Meet Your Mixologist: Chad Phillips Of The Social Club

By Shayne Benowitz

At The Social Club, the high design Deco lobby bar inside the Surfcomber Hotel, head bartender Chad Phillips is having a lot of fun orchestrating the cocktail selections. The extensive menu has seen 20 variations to its 18 listed cocktails in just over a year. Divided into four main sections to help guide the guest’s palate — Crisp & Light, Aromatic, Savory, Full & Robust — there’s always a forgotten classic and a bartender’s choice  featured, as well. For instance, the current “forgotten classic” is The Alaskan, created circa 1930, consisting of Ransom gin, Yellow Chartreuse, and orange bitters, providing patrons with a bit of mixology trivia — not to mention a cocktail they’d probably never get a chance to try elsewhere.

“I apply a culinary approach to making cocktails,” says Phillips, noting that he incorporates fresh juices, premium spirits, and housemade grenadines, syrups, and infusions in his reinterpretation on the classics.

He’s also one of the only mixologists in Miami who creates his own barrel-aged cocktails. These limited edition batches yield 30 cocktails in a maturation process of three to six weeks. The same wood barrel is used and reused creating a dense bind of flavors that continues to affect each batch. At the moment, you can try the Barrel-Aged Boulavardier, made with Pichard’s rye whiskey, Campari, and Antica Carpano.

The names of his cocktails are playful, usually telling a story, hiding an inside joke, or baring the name of a song title. In his 28 Days Later, made with a melange of four rums, grapefruit, passion fruit, and grenadine, is a twist on the classic Zombie cocktail and a riff on the classic zombie movie of the same name. One For The Ride is named after a Waxwing song, consisting of Four Roses bourbon, St. Germain liqueur, Aperol, lemon, and hopped grapefruit bitters. It’s as refreshing as digging a spoon into a halved grapefruit — and much headier.

Phillips got his start at the acclaimed cocktail bar Taste in his native St. Louis and upon moving to South Florida, he worked under Julio Cabrera at Sra. Martinez. As far as he’s concerned, the sky’s the limit with mixology. “We’ve yet to hit the wall,” he explains. “There are so many creative ideas — bottled cocktails, cocktails on tap, barrel-aged cocktails. There are no set rules. You can make it up as you go and have fun. You can push yourself and other people’s palates.”

As long as Phillips is behind the bar at The Social Club, his patrons will be in for a palate-pushing treat.