Charlie Gaeta, general manager and beverage director at The Blue Ox
By Scott Kearnan
Why we’re watching him: Because he ditched a job in finance to follow his passion. At The Blue Ox in his native Lynn, Gaeta has transformed from self-taught wunderkind to a well-trained expert; he’s studied at Boston University’s Wine Resource Center and is “currently working the way through” the Court of Master Sommeliers. In the meanwhile, he crafts a killer program that emphasizes small batch distillers and marries the classic with creative, often using homemade vermouths or wood-smoked whiskey.
Favorite Drink to Make: “When I’m in the weeds I actually enjoy making a proper Manhattan. There is something oddly calming about measuring out, stirring and straining this classic. It’s kind of like being in the eye of the hurricane, even if it’s just 1 minute.”
Funniest experience on the bar: “We do a pretty extensive barrel aged cocktail program. I have one customer, a local lobsterman we work with, not to be named, who loves them all. We use recycled bottles and label them with duct tape and a sharpie. After a private event, I came behind the bar to find a lot of interesting “art work” on all of the bottled cocktails behind the bar. Let’s just say he’s suspect number one.”
His hangover cure: “A quiet restaurant. I live a block away from the restaurant so when I get in it’s early enough where it’s just our prep cooks. I fill up a quart of iced water, make a double espresso and grab a piece of applewood-smoked bacon off one of the trays in the back kitchen. It’s the closest thing to a brunch I can get after a long night, but it always works.”
One customer he wishes he could pour a drink for: “My very good friend Pete Frates who is a really good customer but is currently fighting ALS and unable to get to the restaurant much. A perfect Old Fashioned would definitely be the drink I’d make him.”