Tasting notes with:
Creative Director of Cocktails at Sister Bar.
Hollow Spirits Distilling, Albuquerque.
Lavender Moon (house-made lavender-infused vodka, coconut cream, lemon, simple syrup).
Music/art pairing recommendation:
Nina Simone. Always Nina.
What was your first job?
I was the host at an Applebee’s. Let me tell you this story: my mom and I were out to eat there, it was late at night, and I was talking about, “Man, I really want these new shoes.” And my mom said, “You know what? I think it’s time for you to get a job.” And she asked to speak with the manager. And the manager came over—I’m totally red in the face—and she says, “Are you guys hiring? My daughter needs a job.” And he said, “Yeah, actually, we need a hostess.”
What did it teach you?
I think every young person should work in a restaurant at some point. I think I learned respect for people who work in this industry, and maybe that’s why I still work in the industry: I kind of learned to love it. I started out front of the house, but eventually, I moved to being back on the expo line. Breaking through with the chefs and the cooks back there—you know, they’re always kind of assholes—was huge. I think I offered one of them a joint one time, and they were like, “All right, Jessica’s a part of the back of the house now.”
What is the biggest challenge you face this year?
I want to do more competitions. I have one coming up at the end of July for Jack Daniel’s. I always get emails from places like Liquor.com like “Enter this competition!” and I usually never hear back, but this time I got an email two or three months after, telling me that I [qualified]! So I’m going up to Denver to compete, and then if I win that one, I’ll go to Kentucky to compete against six others from the country. And then if I win that one, they’ll send me to Cocktail Week in Berlin. So… I’m putting it out there. I was looking at last year’s winners and what they were doing, and I was like, “Yeah, I could do this.”
What was the drink you sent to the Jack Daniel’s competition?
I submitted [a recipe] online, a strawberry rose whiskey sour. So I smashed some strawberries down with rose petals, did a cold maceration, let it sit in sugar for a few days to pull out the flavor. Then hit that with the egg white, lemon, bourbon, and some rose water on top. It’s this nice pale pink color, and you get the smell of the rose instead of the egg-white smell.
What do you seek out in a drink that you’re making?
Balance. I want people to taste every aspect, every ingredient of the drink.
What do you seek out in a drink that you’re drinking?
I like bright. Refreshing is usually my thing. I also love anything with coconut in it, which is why I ordered this one. My favorite drink is a piña colada, always and forever. Which is funny, because it’s like a guilty pleasure, but so many bartenders love it.
What’s your go-to drink at a bar you’ve never been to before?
A beer and a shot. That was called “the working man” at this bar in Oakland I used to go to. It’ll be either tequila or fernet.
What do people often get wrong about bar etiquette?
When people tell me to smile. Like, “Where do you work? Because I’m gonna come in there and tell you to smile while you’re working to see how you like it.”
What’s some good advice you like to give people?
When you’re traveling, always have a “home base” bar. Even if you’re only there for a few days. If you spend a little time shooting the shit with the bartenders, they’ll look out for you—which is crucial if, say, you go skinny-dipping at the beach late one night and all your clothes get stolen.