10 Rising Star Mixologists
In a preview of the 2015 edition of F&W cocktails, here’s a look at the women who are bartending’s big new talents.
Karen Fu; The Happiest Hour, New York City
Though she learned bartending basics at a tiny dive bar after college, Fu credits her time with mixology genius Jim Meehan at PDT in New York City as her formative cocktail experience. She often builds her greenmarket-driven drinks around one fresh ingredient, like Concord grapes or strawberries. 121 W. Tenth St.; happiesthournyc.com.
Shannon Ponche; Mayahuel, New York City
Spicy, savory elements distinguish Ponche’s cocktails at Mayahuel, where she plays with pairings like absinthe with cayenne salt or chile-infused mezcal with cilantro. Ponche also likes to experiment with sherry and agave to create complex, unfruity, low-alcohol stirred drinks. 304 E. Sixth St.; mayahuelny.com.
Pamela Wiznitzer; The Dead Rabbit, New York City
An ordinary night at The Dead Rabbit might find Wiznitzer dancing behind the bar (“I tend to do the Running Man, but I can do the Robot, too”) or telling corny jokes (“Inevitably, really bad ones always come out of my mouth”). She does all of this while speedily turning out fantastic cocktails like the Head of Steam, made with Irish whiskey, sherry and aged vermouth. “My goal is to internalize what you want and transform it into something delicious in the glass in front of you,” she says. 30 Water St.; deadrabbitnyc.com.
Sara Justice; The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co., Philadelphia
Justice’s cocktails have a definite sense of place. Inspired by the Italian markets of Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania- born bartender chars long hot peppers to create a spicy, vegetal tincture for her amaro-inflected twist on the Manhattan. “I love putting work into each cocktail component on the front end,” she says. “It allows you to build drinks that are full of flavor without using a lot of ingredients.” Local foods also appear in her hot buttered rum, which features Lancaster County cultured butter. 112 S. 18th St.; thefranklinbar.com.
Alba Huerta; Julep, Houston
Huerta, the first lady of Houston mixology, juggles shifts at cocktail destination Anvil Bar & Refuge, the mezcal-centric spot The Pastry War and now her own bar, the Southern-cocktail-focused Julep. Her technically complex, visually stunning drinks—like the Burnt Spice Julep, made with a flaming spice ball—appeal to all the senses and prove that Huerta’s not afraid to “wave my nerd flag high.” 1919 Washington Ave.; julephouston.com.
Jacyara de Oliveira; Sportsman’s Club, Chicago
While spending a year in Brazil at age 19, de Oliveira discovered her passion for bartending, slinging beers at her then-boyfriend’s modest bar. (“Bar is actually a loose term for it,” she says. “It was an empty space with a cooler full of cold beer, a carton of cigarettes and cachaça.”) At Sportsman’s Club, she helps oversee the tightly curated cocktail list, including a daily changing mixed amaro shot that often includes local Letherbee Fernet and the artichoke-based Cynar. 948 N. Western Ave.; drinkingandgathering.com.
Caitlin Laman; Trick Dog, San Francisco
Speed, creativity and accuracy recently won Laman the title of Miss Speed Rack USA 2014. At Trick Dog, the atmosphere is laid-back, although the drinks are impeccable. “I was trained by Alex Bachman, now of Yusho in Chicago, under strict rules of how cocktails should be made,” Laman says, “but I also believe in having fun.” 3010 20th St.; trickdogbar.com.
Karen Grill; Sassafras, Los Angeles
Grill develops unusual flavors in her cocktails: For her lyrically named The King of Carrot Flowers, she infuses gin with snap peas and sea salt and makes a syrup using carrot tops. Her ever-evolving cocktail list may riff on past favorites, but it rarely repeats itself. She’s also an industry-recognized craft beer expert. 1233 N. Vine St.; sassafrashollywood.com.
Tina Ross; Harvard & Stone, Los Angeles
Ross approaches mixology from the perspective of a chef, using ingredients like coconut oil and Thai basil in cocktails inspired by Harvard & Stone’s largely Thai neighborhood. At the R&D Bar within H&S, she and guest bartenders create completely new drinks menus for their patrons each night, experimenting with oddball ingredients and testing out new recipes. 5221 Hollywood Blvd.; harvardandstone.com.
Meghan Eastman; Noble Experiment, San Diego
Eastman specializes in two-liquor creations at Noble Experiment. She believes in creating drinks that are approachable but meticulous. “I don’t try to be supershowy,” she says, “but I aim for perfection.” She often invites guests who may be intimidated by her menu to join her behind the bar, where she teaches them how to make drinks like the Unionesque (equal parts rum and Scotch with ginger, lemon and egg white). 777 G St.; nobleexperimentsd.com.
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