Not too long ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing an amazing bartender and mixologist, Dan Hamm. We met at a wonderful restaurant inside the Logan Hotel, Urban Farmer, for drinks and light bites. Dan has been a rising force in the Philadelphia cocktail scene for some time. His passion for top quality cocktails and ingredients shows in every event he works and in every cocktail he creates.
Dan is the founder of Spirit Forward. They are a Philadelphia-based, cocktail mobile catering company. They cater all types of events, happy hours and company team building seminars. Their mission is to find new and creative ways to communicate to the public and corporate world that there are better cocktails out there and that you don’t have to spend a fortune to find them or make them yourself.
Dan told me that he never attended a bartending school. His passion and love for mixology is what pushed his passion to succeed. He begged and pleaded his way into El Ray and started bussing tables. He eventually got promoted to food runner with the hopes of eventually working behind the bar. After some time at El Rey, he decided to move on to R2L. While working there, a good friend of his tipped him off to a new place opening in the near future and would he be interested. The place was 1 Tippling Place and that’s where things would change for the better.
Three years into working at 1 Tippling Place, Dan didn’t have a shortage of regular customers. He had many repeat customers who enjoyed his style, passion and his really good drinks! They began inquiring if he was available for private events. That is what lead to his establishing Spirit Forward. Dan could see that people enjoyed a finely crafted cocktail and appreciated his creativity. He found a niche and ran with it. It’s paid off and those of us who enjoy a fine cocktail are all the better for it!
I first met Dan at a Drink Philly event, “Audrey’s Apartment Party” back in May. It was a themed event downtown based on the classic film, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. The brains behind the event was our good friend and Drink Philly founder, Adam Schmidt. Alex and Dan go way back so it was no surprise that Adam enlisted Dan to handle the cocktails for the event. The party and the drinks were a hit!
Dan told me that for this event, and any event, there are certain factors that play into what he creates. The theme of the event of course, but also where the event will be held, the time of year, how many people expected to attend, and so forth. All these parameters are a big influence into what he creates. If it’s a springtime event, he’ll lean more towards light, citrus based cocktails, A wintertime event will call for something heavier, full bodied, perhaps cognac based drinks. He has a blank canvas to work with and he creates wonderful cocktail masterpieces every time.
In his spare time, he does have his favorite bars and hang outs, mainly by his home. When he’s in the city, he enjoys the Rittenhouse Square area and dropping in a.bar and Friday Saturday Sunday, just to name a few. He enjoys talking with fellow bartenders and isn’t afraid to share ideas or be inspired by new cocktails. It’s an exciting time in Philadelphia for cocktails. In the last several years, there has been a boom in local distilleries, in part to the finally relaxed liquor laws in Pennsylvania. He hopes to see this not as a fad, but as a continuing trend.
It was such a pleasure to sit down with Dan for a couple of hours and get to know him better. He is understandably very busy these days so I really appreciated his time. He told me time is a precious commodity right now but he really enjoys talking with his customers. The biggest compliment he can get is when you taste one of his drinks and it conjures up a past memory or emotion and you share it with him. It’s those stories that will stay with him and keep his passion going. Be sure to look him up and also attend a Drink Philly event in the near future. The next fantastic drink you have could be one made by Dan! Cheers!