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Stirring Things Up: Sedona Mixologist Matthew Doerr Talks Cocktails

matthew doerr

Matthew Doerr, the food and beverage director at the soon-to-be-open Willows Kitchen and Bar at the Poco Diablo Resort in Sedona, Arizona, sets a high standard for his cocktails.

With drinks like “Dapper,” a mix of butterfly pea tea gin, falernum, lemon, rhubarb, ginger and pineapple, as well as “She Loves Me,” a refreshing concoction of gin, French wine, aperol and champagne, on the upcoming bar menu, he’s all about keeping it simple and clean while focusing on the depth and layer of flavors. Doerr’s basic credo? Less is more.

“There are drinks out there that have a lot of ingredients, but if you can’t taste them in the drink, they’re not necessary,” he said. “I try to accomplish my approach with minimal ingredients, to let the spirit and the mixers lead to the complexity of the cocktail and try not to overwhelm the guest.”

His favorite drink? An old-fashioned. “It’s such a simple drink, but everyone makes it their own way, which I think is very cool,” he said. “When you’re talking about sugar bitters and whiskey it sounds like it should be the same recipe, but you’d be surprised how many variations there are.”

His favorite liquor of choice? All kinds of whiskey. Rye is his go-to, but he enjoys Irish and Scotch. He’s also partial to Pisco, a Peruvian brandy he’s been playing around with.

dapper cocktail

Doerr is a big fan of syrups – he likes Napa Valley’s Perfect Puree and Monin Syrups – and prefers to use what he can buy rather than make his own. “I won’t make my own syrup unless I can make it better than what’s out there,” he said. “It’s all about offering a consistent cocktail every single time.”

Originally from North Phoenix, Doerr garnered a passion for the mixology and culinary worlds during his time in high school home economics classes. After graduating from culinary school, he began as a server at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in Scottsdale, Arizona before working his way up.

“I started bar-backing for Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steakson the Fairmont property in February of 2008,” he said. “I found myself running the bar program by September. It was a quick transition, and a lot of hard work.”

His cooking background helped. “One of the things I loved about the culinary aspect is the creative flexibility with different flavor profiles,” he said. “Once I got behind the bar, I figured I’m cooking with liquids now and creatively messing with different techniques.”

His plan for the cocktail list for the new resort, which is currently due to open this spring, is to focus on unique flavor profiles while ensuring an aromatic and refreshing style due to the hot Arizona weather. That means tropical fruits such as passion and guava purees.

“The menu will be well-rounded, with all of your spirits represented,” said Doerr. “I love introducing people to unique spirits in a different way that they normally wouldn’t be used to.”

It also means relying on the basics. “I think people have gotten away from that because they want to be trendy and edgy,” he said. “What I think is cool is a perfectly executed drink every single time that someone is going to love.”

barbary fig cocktail

As demonstrated, below.

Barbary Fig Recipe (Makes one cocktail)

1.5 oz Tito’s vodka
.75 oz lemon
.5 oz simple syrup
.5 oz coconut water
.5 oz prickly pear

Combine all ingredients in a mixing tin.
Add ice and shake well.
Strain over fresh ice.
Garnish with a fresh lemon wheel and mint.


Victoria Pardo

Victoria Pardo is a practicing historic preservationist for FEMA with a dual interest in food and architecture. She earned her master’s in Historic Preservation from Columbia University, and enjoys consulting with historic sites and house museums, finding ever-changing ways to interpret food history. She has worked in the restaurant industry since the age of 16. She spends most of her time between Nantucket Island, MA, and Maine, working on her website, Food and Architecture, sharing stories, recipes and travel recommendations.



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