“Harry Choates played the music I grew up with—Cajun music that my grandfather used to play for me, when I was a really little girl. I’m from Biloxi, but grew up with my grandparents. My grandfather’s from Abbeville, south of Lafayette, and he couldn’t even speak English until he was seven. He’s passed on, but I’d listen to him speak Cajun and see him and my grandmother dance the two-step and stuff.
My grandfather grew up on a farm and his grandmother had something like 17 children who all worked the farm. He had an uncle who’s the same age as him. They grew sugarcane on their farm, so it made sense to include rum in this drink—aged rum—and blackberries, which I grew up eating, and an egg white. My grandfather was a drinker and sometimes for breakfast, he’d have a beer with an egg in it—hangover cure, a whole egg. You ever saw anybody do that? It’s pretty gross-looking. That was my first bartending job, actually—going to the fridge to get Old Milwaukees for him, wherever he was.
Fetching beers since I could walk was maybe, quite seriously, why I became interested in bartending at first. I also tried my hand at making cocktails for my grandparents here and there. Just simple two-part drinks like gin and tonic, vodka soda. They wanted to sit on the couch and didn’t feel like getting up and I was this little person running around doing everything they wanted me to do. I think a lot of bartenders grew up pouring drinks at their house when they were kids.
Later, I was living in Austin, Texas after Katrina and was working at a sushi bar and the girl who was bartending there at the time kept not coming in for her shifts so they’d throw me back there to make do for the day and one day she got fired and my manager asked me if I wanted to stay behind the bar—and I did, because I hated serving. You’re still serving people when you’re behind the bar, but they treat you differently. It doesn’t make any sense, but it’s true. People respect bartenders to a degree—maybe because we do something they don’t know how to do. In the Wild West, the bar man was the one with the gun, too. He could cut you off, and blow you away. ‘Not only are you not getting another drink, you’re not leaving the bar!’ [laughs] It just might be ingrained in people…
My grandfather probably never drank a cocktail that only had an egg white in it, but what are you going to do? At least it’s on the rocks, in a rocks glass, so he might have tried it. Plus there’s cayenne in there, so he’d probably like it. The drink is pink. I actually didn’t want it to be pink—too girly looking—but it’s the blackberry making it do that. But it tastes okay, right? Doesn’t taste girly. Tastes like brown.”