The Tasting Panel magazine

June 2017

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30  /  the tasting panel  /  june 2017 In Defense of… Want to contribute In Defense Of an industry trend? Email for your chance to contribute a letter. Brun Cotai S ix o'clock Saturday night is go time for most of my bartender friends. They're grabbing coffees and stocking their wells for the marathons they are about to run. But not me. I'm just getting home. If my shift was slow, I'm kicking off my shoes, plopping down on my couch and wondering how I got Bloody Mary mix on the back of my neck. If it was a busy day, I'm dragging myself into the shower. There is too much Bloody Mary mix crusted in my hair for me to go anywhere near my couch. I smell like tomatoes, mass-market "Champagne" and the citrus juices I have been up-to-my-elbows in for the last eight hours. I am a brunch bartender. For years, my weekend morning schedule has been a constant source of embarrassment. I have only recently become comfortable confess- ing my unusual hours when meeting other industry professionals. I couldn't bear the shame I felt or the pity in their eyes. But today, I'm here to defend brunch. While brunch is glamourous to eat with friends and wash down with bottomless anything, it is challenging and often thankless to work. But brunch culture is slowly changing. The cocktail renaissance is gradually revitalizing Sunday morning beverage lists. Brunch guests are becoming more discerning. Many now desire break- fast cocktails that go beyond the pale of Screwdrivers and Greyhounds. They put their confidence in us, lowly brunch bartenders, to take their taste buds on afternoon-appropriate flavor adventures. And I take this honor seriously. I love being trusted to introduce people to cocktails this way. I delight in being able to whip up a Jane's Addiction, or riff on a Gin Fizz, or modify a Pimm's Cup or 20th Century to give a guest a farm-to-bar craft cocktail bursting with flavor that also utilizes my skills and knowledge of spirits. I still spend the majority of my weekend behind the stick shaking and garnishing Bloody Marys. But we're not talking some shelf-stable ketchup-like substance that I slop from a bottle and halfheartedly roll in a tin. I spend my Friday pouring my heart and soul into the mix. I work at a barbecue restaurant and we house-smoke the tomatoes I start with. The ingredients are all gourmet and diligently prepared—I even crack the pepper the day of. In total, the mix takes nearly two hours to make, not to mention the time I spend assembling garnish skewers of three types of house-pickled vegetables. The Bloody Marys I serve are house- made, handcrafted and damn good. I take pride in them. I take pride in the gallons of seasonal juice I muscle out of cartons of citrus fruit with my trusty Ra Chand juicer. I take pride every time a guest asks me why their Mimosa tastes so much better than others they've had. The stigma around brunch needs to end. The only thing limiting brunch cocktails is our creativity as bartenders—or perhaps our own pretension and negativity toward weekend mornings. And at the end of the day, so what if our guests aren't ready to broaden the horizons of their palates? My job, first and foremost, is to create the best possible experience for every patron that steps foot into my bar. If a bottomless Mimosa is what is going to bring them joy, then pouring the best bot- tomless Mimosa they've ever had is going to bring me joy, too. by Mara Marski "The stigma around brunch needs to end." Mara Marski works the brunch shift at Barrel & Ashes in Los Angeles, CA.

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