Aaron Polsky has been in the hospitality field since he was 18 years old. His career began in New York City at Thomas Keller’s famed Bouchon Bakery, and he eventually found his way to White Star, where renowned barman Sasha Petraske — dubbed “The Bar World's Greatest Contemporary Conductor” by Eater — served as his mentor.
Polsky’s interest and reputation in the craft cocktail scene further developed as he found himself at marked bars such as PDT, Death and Co, Eleven Madison Park, Boom Boom Room, and eventually Los Angeles’ Houston Hospitality-owned Harvard & Stone, where he currently serves as bar manager. Here, Polsky and his team are noted for their innovative drink-making.
With his prominence in the field, you can imagine the intrigue and excitement Polsky’s colleagues and competitors have about his involvement with the Bartender Boxing Organization.
“We’ve got a pretty tight community of really great bartenders in L.A.,” says Polsky. “If I’m honest about it, when Raj Nagra proposed [participating in the competition] to me, late at night at a party, I guess I thought it'd be a fun, low-key, extracurricular activity. Plus, my colleagues would probably think it would be pretty funny to see somebody 6-foot-4 compete in the 175-pound weight class. Mitch Bushell, who I’m scheduled to fight in the first round, can’t be more than 5-foot-10.”
Polsky says that a little healthy competition outside of the typical cocktail contest was welcomed. He’s even toyed with the idea of elevating the competition’s purpose by potentially involving a charity.
Outside of the excitement of the approaching brawl and the enthusiasm from colleagues and friends (fact: he recently celebrated his birthday and received a mouth guard from a supportive buddy), Polsky said the competition has given him reason to hit the gym with more frequency.
“It’s a fun way to get in shape,” he says. As for whether improved fitness has helped his behind-the-bar game, he adds, “I’m not sure I’d say it’s affected my bartending yet, but to be fair, exercise isn’t exactly as big a part of my daily routine as, say, eating Korean food. So perhaps I’ll notice a difference after the competition and all the training we do has had a chance to take effect.”
Right now, Polsky says the competition has him feeling somewhat nervous, especially since he’s never been much of a sports guy. He joked about Mitchell being able to reach up high enough to hit his nose in an uppercut, and said if anyone’s ever seen him and thought, “Man, I could take that guy,” they now have the chance to see.
If you make it to the competition at this year's Tales, Polsky has a drink recommendation:
“Boxing feels like a beer and a shot sport to me,” he says. (Harvard & Stone is known for its beer-and-a-shot special.) “When you see it on TV, the bouts are always sponsored by Tecate, so I’d say a can and a shot of Cazadores.”