Bass. Base. BĀS?
All three words are homonyms, but with them comes completely different meanings. Bass, in this case, is a guitar used in music. It separates itself from other instruments in its category by being the deeper sounding of the chordophone, or strings, family. Base can be found on the pH scale or it can be the start, the foundation — the base. BĀS (pronounced ‘base’), on the other hand, is unique in that its name strings together its foundation with the very location of its beginnings — the basement. A name that came to fruition overnight, derived from where it all began.
The word BĀS is the root word for the word basement, where this entire thing basically started.
Like a basement, the minority-owned startup cocktail company BĀS started from the ground floor and is working its way up with the help of founder Michael Silva. Though not exactly his dream since being young, Silva’s inspiration to start crafting and curating his own cocktails came from working in New York a few years ago.
Silva finds he excels in being social and because of this, he was interacted with colleagues, patrons and anyone else around. He found the easiest way for him to learn was to “be surrounded by people who can show you different things so that you can…bring them back to your main core – your main friends.” He used his experience at the bar and the knowledge he gained to bring it back home and “elevate the taste level.” He didn’t want to simply show his friends his new set of skills, he wanted to “wow” them and expose them to flavors, cocktails and recipes they may not have been experienced before.
Silva’s time in New York was up and he returned to Rhode Island with a hunger to get behind a bar again and, after working some odd jobs, he found himself with a new gig. The Dorrance in downtown Providence, Rhode Island. Silva called that “the luckiest day of [his] life.” Here is where he attributes a growth that supplements what he learned during his time at New York. A place, in his home state, where he “really became a student of the cocktail culture and making cocktails.” He learned about fine dining, preparing and perfecting drinks and a key learning aspect of being a good bartender – buying your own stuff, making syrups and practicing on friends, “and that’s how BĀS got started.”
The secret is out
Silva, with his bartending apron on, sat shoulders up on a stool in what was formerly the location of his events, readied himself for the interview. Stairs from the rear of the house lead directly to the basement of the home and the homemade bar is the first thing that you see. It’s outfitted with a sink, bar top with stools, space for those behind to get around, everything a bartender would need to succeed. The lounge area has an open area alongside a couch. So much so that its prevalent why he began to get comfortable hosting his first, unofficial BĀS events there.
After a number of events at his home, he knew it was time to expand, but the ease of access to his space made the transition difficult.
Knowing he needed to expand would require that BĀS could no longer be secretive and based on word on mouth. The secret had to be told. It had to be out. This came right before the first event held outside of his home.
“That is one thing we kept saying,” Silva said. “Yo, ‘The secret is out now.’ Because we’re no longer in just a bunker. We’re no longer in a Basement.”
The need to expand was prevalent. It was no longer feasible to hold friends at his place and his first unofficial event was held at one of his friend’s houses closer to New Years. He liked how it went, but he was missing one other curated component that brings together the vibe together with his carefully selected cocktails.
I remember playing the Ashanti album back to back to back because my sisters would play it. That was the coolest person in the world to me growing up because she was doing all these cool things.
Curated for the senses
Silva’s appreciation with music began when he was young. He soaked up information and interests like a sponge, especially if they came from the coolest people he knew.
On the surface, choosing the music seems as though it’s a simple enough task. Find music you enjoy and then throw it all into a playlist and let it play. Just as is done for cookouts and parties, Silva wanted to curate music. It was part of the experience he was bringing and vital to setting the tone. As he puts it, “if we’re playing trap music, you can’t be calm.
“We want to play some music where it’s easy,” he said. “It’s soothing. All the while [you] enjoy a cocktail that we’re carefully curating over here.”
The music choice is a collaboration between multiple parties. His friends Farouk “’rouk” Ajakaiye, creator of Beyond the Eats and Shoot With Your Smartphone, and Nick Mota. Silva credits ‘rouk with inspiring him every day and helping him get to the point he’s at now. Silva added that he has never met someone with such a vast music selection as Mota.
Trust your own taste palette. Trust your palette. Trust your own palette. Anyone who wants to be a bartender, trust your own palette. Learn the cocktails. Learn the classic cocktails and trust your own palette.
Silva provided Mota with a skeleton of what he wanted for the music, in that he provided Mota with music he likes and doesn’t like. Sharing music is not something they’re new to. Together, they would take part in “Menthol Music.”
“[Nick and I] share music,” Silva said. “We used to do these things called ‘Menthol Music,’ where we would literally smoke weed and share music.”
