Adam Seger of Rare Botanical Bitters – Spotlight on a Drink Careers 101 Project Advisory Board Member
Mutineer first ran into Adam Seger when we did our series of What People Drink articles based on influential beverage people from Chicago. Naturally, Adam was a great fit to be included in that article. We’ve bumped into him several time since then and have seen his name everywhere, from leading seminars at Tales of the Cocktail, to mixing cocktails on the Oscars’ Red Carpet when he won the inaugural Moet Oscar Cocktail Contest. He has more beverage related projects than we can keep up with and he’s a guy that is going to continue to do big things. We are proud to introduce to you our next Drink Careers 101 Project Advisory Board member, Mr. Adam Seger, Co-Founder/Partner of Rare Botanical Bitters.
How did you get into the beverage industry?
My freshman year at Cornell Hotel School, I was a Teaching Assistant for Introduction to Wines, the largest wine class in the world with 800 students. The TA’s didn’t really teach, we schlepped wine glasses and wine portions for tastings for the 800 students. But, we got to take the leftover wine with us, so I spent all four years as a TA drinking great wines with my fraternity brothers and serving as Delta Phi’s impromptu tutor for anyone taking the wine class. It was the best way to learn wine, tasting and talking to others about wine.
Late summer 1991 just after graduating from Cornell Hotel School and following a culinary stagiere at Michelin Star Chez Julien in Strasbourg, I joined Hilton Hotels as Banquet Manager of The Midland, Texas Hilton & Towers. Shortly after a major renovation, I became Assistant F&B Director then Director of Food & Beverage.
We created a modern Southwest concept in the hotel called Santa Fe Place with a Cafe, a Grill and a Bar. The Grill was my baby with an innovative wine program with the wine list organized by food pairings vs traditionally as well as flights and tasting portions available. For West Texas in 1992, this had never been seen before.
What has been the most rewarding experience of your beverage career?
Working for Thomas Keller gave me the priceless gift of developing a religious devotion to and respect for ingredients.
If you weren’t developing spirits or stirring up cocktails behind the stick, what else in the beverage industry interests you?
Being in the kitchen. Every amazing dish I eat or cooking technique I learn or ingredient I discover I automatically start to think of cocktail, bitters and spirit applications.
If you had one piece of advice for a student considering a career in the beverage industry, what would it be?
Start blind tasting every beverage possible including wine, beer, tea, water…Developing your critical pallet separates the men from the boys. If you are a gal, even better as women have in general better pallets than men.
You seem to be a man of many hats in the beverage industry. What kinds of projects are you involved with?
With Rare Tea Cellars Master Blender Rodrick Markus I have started a bitters company called ‘Rare Botanical Bitters’. Our first product is the world’s 1st Winter Black Perigord Truffle Bitters which we debuted at Eric Ripert’s Cayman Cookout at The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman this January.
Our company’s next project is a joint venture with Boyd & Blair Distillery. We are reinventing the vermouth category with a spirit called Balsam. Balsam is everything that is in traditional vermouth with the exception of wine. Thus a restaurant can add a house wine to their Balsam to make just as much fresh vermouth as they need.
In additional to innovating in the craft spirit world, I also create and manage the cocktails for Ipic Entertainment, the leader in full service luxury movie theatres. Our locations from coast-to-coast offer craft cocktails, local beer and restaurant quality wine lists with service brought to guests’ seats in the theatres.