Sam Awabdeh is the kind of bartender that probably knows what you want to drink before you order. He’s been a bartender at The Visiteur bar at the Washington Marriott Georgetown for 26 years.
“I usually ask people if they want something sweet or tart and then I go from there.” says Awabdeh. “I can mix anything.”
What he’s mixing mostly, and most expertly, is the Old-Fashioned. Awabdeh won the Old-Fashioned round in a recent Marriott Hotels Bourbon Battle held at the hotel. It’s a drink he loves mixing.
“I’m good at the Manhattan and Old-Fashioned,” Awabdeh says. “I used to be known for vodka or gin martinis, but the Manhattan and the Old-Fashioned are so popular now.”
Luckily Awabdeh is really into bourbon these days. The former scotch drinker just decided to start trying different bourbons to stay on trend and then it turned into a passion.
“I’ve been collecting bourbon at my house, and I have over 40 different bourbons on display, so I really like bourbon,” he admits. “It’s a very unique liquor. It can be sweet, dry, and it’s got different flavors and different ages.”
But Awabdeh doesn’t use bourbon in his Old-Fashioned. He uses rye whiskey, two types of bitters and adds his own orange-infused simple syrup for sweetness and orange flavor. The reviews have been impressive.
“So far anyone who orders my Old-Fashioned says, ‘Wow!’ Even people from Kentucky have said that this is the best Old-Fashioned they’ve ever had,” he says. “It feels really good to hear that.”
As much as Awabdeh loves bartending and living in the Washington, D.C., area, he carries a deferred dream to open a bar in his hometown of Damascus, Syria.
“I am really frustrated by everything that is going on there,” he says. “It was my plan to go back there and open a bar. My wife is also from Damascus. We are from the old city of Damascus. No cars are allowed, only bicycles. It’s a very old, historic and beautiful city.”
Instead he helped a friend open a small bar in Lebanon’s East Beirut neighborhood while on vacation. And he keeps thinking of new ways to mix bourbon at the Washington Marriott Georgetown’s The Visiteur Bar. He’s fond of ginger and lemon juice and mixers.
“I’m working on something with a blood orange puree with bourbon and a little simple syrup, shaken and served as a martini,” he says.
Think you can mix an Old-Fashioned like Sam can? Watch this video. You’ll need these snazzy ShopMarriott Bourbon Collection bar tools, too.
This story appears through a partnership with Marriott Hotels and Travel Brilliantly, fostering the creativity of the inventive class through stories that motivate, inspire and fuel a constant quest for knowledge.