It's the small decisions that make a truly great bartender. Sitting at the bar at Nopa I watched Neyah White make a basic order: a Sazerac and an Old Fashioned. Every choice - the glassware, the bitters, the whiskey (after inquiring "bourbon or rye for that Old Fashioned?") - was spot on. It is the smallest choice, though, which shows the most skill and consideration. He built the Old Fashioned with care - no 'fruit salad' here - and then mixed the Sazerac, stirred it a properly long time for a lovely chill, and only then did he add two ideally sized ice cubes to the Old Fashioned. Perfect timing for two very different drinks, minimizing unwanted melt. Maybe it's obvious when you care, but so many don't. Neyah, and his staff, care.
Honored by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the six Bay Area bartenders picked as 2008's Bar Stars, he is another bartender we admire for his careful use of ingredients and the creation of his own where appropriate. His knowledge of spirits is prodigious and appears to be ever-growing; nor is he loathe to share the wealth. Newcomers to cocktails and old experts can both benefit from a conversation with this cocktail ambassador.
Neyah is the bar manager at Nopa in San Francisco where he has built a strong reputation for great housemade bitters, tinctures and liqueurs used in exemplary drinks ranging from spirits-driven classics to kitchen-inspired local showcases. The Manhattan entry here on bibulo.us is graced by a picture of his Jerry Thomas style version of the drink, featuring his own recreation of Abbott's bitters.
As of June 2010, Neyah is following his love of brown spirits to become the