I started bartending 12 years ago at Café Banquette. I was 18 and started as a shot girl. That was the heyday, packed with people wall to wall and they would have lines wrapping around the building down to St. Charles [Avenue]. Those were intense shifts. That’s where I found my speed. You have to move, or you’re screwed.
Then I took a break from bartending and waited tables. Started working for Rue 127, a good friend of mine owns that restaurant, and he hired a really talented mixologist who taught me all of the basics of craft cocktails. From there, I moved to Finn McCool’s where I bartended for years, and there again it was speed bartending. Beers and shots, beers and shots. Then I entered a craft cocktail competition for the USBG and to show you how silly and inexperienced I was, I made a fizz.
I spent half of my night whisking away. They let me use a whisk, which was kind of a cheat, because when anyone wants you to whip up this beautiful, fluffy fizz, they want to see you really work for it. I was whisking and whisking and felt so moronic, but ended up winning the competition. The drink was a play on a Ramos, but instead of heavy cream I used rumchata and instead of gin I used a cherry moonshine. It was vanilla and cherry and cinnamon, a really festive drink. I called it the Mistletoe Fizzle, and I used a mint sprig and a cherry soaked in moonshine as a garnish, so it looked like mistletoe.
That’s when the Pattersons [of Finn McCool’s] were like, ‘Oh, you know about craft mixology too?’ and they told me about this place [Treo] and wanting to do something different.
My biggest challenge with this cocktail was trying to get away from a garnish, because I’m a garnish whore. I want to garnish everything. It’s like accessorizing. Citrus is the main thing I’m coo-coo for. I love it. Citrus balances out any cocktail. A bit too heavy? A bit too sweet? My answer is always citrus. Peels and twists and fresh-squeezed juice: no matter what I do I’m always incorporating tangy, super-acidic citrus, and traditional go-to citrus like lemon and lime. Lemon juice is awesome with everything. I could drink nothing but gin and lemon juice and be happy.
Other than gin, I really drink wine, because it doesn’t give me a hangover. Once at Finn’s, I came in with a blistering headache after drinking gin martinis with a friend all night long, and really good gin too—‘This isn’t going to be a thing at all because I’m drinking really good gin…’—and I probably had six gin martinis. So I’m drinking coffee like it’s water, and this regular looked at me and said, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ I told him and he said, ‘I hope you remember this: Martinis are like breasts. Three are too many, and one is not enough.’ So no more than two gin martinis in a night.
5th Ward Weebie is one of my favorite artists. Bounce makes me feel really New Orleans. Plus it’s not violence-oriented, it’s about dancing and having sex and drinking too much, which, I don’t see how any of those things is a bad thing. It’s far better than, like, ‘I drove up to the front porch and shot the shit out of this dude 85 times.’ 5th Ward Weebie is brilliant: ‘Let me find out pig lip on sale, let me find out your man wore sandals…’ [singing]
Ms. Tee is a woman rapper 5th Ward Weebie collaborates with so I wanted to play with tea. But instead of adding tea to the drink, I wanted to get to the elements of tea, something concentrated.
Late Night with Ms. Tee
1 fat slice of orange peel, with pith
1/2 ounce black tea simple syrup (see recipe)
1 1/2 ounces Cathead Vodka
1/2 ounce St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
6 dashes of The Bitter End Moroccan Bitters
Muddle the orange peel in a mixing glass with simple syrup. Add the other ingredients and strain into a serving glass. Stir while adding ice.
Black Tea Simple Syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup loose tea (2 parts black tea to 1 part orange herbal tea)
Bring sugar and water to a boil, stir to dissolve sugar, remove from heat and immediately add tealeaves. Let sit for 10 minutes, then strain and bottle.