Silva mentioned his keen ability to be ahead of the trends by way of what ‘rouk consistently tells him.
“Farouk likes to joke that I’m always listening to something that people need to be listening to next year,” he said. “That everyone else will catch up next year. I know people really pride themselves in ‘Oh, I found this person first. I don’t really care. I want everyone to listen to what I like. It makes my life easier…we really tried to focus on the sounds of tomorrow.”
The music and cocktails are a perfect fit and pair well with the experience you get when attending an event. Silva chooses the music almost the same way he thinks of how to set his menus. “What have you heard? What are you afraid to listen to? What wouldn’t you have the time to listen to?” If you took out the music aspect of the questions and rewrote them with cocktails, it still flows.
Poetry in motion
BĀS is now a couple of events deep and on the heels of its next event coming this month and Silva wants it to continue to grow. With every event, there are omnipresent gears in the machine to keep it running smooth throughout the night. Silva is appreciative of every person who helps, even if only for one second. His unselfish attitude is what helps keep the ebb and flow of the night going.
“I hate using the word ‘I,’” he said in regards to who is responsible for the success of the events. “There were people who helped me [get everything together]. Even if it was Max putting out cups for 10 minutes. You helped me bro, I appreciate it.”
At his two official events, after navigating and arriving at the entrance, you were greeted at the door by Vaughn Martin – a friend of Silva’s since the first grade. He said occasionally Martin needs to wear more than one hat. From door to barback to running, Silva said he has no issue teaching him how to do it. At the bar, it’s Silva and his friend of 10 or so years, Christy.
“[Martin, Christy and I are] a team now,” he said. “[Christy] called me boss one time and I was like ‘Please don’t ever do that again.’ Because that’s not what I’m here [to be].”
[I want to] educate underrepresented people in our cocktail culture.
For each event, the BĀS menu can change. At first, he said, it started as imitation. He wants anyone who goes to a BĀS event to be comfortable. Blends of tastes and familiar flavors are featured throughout the menus while the combinations and names draw you to try something new. Who doesn’t want to try a drink called “Tom Cruise Like Vanilla Rye” or “Almond Love You Better”? The latter being a drink with almond milk, pineapple juice, coconut rum and egg whites. It tastes similar to a pina colada, but with no dairy or cream added.
“We took cocktails [at first] that I have become really familiar with,” he said.
The bottom Silva wants to reiterate is educating and bringing people to the cocktail culture. He wants guests to like a cocktail and be able to comfortably order it wherever they go.
“For example,” he said. “If you come get a whiskey sour here, we might bring some different flavors together, but at its core, this drink is a whiskey sour. So if you want to or if you go to any other cocktail bar, you remember that time you were at BĀS and so you’re comfortable [with] the things on the menu. You can order – not to say they’re going to have our specific menu – but you can say to the bartender, ‘I had this one drink that was like this and that, could you do something like that for us?’ And that’s what we’d like. That’s our goal.”
A company, a team, music and cocktails make for a successful event, but Silva wanted to add another element – and that was food.
For the food at his speakeasy, Silva partnered with Panza.
“First of all I want to [give] a huge thank you to Rachel and Siobhan,” he said. “They had been running like private popup restaurant nights where they were just running [someone’s apartment] like a fine dining restaurant…It was great and they wanted to work with us.
“They offered their space to us and it was just like ‘I would love to do it’ and just by chance everyone clicked and just got along. Siobhan is an incredible, incredible, incredible chef. Rachel is incredible in everything she does. Without them we wouldn’t really be here. They agreed to take care of the food and we would do cocktails. We really wanted to focus on foods that people weren’t necessarily accustomed to.”
Oysters, squid ink croquettes, prosciutto, cheese, clams and more foods were all available at the first official BĀS event. The food and drinks paired well that night. The success of the event is pushing Silva to further his endeavor, but it doesn’t come without roadblocks.
Alcohol, like many other things that affect and impair behavior, is a drug. In order to be fully licensed, there are legalities around it. Serving alcohol can put people at risk and as the provider of the drinks, you are held responsible, he explained.
With the BĀS secret being out, Silva wants to get to the next level. BĀS isn’t simply appearing at events with the sole purpose of creating a menu, taking orders and handing out drinks. One of the biggest aspects of the events starts even before you arrive. Invitations feel personalized and Silva is responsive. Arriving at the venue for the event feels secretive on its own. All of it is part of the experience.
You can find BĀS on Instagram and Twitter.