If your bartending skills are anything like mine, you probably just stock up on beer and wine and call it a day when you’re throwing a party. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but let’s be honest, the only reason we’re not serving killer cocktails is because, frankly, we don’t know how.
“The average consumer is afraid of making cocktails. They don’t know what to do,” says Hudson, New Hampshire resident Derrick Schommer, 42, who decided to change all that, one cocktail at a time.
In 2007, Schommer and his wife, Jennifer, created the Common Man Cocktails website, followed a year later by a YouTube channel devoted to simplifying the art of the craft cocktail. There’s something for everyone at Common Man, from the newbie mixologist intimidated by the Boston shaker to the experienced bartender looking for fresh drink ideas.
There’s even something for people seeking a bit of comic relief, which you’ll definitely find in the casual delivery of cocktail history, recipes and tutorials, and in the friendly banter between Schommer and his YouTube co-host, Ian Andrews, who is often dressed in a scally cap and bow tie.
“I try to straddle the line between being just a stupid guy doing stupid stuff on the internet and giving out useful information,” Schommer says.
A difficult line to straddle indeed. But Common Man’s 102,000 YouTube subscribers should tell you something about Schommer’s success in doing so. Browsing Common Man’s library of nearly 3,000 YouTube episodes, you’ll find everything from shows on the proper use of bar tools and all you need to know about cocktail bitters, to mixing the best Tiki drinks and crafting lip-smacking specialty cocktails, like the “Gaelic Flip.”
Though, by design, there may be nothing fancy about Common Man, the brand has come a long way — from the early days of podcasts and then taping the show in Schommer’s bare-bones attic to the current backdrop of a gorgeous all-wood bar built by his father in the basement of Schommer’s home. Toss in a cool custom logo created by a fan, an accompanying online retail store, AwesomeDrinks.com, where Schommer sells many of the items he uses on the show, and relationships with beverage brands and distributors, and it would seem that Schommer, a longtime software engineer, is one step closer to his original and ultimate goal of taking Common Man full time.
“I really just want to grow and dominate the internet,” he says.
Wherever Common Man takes him, the project certainly has been a labor of love and a learning experience for Schommer, a self-taught cocktail craftsman who has learned on his own the ins and outs of producing an online show, from camerawork and lighting to connecting with fans.
“I’ve actually connected with a lot of fans,” says Schommer, who’s been told by viewers that his humor has gotten them through a tough time or inspired them in some way. “I know there’s people watching that take it seriously.”
Schommer often can be found editing Common Man YouTube episodes late into the night or fine-tuning new website features, such as the curated cocktail recipe database he’s developed. “It’s a lot of work, but there’s a lot I learn from it,” says Schommer, who lists the whiskey sour among his favorite cocktails.
Occasionally, Schommer even meets fans of the show who treat him a bit like a celebrity. In true Common Man fashion, he tells them, “Dude, I’m just some guy who has a bar in his basement.” And then he buys them a drink.