Bartender and mixologist Derek Grimm is no stranger to the Worcester bar-going population. For many years he has been serving up inventive and delicious cocktails at some of the area’s favorite establishments, including The Pint, Deadhorse Hill, and Glory Bar (where he met his wife, the former owner). He is everything a great bartender should be – knowledgeable, friendly, and willing to experiment and take the world of cocktails forward.
“This is really the only job I’ve ever had where I can balance work life and be able to be happy at work, connecting with people and really loving what I’m doing. I just love bartending – it’s been a great couple of decades.”
His latest venture, Very Good Beverages, was created out of a shift in career path due to COVID, and how that hit everyone so hard in the restaurant industry – not being able to get some of the same spirits and components that they would normally be able to get due to lack of staff or businesses being able to run at normal capacity. He decided to start making his own bitters, syrups and infusions, using them to revive the ability to bring those handcrafted drinks to the masses. His summer bitter is a lighter, more citrus forward bitter reminiscent of an Italian amaro, but with lighter hints of the warm spices for a brighter profile.
Very Good Beverages has been offering cocktail pop up events at The Pint, boasting a curated drink menu, where he uses these elements that are created specifically with the drink in mind, rather than an all-purpose use. For example, a lime cordial using an infusion of fresh lime juice, lime peel, sugar, and citric acid, maintaining bright fresh lime flavors instead of using a pre-purchased, super-processed bottled lime juice that doesn’t taste nearly as good.
“Combining this infusion with gin makes one of the most fabulous gimlets on the planet. And when you thoughtfully put together these drinks using the best ingredients and high end, artfully crafted spirits, it changes the face of them altogether,” Derek shares.
With his vast experience, Grimm is able to pull from a mental library of what flavors are going to pair well together in a drink, for example a scotch with stone fruits or honey, or gin with a rounder citrus flavor.
“Sometimes I don’t know what I am going to do, I will just play around and see what works. I’ll start with a base idea for a cocktail and determine what the drink needs to fill in all the flavor gaps to make it a well-balanced drink. Maybe it needs to be stirred or shaken, maybe it needs something sweet or sour, or something more bitter or savory to get it right. For some I try to maintain the ideology of the classic cocktail but put a spin on it to make it a little different and more interesting,” says Derek.
As far as trends go, Derek believes everything is incidental and can be used where it makes sense to, without going overboard.
“If smoking a drink makes sense and lends flavor to the drink in a meaningful way – great. If using a top-shelf brand of vodka is better for one drink and cheaper brand is better for another – ok. If things are being done just for the sake of it, why bother? Let the drink speak for itself,” Derek shares.
So, what can you expect at the Very Good Beverage cocktail pop-up? They have been very well-received so far, with great service and cocktails and a very laid-back atmosphere, with some low-key jazzy hip hop and a comfortable environment. Other than the base spirits used, Derek crafts all other elements of the drinks, so you are really in for a unique experience. A curated menu of four drinks, always priced at $12, is released 24-48 hours prior to the event on Instagram, so be sure to follow to get the latest menus. You can expect a pop-up every four-to-six months right now.
“It’s not meant to be an event where you go and slam down six or seven drinks and then head out for the night, it’s meant to be a place where you come down and sit and that is your whole night. It’s a chance to escape from the day to day and have a really great time with friends,” says Derek.
When he isn’t doing the cocktail pop-ups, Derek helps organize the Run the Woo competition for Worcester bartenders, which raises funds for charitable organizations that he is passionate about, such as Girls, Inc. He is also doing some mixology classes at the Tower Hill Botanical Garden in Boylston over the summer.
Be sure to follow @verygoodbev on Instagram to see when the next Very Good Beverages pop-up will be and what’s being worked on behind the scenes!