Meet Your Mixologist: Sims Foster
Not your typical mixologist, Sims Foster’s resume proves a bit more robust. As Vice President of Restaurants and Bars at Denihan Hospitality Group, he oversees food and beverage-related operations. From selecting which celeb chef to next bring on board to which style of glassware to stock at each of their 12 (and growing) properties. Among them, Manhattan’s luxury independents, The Benjamin and The Surrey.
For the latter, Foster developed a special perk in line with its mission to create “considered moments” for hotel guests. The concept? An exclusive in-room mixology program. Interested parties can master the art of crafting the perfect cocktail in the comfort of their own room with guidance from a professional but friendly tender. Select a lead liquor and shortly thereafter an expert arrives with all the fixings, serves up drinks for you and your travel companions and demonstrates how it’s done. The following round’s all you. Unless of course you’re too tipsy, in which case just usher them up again. It’s literally that turnkey.
Now that’s what we call bottle service.
What inspired you to offer this unique amenity?
There’s a hotel in London called Dukes, and they’ve got this great little martini bar. Very British. It’s one of my favorite places. The bartender takes your order and, even if you’re only four feet from the bar, they wheel a cart over and pour the martini with this elaborate, but very simple, presentation. I love that. I was always looking for a place to do that, to capture the elegance. When we were redoing The Surrey, it was, to me, the perfect fit. It’s very intimate. Very much a human, genuine, authentic element.
Is the program very popular?
It’s consistent. Everybody seems to have a wonderful experience. But it’s very specialized. You have to be in the right mood. It’s got to be the right person at the right time.
What’s the most indispensable bar tool?
You could say a muddler or a bar spoon, but those don’t do any good unless you have a really solid, thick, 16-ounce pint glass. If you have that, you can find other apparatus to stir and shake and make your drinks. I guess that seems silly, but you’ve got to have a good mixer. And, if you want to get fancy, a microplane. To finish a drink with just a touch of lemon or lime [or] shave a little bit of nutmeg on top is perfect.
What’s your preferred drink?
One of my favorites is a basil lime gimlet, which we have on the menu [at The Surrey]. It’s seasonal, in a sense. On a summer day, it’s great to have the herbs and citrus. It’s very clean and fresh. We also do a vanilla old fashioned, where we use a whole vanilla bean, which has a lot of drama. My favorite cocktails are classics with one or two twists that give [them] a bit of a different direction. Bourbon is usually my liquor of choice, especially in cold weather. In the summer, I tend to go more towards gin.
What would you consider the high point of your career thus far?
I don’t think I’ve reached it yet. I think right now what I'm doing is just a lot of fun. I really love what I do, every day. I’m at the high point and climbing up. Every part of my career is built onto the next in a pretty cool way. There’s plenty of work, but, to keep it in perspective, I certainly have a lot more pleasure than pain in my job.
Share a challenge you face with this top dog job.
Conveying the intangibles to my teams and also owners and people that are more financial or institutional. The intangible elements that really make for the distinguishing factor between a good restaurant and a great restaurant.