What was the most recent cocktail that you developed and what was your approach?
I actually went to the farmers market yesterday. We’re going to be doing a lot of market to glass. We’ll be clipping it to the menu. So there were some great figs, vegetal and fruity figs. I also came across this one stand of two gentlemen who had – it’s called Coldwater Canyon Provisions – they make jams and preserves, and it’s super local. I bought a lemon marmalade, really simple – lemon, sugar and citric acid – I put those together. I caramelized the figs a little bit and smashed up the marmalade, added another teaspoon of agave nectar, rye and mint. So it’s basically a smash with the figs and the lemon marmalade. It’s really delicious.
What do you call it?
I don’t know. That’s always the thing. I think I’ll call it some kind of smash, because it really is at root level, a smash. Not just a rye smash, because there’s a lot more going on. Maybe a Mission Smash, since it has Mission figs.
Is it tricky for you to name cocktails?
Yeah, I always find it nervous making, but it usually comes out fine. Sometimes I get a little punny, but sometimes that comes out okay. I feel a lot of pressure. I always get excited, like, “The drink is done,” and then someone says, “What’s it called?” “Aww! I forgot that.” But the name is important. That’s the marketing. That’s what the guest first knows about it.
What’s the criteria for a cocktail that goes on the Black Market menu?
We stay very seasonal, approachable and creative. A lot of things on the menu, I’m sure – particularly this market – may not know, but I’m happy about that, because it’s opening a dialogue. We want to impart a new experience, so the guest will be more involved and they’ll come back. We’re keeping in mind speed and execution, because we get volume here. We definitely want to make that a part of the service. It’s not going to be so involved that it’s 10 steps, and we’re able to execute it, and keep it consistent and delicious every time.
Would you say that you have any mentors?
Everywhere I go, I like to keep myself open to being mentored. Sometimes even the people that technically work for me, but I always give credit to Zahra [Bates] first, and Marcos [Tello]. Zahra gave me inspiration and told me I wasn’t crazy, because she came from London and there was no cocktail scene in L.A., but I caught the bug, kind of by myself, and just caught a lot of resistance. “No, that’s not what you do. You don’t do things that way.” But she came along and said, “Yes, you do,” and you can be creative, and you can cook. You can do a lot of awesome things.
Marcos gave me a lot of theory. For me, theory is important. I came up acting and singing choir music and the way I executed those crafts was from a theoretical background, so that’s what works for me. That’s my learning tool.
Who are some other bartenders you really respect, who you haven’t worked with?
Christine D’Abrosca. I would love to work with her. She’s kind of doing some consulting now, but she’s a great, great person. I’d love to work with her. Aisha Sharpe, I think that would be really exciting. I’ve just seen her and met her at conferences. I’ve never worked with Matt Biancaniello. That would be fun because everybody loves him and he’s very sensual as I understand, the way he approaches cocktails. I don’t know, I’ve worked with a lot of people.
What’s a cocktail you recommend that people make at home, and the recipe?
I think that for the bartender, on one level, the lower level, you can just say, “Sugar, citrus, spirit.” What would blow your mind as a home bartender, if you try your hand at it, is lemon, honey, spirit. You just take that template, you take Bee’s Knees. That would be two ounces of spirit, ¾ or 1 ounces of lemon, depending on the size of the glass, and ¾ of honey syrup, and honey syrup, you just dilute 20% with water. With bourbon, you’ve got a Gold Rush. Applejack would be Golden Delicious. Rum is called Honeydew, and I actually like to do that one with an aged rum, and that’s amazing, it really latches on to the honey and just carries through. Seriously, you make someone that and they just think you’re a genius. Do this at home, behind a bar, they’ll think you’re an expert.
Where do you like to drink, and what do you like to drink when you’re not working?
When I’m out? Because I like to drink at home too.
Home counts too.
After work, I drink beer and wine, sometimes whiskey, you know, some straight spirit. If I have 24 hours off, I’m usually itching to make some cocktails. I’ll start making Manhattans or Old Fashioneds at my house. My boyfriend works in the house, so there are usually people hanging around, waiting for cocktails.
So he’s your recipe tester?
Yeah, and he’s such a fan that he’s not that helpful. He loves everything.
And where I like to go, I love The Spare Room. The room is incredible, and Naomi [Schimek] and Aidan [Demarest] are there, and they’re incredible. I always go – I’m sure everybody says The Varnish – but I love The Varnish. Marcos will be there, and Devon Tarby, she’s amazing too. It’s not a cocktail bar, but across the street, Laurel Tavern. I live right here. I live two miles away and I go over there and get a beer and burger, and they have a decent selection of spirits. I can get a nice Boilermaker. And I love Boilermakers. That’s one of my favorites, just spirit and beer.
If you could only fill your glass with one more cocktail, what would be in it?
A perfect Manhattan. I like to do perfect Manhattans when I’m using Carpano Antica because it’s a fuller body sweet, and you can dry it out a little bit with the dry. And I really am in love with Bulleitt rye right now, and I think it stands up to a hearty vermouth.
Who would make it? And it can’t be you.
Now you’re making me choose a favorite in the whole world? Zahra. She’s my bestie.