When it comes to spirits and cocktails, I love tequila straight and good margaritas. Then, for wine, it gets tricky. I mentioned I am a Disney nerd, right? So, Star Wars is part of Disney now. In Star Wars, true Jedis are never supposed to find true love. As a wine Jedi of sorts, I can’t possible have one true love. I really do love all wines.
What does ordering a vodka tonic say about a person?
Oh man, I am going Star Wars again here! It says they are Han Solo. No frills. Maybe a bit rough around the edges. But likely totally loveable.
Tell us about the beverage program at the Wrigley Mansion.
Our cocktail program is divided into experiences at the Wrigley Mansion. First, we have Geordie’s Bar and Lounge. There, we have signature cocktails as well as amazing wine and beer options. Think of that as a great place for happy hour or to either start/end the night. Then, we have Geordie’s Restaurant, which boasts the largest wine menu in Arizona. We are one of the only restaurants in Arizona to earn the coveted “Best of Excellence” by Wine Spectator Magazine, in fact (this is not to be confused with the regular “Award of Excellence,” by the way). And finally, we have Jaime’s Wine Bar, a cozy nook with a fireplace and plush booths perfect for date night or one final drink before heading home.
What is one cocktail would love for us to feature in the magazine this month?
I’d like to spotlight the Juicy Fruit daiquiri ($13).
What do you like about this drink?
For those who don’t know, Juicy Fruit gum is owned by Wrigley, so this is our homage to the Wrigley name and brand – we even garnish it with a piece of Juicy Fruit!
Chosen Cocktail recipe:
Juicy Fruit daiquiri
2 ounces Don Q Pineapple Rum
1/5 ounce lime juice
1/5 ounce simple syrup
2 dashes St. Elizabeth Allspice
Wrigley Mansion, 2501 E. Telawa Trail, Phoenix, 602.955.4079, wrigleymansion.com