Stirred, Not Shaken
Contract lawyer by day, Marc Kaliser raises mixology to a fine art
Published in 2021 Texas Rising Stars magazine on March 23, 2021
Marc Kaliser has spent a lot of time behind bars.
Those would be cocktail bars. The transactional lawyer and partner in Munck Wilson Mandala’s corporate law group in Dallas has transformed himself into a mixologist—a devotee of the lore of drink-making. In pre-pandemic times, he hosted events at his and friends’ homes and tended bar at parties. He also gives instructional demos to folks who request them on social media. His Instagram: @gallicaudae (Latin for “cocktails”).
After COVID-19 sent most folks from the office into socially distanced isolation, the Dallas lawyer turned his off-the-job passion into a way to keep clients and lawyers at his firm connected—via virtual happy hours. His Zoom gatherings, dubbed Cocktails and Contracts, are more than just an excuse to drink. They’re master classes in the art and history of classic cocktail-making.
Which brought out a side of the normally reserved contracts lawyer that surprised his colleagues at work.
“They were like, ‘Oh, my God, Marc, we’ve never heard you talk so much. We never realized you actually had a personality,’” quips Kaliser, who spends most of his days handling real estate transactions and matters of corporate governance, mergers and acquisitions, finance and securities.
His deep dive into mixology began in 2013 on a visit to a Brooklyn bar called Maison Premiere, known for oysters and absinthe. You might say absinthe made his heart grow fonder.
“Being a lawyer, I like to research stuff,” he says. “And then I really kind of fell in with the history and the romance of how the cocktails were born, and with a lot of the characters—the bartenders who wrote the early bartending manuals.”
He started collecting cocktail books, spirits, antique cocktail glasses and barware.
“It’s just like cooking or baking or anything else,” he says. “You may come to have a new appreciation of something that a lot of people just look at as drinking. It really is an art form.”
Part of the art is predicting—and perfecting—what someone might like best.
The spouse of one colleague, for example, has a fondness for the homemade French 75 he brought to holiday parties. It’s a champagne cocktail, mixed with a base of gin, named for a World War I cannon that fired 75 mm shells.
“It can really knock you out,” he says, then adds with a chuckle, “That helped my cause to make partner, I think.”
Some alterations were necessary to the home bar now that his toddler, Luke, can reach up and grab things, but it still boasts somewhere between 80 and 100 bottles. (Not including Luke’s.) There are Italian amaros, about a dozen types of bitters, some whiskeys, and a few kinds of absinthe.
But the heart and soul is his array of gins—some 40 bottles and counting.
“Gin is my number one cocktail spirit. It’s what most of the high-end craft cocktails are made with.”
He has Elephant Gin with its African botanicals; Reisetbauer Blue Gin from Austria; Nikka from Japan, with its blend of yuzu, kabosu, amanatsu and shequasar; an Old Tom or two from England with a distinctive caramel shade. And some storied domestic brands: High Wire Hat Trick from Charleston; and Green Hat, a congressional bootlegger’s creation from Washington, D.C.
“The whole point of gin, in my opinion, is flavor,” he says. “But most of gin’s real magic happens when you mix it with other ingredients.”
Before you know it, he’s explaining how the French grape blight of the 1800s caused a revolution in cocktails, with whiskey and gin replacing brandy and cognac. And how any cocktail must have four fundamental ingredients: the spirit—gin, whiskey or rum—a bitter component; a sweetener, such as sugar or vermouth; and water.
Or how his drink of choice, a martini, is a great vehicle for getting to know a new gin. Stirred. Not—God forbid—shaken!
“A stirred martini is going to be much more delicate, much more velvety,” he says. “A shaken martini will be kind of aerated. You’ll get a lot of ice chips and bubbles, and you don’t really want that in your cocktail. … You can’t even really enjoy the gin.”
To your health, Mr. Bond.
Marc Kaliser’s Favorite Dry Gin Martini Recipe
2 oz. London dry gin (Jensen’s Bermondsey Gin)
1/3 oz. dry vermouth (Dolin Dry Vermouth)
1-2 dashes of Regan’s Orange Bitters
Add ingredients to mixing glass and add ice.
Stir 10-15 seconds.
Strain into a chilled coupe glass.
Express oils from a freshly cut lemon peel, remove the rind, drop in the glass.