Mixologist Sasha Petraske of Milk and Honey - Biography

Manhattan, NY

September 2015

Sasha Petraske was a passionate speakeasy proselytizer back in the 1990s, way before the concept went mainstream. In 1999, with the founding of his landmark bar, Milk & Honey, on the Lower East Side, Petraske opened the doors to the new aesthetic and opened eyes to skillfully made pre-prohibition cocktails. At the time, he was still in his 20s, already influencing a generation of bartenders and drinkers by his sheer love of classic cocktails and historical sensibility. But Petraske was more than a businessman, leader, and beverage industry luminary. He was a husband, brother, son, and beloved member of the cocktail community—and since August of this year, deeply missed by many. Petraske died at just 42 years of age.

Petraske will be remembered for is wonderfully persnickety speakeasy concept: rules of conduct, a general reverent hush, limited membership thanks to a constantly changing phone number, and, oh yes, a list of beautifully, adeptly mixed cocktails. As it turns out, the “speakeasy trend” Milk & Honey inspired was not Petraske’s intention. Those rules, and even the secret entrance, were in part in deference to the neighborhood. But the word of mouth turned into a roar and then a revolution as Petraske expanded the Milk & Honey concept to London; opened Little Branch, Middle Branch, and Attaboy in Manhattan; Dutch Kills in Queens.

Teaching was always important part of Petraske’s identity as a bartender. He founded the San Antonio Cocktail Conference, bringing a sophisticated cocktail conversation to a region that absolutely deserved (and thrived on) it. And while it’s likely impossible to trace all of Petraske’s influence—it grows like a massive family tree through the bartenders who’ve worked in his establishments—it’s worthwhile to try. Whether you’re drinking a Penicillin or simply enjoying a craft cocktail in a bar that takes itself seriously (but not too seriously), there’s a solid chance you owe that liquid happiness to a man who changed the way we all gather and drink.