Jon Robinson, AKA Dr. Sunshine, has been in the industry for 25+ years as a master bartender, author, mixologist and founder of Sunshine Consulting. Check out his recent interview with Color & Curiosity founder Megan Zink about his entrepreneurial journey, fun facts and drinking around the world!
Wider Worldview is a new live podcast hosted by Color & Curiosity founder Megan Zink that explores the power of travel – how it can change the world: spark new ideas, foster different perspectives, catalyst curiosity and lifelong learning. Join her for interviews with entrepreneurs, educators and explorers and get inspired to tap into travel as an experiential learning and empathy building tool.
Head over to this link to catch the full audio recording on Fireside with Dr. Sunshine – but in the meantime, here’s a snippet of the conversation. This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Jon, Dr. Sunshine – you and I met through a virtual cocktail from Sunshine Consulting masterclass my company put on a few months ago. One thing I loved, besides your passion and energy, is that you don’t just teach participants how to make cocktails, you include tons of fun facts, trivia and informative history, too. How did you get started in bartending and mixology – can you share a little bit about your background, how you got started and how you got to where you are now?
It really started when I was washing dishes when I was 14 years old, and then I just slowly moved my way up. I’m always one of those people who’s always wanting to get better at whatever I’m doing. And so restaurant work was one of those things I just kept doing. And now that’s one of the things I talk about in my book, how to make a career in restaurants and bartending. People were worried about you being a bartender in the 90s and now people aspire to do it – it’s a good, stable job you can do anywhere, almost around the world.
Well you can do it wherever – you’ve certainly proven that model out with your classes! When did you start Sunshine Consulting? What was the impotence for it?
I started it 3 years ago, developing cocktail menus for different restaurants and mostly I started it as a way to protect myself and charge people when they’d be like, ‘hey, can you help me with my menu or train a couple of bartenders on the side?’ and I was like, ‘I should probably formalize this.’ And eventually, when COVID hit, it just kind of took off. I’d been doing cocktail classes in person for the last 7 years and I was like, ‘oh, I can just do this online.’ Teaching people is really what I like – watching other people succeed is how I get happiness.
I think I gravitate toward educators. I actually come from a family of teachers. I totally thought I was gonna be an English teacher, and then literally my first day of college, I was like, I don’t know why I’m doing this. I would like to do journalism. But I can spot a fellow educator and that’s what we’re all about here at Color & Curiosity – ongoing learning.
I know we’re going to talk about some of your favorite spirits – but to start, because Color & Curiosity is all about using travel as an experiential learning and empathy building tool – where in the world is the best cocktail you’ve ever had?
I would say probably Minneapolis – there is a local guy who makes a cocktail that came out with bubbles on it and a rubber ducky – like a bubble bath. I always say the best cocktail is the one that makes you feel good. And when I train bartenders, the thing is always to have fun at the bar. And some lose that idea – that drinking should be fun. The liquid is one component, and making people happy should be the other.
One of the things that I really want to perpetuate with Color & Curiosity and my podcast, Wider Worldview, is, you know, getting people outside their comfort zones and out to explore, even if it’s in their own backyard. So, in the spirit of… spirits… what is your favorite spirit or what are maybe your top three? And why?
I always love to give people different levels of suggestion, but my favorite is just my favorite. As I say in my classes, everyone has 350-400 odor receptors and only 150 of those are common for all people. So everyone smells and tastes the world differently.
Wait, can we pause there for a second?
Yeah, so there’s about 350-400 odor receptors we have and only 150 are common – so after that, everyone’s kind of got a smorgasbord going on. This is why some of us like stuff that others don’t – some will pick up pepper, others chocolate and dried fruit. There’s kind of a ‘never-wrong’ answer to your favorites. I can give you my favorites – suggestions for favorites. I like bourbon a lot.
Okay, so you have to get alcohol. And to get alcohol, yeast has to eat sugar and fart out alcohol. That’s how we get alcohol. And so a real general overview would be, you start with wine or beer and distill it by heating it up to about 170 degrees Fahrenheit, and the alcohol is going to evaporate off and you just have that. If you make a beer and distill that, you’re going into the whiskey category. This is a very 20,000 feet – maybe even 100,000 foot view – on distillation.
So bourbon-wise, I’m gonna throw a spot out there and you can tell me if you think it’s the best place to go, or if you think there might actually be other best places to go. The Bourbon Trail/Bourbon Country in Louisville, Kentucky. What do you think?
Yeah, absolutely. That’s a great location to go to because the water is really good there. And that’s a great American history lesson. So there’s a huge limestone shelf that goes all the way up from the Great Lakes down to basically that area and when the water goes through that line it creates an awesome filtration system. And you need lots of water for bourbon.
Related: Lousville, Kentucky isn’t too far away from the beautiful river town of Madison. Head over to this link for a list of things to do in Madison Indiana!
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Learn More about Jon Robinson – AKA Dr. Sunshine and Sunshine Consulting
Master bartender, author and mixologist Jon Robinson began Sunshine Consulting to teach people about craft cocktails. He also provides event bartending, consulting, virtual classes, and merchandise!
- Website: https://www.sunshineconsultingmn.com/about-sunshine-consulting
- Classes: https://www.sunshineconsultingmn.com/group-virtual-cocktail-classes
- Gift Cards: https://app.squarespacescheduling.com/catalog.php?owner=21013471
- Consulting: https://www.sunshineconsultingmn.com/inpersonbartender
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sunshine__consulting/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sunshineconsultingmn