Interview: bartender-mixologist Christine D’Abrosca (Malo)

Mexican Restaurant Los Angeles

Cocktail culture is thriving in large part due to a passionate contingent of exceptional bartenders and mixologists. This feature places a spotlight on the craftspeople behind the bar, and not just the structure itself. Meet bartender-mixologist Christine D’Abrosca from Malo in Los Angeles.

Josh Lurie: Do you consider yourself a bartender or a mixologist? What’s the difference?

Christine D’Abrosca: That is a trick question! Haha. For me I am going to go with both. I am a very proud bartender who loves what I do. However I am a mixologist when I am at home or at another bar and I am studying and watching, learning, reading. To me mixology is the study of and the bartender is the practice of that study. I have learned that at the end of the day no matter how much you know (or think you know) it is making it apply to your situation and still making your customers happy. Giving them what they want while getting what you want. It is definitely a balance….

JL: How did you become interested in mixology?

CD: Well I became a bartender so I could get through college. Mixology didn’t come in until I moved to Colorado and worked at The Broadmoor Hotel. I worked for a program designed by Steve Olsen. I was totally blown away. I was the only one that came from the club side of things so it was great when someone ordered a Red Headed Slut Martini and I was the only one who knew how to make it. (Apparently no one thought a 5 star resort would need that) Yet I had just discovered all these other amazing classic cocktails and I would convert the Red Headed Slut drinkers to a Negroni or a basic cosmo drinker to something with Gin or with Pomegranate and Blood Orange. Even a slight twist of the Manhattan for people would get them excited about what they were drinking again.

JL: What’s your first cocktail memory?

CD: First cocktail memory was my 21st birthday and from what I remember it was 115 degrees in Vegas and Margarita was my new best friend (along with the toilet. Sadly I only had 1 margarita it was just so hot outside and the drink was awful and sweet). However since I have matured I have to say the first time I had a Negroni I was completely won over. It was with Tanqueray 10 and it wasn’t an even ratio and to this day the BEST NEGRONI EVER!! I remember where I was sitting, who I was with, what I was wearing and what I was eating. It was at that moment that I realized FORGET WINE WHY AREN’T WE PAIRING COCKTAILS!?!?!?!?!?

JL: What’s your current favorite spirit or liquor?

CD: RUM…It is my baby. It is old and underrated and I am always rooting for the underdog. There is just something about a really good aged rum that I can just sit and relax with. Plus with this economy it is really fun to teach people how to have amazing cocktails for little $$.

JL: Which cocktail is past its prime?

CD: Mojito….I love rum but people just get way to out of control. Extra sugar, less mint, more limes, no sugar, extra soda, more rum, south beach mojitos. Strain it out don’t strain it out. Aarrrrgghhhhh. I love a good mojito and I love making mojitos. Truly what I can stand is the ignorance that some people have about them. Sometimes I wonder though if its not so much the cocktail that goes past its prime as it is the people who drink them.

JL: What’s the cocktail of the future?

CD: Classic Rum cocktails or old cocktails with a rum twist…Rum is that one spirit that hasn’t made its comeback yet and it is about time.

JL: Describe one of your original cocktails. What’s it called and what was your approach?

CD: Easy like Sunday Mornin’

A cocktail I did for Gran Centenario Rosangel (a hibiscus infused reposado aged in a port barrel). It has Aperol, Pineapple, Lemon, Agave, Orange and Angostura bitters and Egg White and topped with Soda. I made it on a Sunday and it went down real easy. My thought was that the Rosangel was floral and tea like and I wanted to mix it with something that wasn’t so overbearing but definitely something that would give it that edge. I wanted to really showcase how versatile this tequila could be. Plus I am sucker for Aperol…and any drink with egg whites.

JL: Do you have a cocktail mentor, and what did they teach you?

CD: Yeah and ironically enough he is a cork dork (he is an wine sommelier) but highly respected by all the people you want to be respected by in the cocktail world. His name is David Lusby. He showed me the way of the cocktail world in Colorado. He was the one to first make me a Negroni, showed me the differences between products good or bad, gave me all the books to read and classics to know. To add to that he also introduced me to my fiance so I guess I am permanently indebted to him. However since he is traveling the wine world…

I would have to say that my new mentor is my fiance. Ray is a Sous Chef for Tom Colicchio at Craft Los Angeles. With him I am focusing on flavors, balance and being a bit more daring with flavors I use. It is fun to have a cocktail mentor that isn’t so wrapped up in the cocktail world. Sometimes it isn’t easy to see the forest through the trees.

JL: Outside of your bar, what’s your favorite bar in town and why?

CD: Cocktail bar: I would say Hungry Cat and Matty. It is genuinely creative, they are using things in season and that the chefs are working with in the kitchen. Plus it is kind of tucked away off of vine.
Non-Cocktail Bar: St. Nick’s. It’s a dive bar and within walking distance to my house. NEED I SAY MORE. Sometimes I just don’t want to think while I am having a drink. IT’S A DIVE and you got to respect that.

JL: Who’s another mixologist you respect and why?

CDL In NYC I love watching Kenta at Pegu Club. He is extremely fast, attentive to detail and his drinks are spot on. From LA I would say Damian Windsor. He is alot of fun to watch and creative. He uses classics as jump off points and then moves on from there. He definitely makes each drink his own. Plus he gets really excited about the things that he is trying and working on. Some people can make good drinks but that just don’t have that excitement like they should.

JL: If you had a bar of your own, what would you call it?

CD: HOOCH it would be a rum bar….

JL: What’s the best simple cocktail for people to make at home, and what’s the recipe?

CD: I am going to have to go with Bebbo Cocktail. I made this for some family over the holidays when I was still living in RI and it has always stuck even after I left. However they sometimes morph it into whatever is in the cupboard. So there has been the occasional switch to bourbon, scotch, tequila or rum.

1.75 Plymouth Gin
1 oz Lemon Juice
.5 Honey
.5 oz Orange Juice.

Shake and strain into rocks glass over ice ( I come from a big family and cocktail glasses aren’t always in abundance so on the rocks works just fine but straight up works too!!)

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Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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