Behind the Bar

Complex Creativity

An award-winning local bartender inspires winning cocktails

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I hear you’re an award-winning bartender. Do tell.
I just came back from the fifth annual USBG (United States Bartenders' Guild) Bartender Summit in Las Vegas, presented by Bombay Sapphire, GQ Magazine and [British clothing company] Ted Baker. More than 1,200 bartenders submitted their official entries; only 46 were chosen nationwide – of those, just six were women. Bombay flew us all to Vegas and put us up in the Wynn where we competed for the title of “Most Inspired Bartender.” This was my second time winning the Rhode Island competition. In 2009, Bombay sent me to the Palms Resort & Casino to compete.

What creative cocktail won your way in?
In 2009, I created savory cocktail using rosemary with [Bombay] gin. This year, I made a smoky cocktail. I used a spray bottle to spray the interior of a martini glass with a 16-year-old scotch. You could smell that smokiness when you picked up the martini glass.

I believe I won because I had a well-balanced cocktail. Simplicity is key. People don’t want a cocktail that takes the bartender five minutes to make. I like mixing gin – it’s a pretty complex alcohol that you can pull a lot of flavors out of.

What does Avenue N add to the Rumford area?
I grew up in Rumford. We never had a family neighborhood restaurant like this. It’s a place where neighbors can gather together. When we had the hurricane, this place was full. People walk here from the neighborhood and down from the lofts upstairs. People seem to like that they can drink and walk home.

How did you end up at Avenue N?
I’ve worked with owners Nick and Tracy Rabar previously through the Chow Fun Food Group. I followed them here.

What is your signature cocktail?
The Newman Old Fashioned made with Maker’s Mark and my own bitters. This drink uses our house-made cherry bitters.

What inspires your cocktails?
It depends on where I am. Sometimes if I am at the farmers’ market or Whole Foods, they’ll have fresh herbs or fruits I’m unfamiliar with. I’ll think to myself, “That might make a good drink.” At other times, I’m inspired by a new liquor or alcohol product that comes along. Mostly it’s fresh stuff like herbs or produce that inspire me, though.

How would you describe Avenue N?
It’s a local meeting place. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. If you want a peppermint drink, I’ll make you a peppermint drink. We’ll never carry Apple Pucker, but I’ll make you a fresh infused apple drink. It’s where the locals hang out. It’s always hustling and bustling here.

The bar itself was designed for eating; it’s wide and roomy. We want people to eat and enjoy a cocktail at the bar. We take food and drink classics and make it our own like the old-fashioned cocktail – we make it better, fresher and newer.

What’s your favorite menu creation?
I love everything on the menu. It’s like choosing your favorite child! We have a pork chop on the menu right now that is ridiculous. It’s a cider brined pork chop with parsnip puree, Medjool dates, chopped bacon, chanterelle mushrooms and Sherry-rosemary jus.

What do you do when you’re not shaking up cocktails?
I teach social studies to high school juniors and seniors.

What do you think is the most difficult liquor or ingredient to work with?
Vodka. Gin has a lot of flavors in it already that you can play with – juniper, citrus, coriander. Vodka is so flat that you have to find flavors from other places. So you’re adding, adding, and adding.