24 Hours in the Life of Star Bartender Julia Momose
One of Chicago's most important mixologist lets us in on a day that takes her from Oaxaca, Mexico to Chicago.
On the day we speak to her, Momose wakes up in Oaxaca, Mexico, travels to Chicago where she works all day, and packs that night to leave for Japan the next morning. “This type of day isn’t typical,” Momose admits later, “but neither is the degree of movement and multitasking atypical.” She has a lot going on: in addition to the drinks—both alcoholic and non-alcoholic—that she creates for Oriole, Momose is launching an omakase cocktail experience with the opening of Kumiko.
Here, Momose gives us a peek into her life—and a look at a few cocktail recipes, too.
4:45 a.m.: I’m woken up by the final cheers of the party that has been going on all night. I am nervous I’ll sleep through my alarm as I drift back off to sleep again.
5:15 a.m.: My alarm goes off, but I’m already somewhat awake. I turn over to the empty space next to me where my laptop and phone sit. I have just enough time to send my husband a quick message—a black heart emoji. I do a few stretches to get blood flowing.
5:17 a.m.: I climb out of the king-size bed in my Oaxaca [Mexico] Airbnb and switch on the bedside light. I see the bottle of water I staged last night for my morning ritual: hydration.
5:42 a.m.: After a practiced packing of final belongings, my associates and I check out of the Airbnb and manage to get a taxi to Oaxaca’s airport.
6:18 a.m.: We make it to the airport, where I check in, finish the last of my water, and proceed to security. It’s always hit or miss, but my black ankle boots set off the alarm.
6:20 a.m. Now my bag is being inspected. The culprit: my garnishing tongs, left in my bag from an event the week before. ‘Not a problem,’ they say, and I am waved through the line.
6:27 a.m.: Boarding begins—but we’re not on the plane until 6:40 a.m.
6:45 a.m.: I’m settled in to do some reading: Food & Wine’s annual photography issue.
6:55 a.m.: I take a video as we take off, thinking that maybe I will post it to Instagram later, or maybe I’ll just keep it to show Sammy—my husband, and a talented photographer. But I know I will probably just watch it again before deleting it to make room for more videos.
7:42 a.m.: We land at Mexico City’s airport. The plane taxies for a while, stopping at gate 85, which is very far from the actual terminal. Buses must drive us to the terminal.
8:03 a.m.: I am going through security once more to make my connecting flight. My boots do not set off the alarm—but the garnishing tongs get passed around by five agents.
8:07 a.m.: Finally, someone clears the tweezer-sized tongs, and I head to the second floor.
8:09 a.m.: My gate hasn’t been assigned yet, so I decide to grab a coffee while I wait.
8:21 a.m.: Macchiato in hand, I approach the departures screen only to discover that my flight is no longer flying out of this area, but from the opposite side of the terminal.
8:41 a.m.: I text Cara Sandoval, Oriole’s general manager, to confirm meetings and the day’s agenda. Boarding should have begun by now, but it hasn’t, so I text Sammy an update.
8:55 a.m.: We still haven’t boarded. And the flight is supposed to leave at 9:25 a.m.
9:25 a.m.: Boarding finally begins.
11:11 a.m.: Breakfast—if you can call it that—is served on the plane. It’s a very watery scramble of peppers and onions with what is supposed to be eggs. The yogurt looks great.
11:31 a.m.: I start working on a few new cocktail recipes made with Grey Goose, because we’re going to test them today at Oriole ahead of a special upcoming dinner. I come up with five cocktails inspired by and named for the flavor profiles in the toasts grains used in this vodka: “floral,” made with Fino sherry, aronia berry, and salted sakura; “vanilla,” made with Belgian biscuit malt, banana, and vanilla; “brioche,” made with orange bitters and R. Pouillon champagne; “almond,” made with génépy, mirin, smoked shoyu, and sesame oil; and “chocolate,” made with pineau des charentes, cacao, and Cocchi Americano Rosa.
12:35 p.m.: It’s time to review building plans for Kumiko, our new Japanese inspired bar, and prep for my meeting with Cara, Noah—Oriole’s chef—and partners upon my arrival on Chicago. They promised Graziano’s sandwiches, and I couldn’t be more excited for lunch.
1:51 p.m.: At last we have landed. I switch my phone off flight mode and I send a flurry of texts—mostly to Sammy to express my frustration being late, but also to Cara and the rest of the Kumiko team to let them know that I would be late for the walk-through later today.
2:30 p.m.: Sammy is waiting for me at the airport with a chicken sandwich and fries.
3:30 p.m.: We arrive at Oriole. I go to the bathroom to freshen up. It’s difficult to describe how amazing the bathrooms here, especially after a day of travel. I take advantage of some dry shampoo and lotion.
3:37 p.m.: We have a family meal at Oriole. I just left Mexico, but here I am, standing in the kitchen of a two-Michelin-starred restaurant, eating some amazing pozole—complete with rice, crispy tortilla strips, limes, cilantro, and avocado. The broth was satisfyingly warm, seasoned with a hint of spice, and just the right amount of salt. I appreciate salt a lot.
3:40 p.m.: We have a meeting to discuss Kumiko’s construction. There’s excitement in the air.
4:20 p.m.: The light shining in from the western windows is so perfect right now. I can’t help but stop for just a second to capture it as it shimmers through the old brick windows, casting a speckled pattern across pressed white table clothes and a rough wooden floor.
4:20 p.m.: It’s time for recipe testing—to test the recipes I wrote on the plane. I carry my ingredients to the bar area. The first three cocktails get a thumbs-up from Noah.
5:21 p.m.: Our doors open in nine minutes. After cleaning, I head downstairs to work on the last two drinks.
6:59 p.m.: I’ve documented the recipes and any needed changes, and confirmed our orders.
7:35 p.m.: I need milk. For some reason, I have a craving for cereal—a special Japanese cereal that I brought back from my trip home earlier this year. It is a granola with plenty of puffed grains and lots of dried fruit and nuts.
7:45 p.m.: My milk run turns into a full-fledged bacon, Kit-Kat, Pringles, and eggs run. You know, just some essentials with expiration dates later than a few days from now.
7:52 p.m.: It’s time to go home, but first, we swing by Oriole to pick up my luggage.
8:11 p.m.: I check in on all our little plants, throw in a load of laundry, and start unpacking.
9:15 p.m.: Sammy pours a seam of Nikka Pure Malt. I sip from his glass
10:01 p.m.: I take a moment for social media, catching up and adding posts to an Insta-Story.
10:05 p.m.: I’m on another flight again tomorrow, this time to Japan. So, I hop on the phone to confirm the flights and my hotel information. I am so excited, not only for the trip, but because I get to take it with my husband. The craziness of the day seems so much less now.
10:31 p.m.: We check emails, sort documents for our taxes, and water more of the plants.
11:15 p.m.: I take a shower to wash the week of travel away. Now I am ready to sleep on the clean, new sheets that were ordered online while I was away.
11:45 p.m.: I’m in bed, but I am too excited and can’t sleep. I wonder if people will read all of this, I think.