A Jersey Shore restaurant veteran serves a unique take on class ic cocktails at As bury Park’s Taka

by Jon Domenick

Agreat drink starts as an idea and develops into something tangible,” observed Taka mixologist Mike Psarakis, who has been drawn to ever-more innovative bartending throughout his career. Inspired by the creativity and social aspects the profession offers, Psarakis is unabashedly invigorated by customer interaction. Describing a great bartender as someone who has “a combination of social skills, mixology, and the ability to multitask,” he loves the fast pace the job makes mandatory. “From pouring to coordinating to making sure I’m providing folks a winning experience…in the midst of constant distractions and tasks… bartending entails a particular kind of balance.”

A graduate of Lincroft’s Christian Brothers Academy, Psarakis grew up working in restaurants his family owned, such as the Eatontown Fisher and Cobblestone Diner. He knew upon completing a college education split between Brookdale Community College and Hofstra University that it was time to get serious about his career, so sought out experience in the corporate restaurant scene—first working at PF Chang’s in 2007 as a server. After a year there, he was admitted and enrolled in its bar training program. While he has since spent time in various positions, including management at Jersey Shore restaurants Stella Marina, Blunami, and Cubacan, the passion he has for bartending always brought him back “behind the wood.” And Psarakis loves calling the Shore home for its “diversity and unique demographics.”

One of six bartenders on staff, Psarakis is chuffed to note the further uniqueness of Taka.

“With great sushi and other Japanese-influenced food on our menu, no other restaurants in the area compare,” he said. “And the new space, with its decor, bar, and atmosphere, offers another level above the area’s competition. People come in and comment that this place should be in New York City or Miami. Taka offers an urban feel with a unique atmosphere. What means the most to me, however, is the community support—especially in a place like Asbury Park, that’s overcome so many obstacles—of the locals who frequent our restaurant, consider it a home and a place to respect; that’s rare.”

When creating the cocktail menu, Psarakis likes to start with flavors that tap into the season and elements from the dishes on the menu. He considers what liquors pair best with those flavors and ingredients and uses existing recipes as an outline to tweak and change into a creation of his own (see left).

660 Cookman Avenue, Asbury Park / 732.775.1020 / takaasbury.com

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