In late November, The Wrigley Mansion welcomed guests back after closing in early 2020 for an extensive renovation to the historic property. Exquisitely executed, the new bar and cocktail program is led by Anthony Escalante, its bar manager. We recently sat down with him to learn more about his story and plans at Wrigley.
How did you get into the industry?
It is weird to say I was born into it, but I was. My grandmother owned a bar called The Overflow in San Francisco, where I grew up. But, I actually decided to become a professional mechanic right out of school. After that, I pivoted hard into hospitality when I moved to Los Angeles, taking on a concierge role at the iconic and sometimes infamous Chateau Marmont. While there, I was fascinated by the bar team’s work and started thinking about working in the industry at some point. When I moved to Phoenix in 2012, I took on another concierge job but soon made my way to my first bar—Bar Smith. From there, I had the chance to hone my skills at Melinda’s Alley and Dust Cutter. I also worked on the opening team for Little Rituals, one of the great honors of my career. I moved to the distributor side of things briefly with a stint at Quench, where I helped develop cocktails and menus as well as direct staff trainings for restaurants Valleywide. I met the Wrigley team through that process and was honored to take on the bar manager position, helping reopen the local icon in recent months.
Oddest ingredient you’ve ever used in a cocktail?
I’ve worked extensively with confectionary glitter, which you likely see in baked goods more often than cocktails. It is more or less glitter that makes cocktails look stunning, but without poisoning you upon swallowing. I also tested squid ink for a cocktail that needed a charcoal hue, but it didn’t make the final menu as it had too much salinity, which changed the flavor profile of the cocktail.
What does ordering a vodka tonic say about a person?
Well, it means you might be me. It also means you likely know what you want to the point you know the brand of vodka and how many lemons or limes you want with it. I carry one bottle of Absolut behind my bar for that exact reason. We have a great customer, a regular, but he only wants a vodka soda with Absolut, so we are always ready to make that happen.
Favorite memory working behind the bar?
One Halloween at Melinda’s we all dressed up. I found an amazing inflatable kangaroo costume. To give a visual, I was the joey in the pouch, and the actual kangaroo inflatable towered like 6 feet above me. An amazing costume—but not with the space constrictions of the bar. I had people on the floor laughing at me trying to make drinks while looking like a bull in a china shop, dropping things and running into things like a cartoon character.
Best piece of advice for someone looking to get into the industry?
Get close to the culinary team. They can offer insight and ideas on technique, flavor profiles and pairings. They also have insane palates and know flavor profiles, so they make the perfect taste testers.
Favorite cocktails or spirits when not working?
I am obsessed with Gabe Chavez’s cocktails at Nook; Colors being my favorite. Other than that, I honestly order vodka sodas when not on the clock or researching trends.
Tell us about the cocktail program in detail?
After more than two months on R&D, we are extremely proud of the final menu, which is an eclectic mix of lesser-known spirits, homages to the history of Wrigley and wholly new recipes to bring in a whole new generation to the bar and restaurants. We still have the same Penicillin cocktail on the menu, which is owner Jamie Hormel’s father’s favorite drink made exactly his way. We also have a cocktail that uses infusions dry ice to create a feast for all senses, something new, but we serve it in our china, which dates back to the Wrigley family. I am also really excited about using spirits like Luxardo sour cherry gin, something I first found in Italy, and Nixta, which is heirloom corn liquor made in Mexico that tastes like cornbread and honey, in creative-yet-accessible ways to give patrons something special.
Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t note that during renovations, CEO and wine director Paola Embry not only kept the Wrigley’s award-winning wine cellar stocked, but also increased support for local wineries and suppliers. We’ve grown our collection to more than 1,200 labels and over 12,300 bottles, including the new section of Arizona wines.
What is one drink you want us to feature this month and the cost?
Memory Lane, $15
Why do you like the cocktail?
This spirited cocktail will play with your senses. With a Marasca cherry aroma and intense Juniper notes, followed by aromatic flavors of coffee blended with coconut, caramel, roasted hazelnuts, cocoa and raisins this drink will be sure to keep you on your toes.
1 1/5 ounce Luxardo sour cherry gin
3/4 ounce Liquid Alchemist coconut syrup
3/4 ounce Fresh-squeezed lime juice
1/2 ounce Varnelli Fantasia punch
1/2 ounce Agave syrup
1 dash Coffee bitters
1 dash Black walnut bitters
Combine all ingredients in shaker, add ice, shake, strain into highball glass, add ice, garnish with Luxardo cherry, dehydrated lime and mint.