In the VIP Lounge with Jackson Cannon

Jackson Cannon in Chartreuse, France.

By Juliet Pennington Globe correspondent 

When it comes to Boston’s cocktail scene, Jackson Cannon is the go-to guy. Cannon, 52, a renowned bar mentor, gets inspiration for his spirits from his many worldwide travels. He is a judge at Tales of the Cocktail’s annual Spirited Awards and at the San Francisco World Spirits competition, and often appears as a bartending and cocktail expert in books such as Robert Simonson’s “A Proper Drink: The Untold Story of How a Band of Bartenders Saved the Civilized Drinking World.” Cannon, who was born in San Jose, Calif., is the owner and bar director of the Hawthorne in Kenmore Square and bar director for all of restaurateur Garrett Harker’s properties, including Eastern Standard and Island Creek Oyster Bar. We caught up with Cannon, who lives in Quincy and has two children — an 8-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter — to talk about all things travel.

Favorite vacation destination? I know it doesn’t sound very exotic, but I’m big on South Florida. For adults [there is] exceptional food, drink, and a party scene with beaches, but [it] also has great family fun with my favorite zoo in the country and a series of whacky-meets-naturalist entertainments, from butterfly enclosures to gator parks and deep-sea fishing.


Favorite food or drink while vacationing? Barbecue. I probably eat it once every four months or so in New England, but whenever I’m on the road in the States, I’m hunting the best brisket and rib joints — those are almost never the same place — and looking for their equivalent simple wood-fired meat and fish grills internationally. Part of that might be from my dietary restrictions: I can’t have gluten and don’t eat much dairy. However, I usually find barbecue places really represent the local scene.

Where would you like to travel to but haven’t? Iran. I’ve been obsessed with Persian culture since living next to a couple of Iranian families as a boy. Their sense of hospitality was amazing; always serving tea and sesame candies to visitors and welcoming anyone in the neighborhood to the large dinner table they set late every night.

One item you can’t leave home without when traveling? Extra Mophie chargers and headphones — and even spare cellphones are in my carry-on all the time. But it’s the blackout eye cover [mask] that I just freak out if I don’t have on a plane trip of more than three hours.

Aisle or window and why? Window. I don’t want to have to get up for anyone, so I can work or sleep uninterrupted . . . and I’m old enough now not to be shy about asking someone else to move if I need to use the restroom.

Favorite childhood travel memory? The summer between second and third grade, my dad spent time at the Aspen Institute finishing a book on reporting. [There were] so many great things for a kid to do there, but one morning my dad got us on a classic breakfast trail ride. My dad, older sister, Judy, and I left our apartment before dawn and road horseback for a couple of hours up into a beautiful mountain clearing for “cowboy” breakfast of steak, eggs, and hominy. I actually had my first cup of sweetened coffee that trip!


Guilty pleasure when traveling? I’m pretty well known for ridiculous rental car upgrades and ordering Uber XL, lux, and black cars when a simple Uber X would do.

Best travel tip? Hydrate! You cannot drink enough water on the road.