I’m going out on a tipsy limb, but I think we have the best bartenders in the world. Seattle has an abundance of bartending superheroes who are convivial, courteous (mostly!) and, most important, creators of delicious cocktails. We asked a few of our favorites about what drinks they’re serving up, where they go to unwind and what they’re sipping for inspiration.
Manager and Bar Manager, The Sexton
Recently having moved from bartending at Capitol Hill’s Witness to managing all of Ballard’s Sexton (including the drinks program), as well as representing Seattle in the awesome Speed Rack bartending competition, Bridget Maloney’s quite busy! But she’s also always ready for a little bar talk, and we recently did just that, touching on whiskey, southern accents, and more.
1. You recently represented Seattle as the Wildcard winner of the Speed Rack bartending competition, going to the finals in New York City. How was the competition, and what do you think helped get you to the finals?
I trained for about a month practicing the four preliminary drinks over and over again and studied flashcards for the long list of cocktails you are required to know. At work I treated every drink like a Speed Rack drink, making it as quickly and efficiently as possible, trying to never touch one bottle more than once. I asked for advice from past competitors and made drinks I didn't know as well at work over and over again for regulars. All you lady bartenders out there who think you are too scared to do it, stop that and DO IT! . It’s so exciting and it brings you into this family of bad ass women all over the U.S. who will inspire you every day.
2. You’re one the co-founders of the great group Women Who Love Whiskey, can you say a little about how the group started and what you do?
Last summer I went to Camp Runamok, which is a bartender’s whiskey camp in Kentucky that takes place over a week towards the end of summer. It turns out during the session I attended, there were more women than men. It was new and inspiring to be around so many successful, driven, talented, fun, compassionate women who work in the bar industry. We were talking whiskey together, drinking whiskey together, talking about our jobs, or goals or lives. I wanted to bring that back to Seattle and create a group for women that provided education, inspiration, support and camaraderie.
Jamie Buckman and Melissa Cross, who are cofounders, and I came together over many late brunches where we worked relentlessly to make Women Who Love Whiskey a reality. We accomplished this though hosting tastings, classes and seminars, while also having social casual events like cocktail competitions or a Buck Hunter tournament. One of my favorite events so far was hosting a lunch where Victoria Samuels, the VP of Operations for Makers Mark, came and spoke with us about her personal journey to her position.
3. Being a whiskey lover, what are some of your current favorites?
Old Forrester Signature has been a favorite of mine ever since camp. For rye I have been digging High West Double Rye. Scotches, singles malts and I have basically entered into a relationship, with Bruichladdich Port Charlotte and Westland Sherry Wood being my two top choices. I’m a girl who loves her a sherry finish or some peat. Combine the two and you'll have me forever.
4. And, how do you tend to drink your whiskey?
I prefer to have it neat, maybe with some water on the side depending on which whiskey it is.
5. You recently moved from bartending at Witness to taking over managing Ballard’s Sexton. Working in two southern-y places, have you developed an accent?
I wish I could say yes, but it’s pretty bad. I wouldn't put my attempt at a southern accent on anybody’s ears. Maybe after a few more southern-themed bars I'll finally have it down.
6. I’ve heard you’ve re-worked the cocktail menu at the Sexton – what should we expect now and going forward on the drink side?
I absolutely hate it when guests look at a cocktail menu and they feel clueless or intimidated. We are not here to stump the customer; we are here to provide hospitality and an experience. I am looking to provide an experience for the guests at the Sexton through a series of cocktail menus that are fun and approachable. For our summer menu, I am aiming for that with a variety of syrups, shrubs and infusions, keeping it fresh and seasonal. We have a fun little number called Dill With It that has dill-infused gin, ginger simple syrup and lime juice. It's light, simple, refreshing and absolutely delicious. We even have some fun different items, like raspberry sorbet in our Summer Sour or an ice cube made out of watermelon juice that goes in our Drunk In Love. It's been a hot summer and people have really been appreciating those items. But we will never shy away from the whiskey drinks whether they are brown, bitter and stirred or refreshing and shaken, because when it boils down to it we are a southern themed bar with a stunning whiskey selection.
7. When you’re not making cocktails, but going out to drink them, where do you like to go, and what’s your regular drink?
I have such a wide array of places I like to go. Canon, Rumba, Zig Zag, Rocco's, Liberty, Witness. Then there are places like the Smoke Shop that will always be near and dear to my heart. Nothing beats a good old dive bar with a sweet pull tab selection. I honestly don't drink cocktails too much when I go out. I like it nice and simple. Even though I am a woman who loves her whiskey, mezcal always brings a smile to my face and my heart. It’s either that, a gin and soda or some rosé. Or maybe if you're lucky you'll get to see my drinking my unspoken guilty pleasure, a raspberry lemon drop.
Up Next: Seven questions for Amanda Reed