February 2016 Bartender of the Month: Pamela Wiznitzer

Name: Pamela Wiznitzer

Establishment: Creative Director, Seamstress in NYC

Previous Gigs: Back in 2009, Pamela left the corporate world after the economy collapsed. Top of her class at The Columbia Bartending Academy, she landed a day shift at a sports bar in Murray Hill, a neighborhood in midtown Manhattan in New York City. Pamela also worked at Alex Stupak’s Empellón, King in SoHo, and the Lower East Side's L'oubli.

One could argue that Pamela's 2-plus years at famed NYC cocktail destination The Dead Rabbit put her on the map. During her time behind the stick at the famous multi-story bar, she put several personal recipes on the menu and collaborated on others. However, one could also argue that her many awards and service as president of the New York chapter of the United States Bartenders' Guild propelled Pamela's climb to the upper echelons of bartending and mixology.

What's not up for argument is Pamela's charisma, dedication to the craft, hunger for knowledge, and undying passion for the industry. Her current positions include creative director for Seamstress on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, founder of and writer for Liquid Encouragement Blog, consultant for The Cocktail Guru, and mixologist for Weight Watchers. Pamela creates "Lightened Up" cocktails for the Weight Watchers program which proves that healthy living doesn't require sipping bland, unsatisfying drinks. As half of the Cocktail Guru team (the other half being Jonathan Pogash aka The Guru), she offers bartender services for special events, mixology classes and demonstrations, and signature drink development for special events, brands, and occasions.

If New York is The City That Never Sleeps, clearly Pamela is The Bartender Who Never Sleeps.

Why did you become a bartender?

I took a bartending course in college (The Columbia Bartending Academy) because my friends were the teachers, but I wound up loving the content and scored at the top of my class. Years later after trying some desk side jobs, I found myself unemployed due to the recession of 2009. Therefore, I turned to bartending to make a few extra dollars and then discovered my true passion for the bar and hospitality industry.

What made you want to work at the bar/bars at which you’re currently bartending?

I'm currently the Creative Director of Seamstress on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I've lived in this neighborhood for close to 9 years and it's pretty desolate when it comes to great cocktail bars. Most of the drinking action in NYC takes place downtown or in parts of Brooklyn. I wanted to prove to everyone that great drinks can exist anywhere in the city as long as there is demand from the clientele and bartenders with a hunger (or a thirst) to provide that service. Therefore, we opened up Seamstress uptown and it has proved to New Yorkers that fantastic bars and drinks can be found anywhere.

What are some fun flavors you’re working with?

I love all flavors, but I do keep it seasonal. Right now we are thinking a lot about the spring and looking towards some veggie options (such as cabbage, raddichio, kale) to add flavor and color. But if I can't get a fruit in season, I do like to use Perfect Puree flavors such as the hibiscus, coconut, passionfruit and prickly pear because the quality of the product lends itself to high quality cocktails. As well, I love teas (currently on a matcha, Rooibos, and Earl Grey kick). But my ultimate flavor of the year is apricot. I just love it in everything.

What are some of the unique spirits and ingredients you’re playing with?

I love amaro of all kinds, especially the fruitier ones like Campari and Aperol. Underrated liqueurs such as Nardini Acqua di Cedro, Frangelico, and Jäegermeister Spice have lent themselves nicely to recent cocktail creations. I love apple spirits like calvados and applejack, Cognac (favorites include Louis Royer and Pierre Ferrand), and eau de vie (shout out to St. George and their gorgeous Raspberry Brandy). My most favorite ingredient of the year would be jams. I love jams and preserves as a means of adding flavor to a cocktail.

What are you doing different from the norm in your beverages?

I focus a lot on relatable flavors and extreme balance. When crafting a drink, I use The Flavor Bible for inspiration and focus on one flavor or ingredient as the base. This could be the main spirit, but more often is a liqueur, spice, fruit, citrus, etc. From there I research and identify relatable flavors that could mix well together and then I begin to craft the cocktail. I'm big on textured drinks, beverages with interactive/completely edible garnishes, and steps to use less waste and water when crafting a drink.

What do you feel is the next hot trend in mixology?

What a great question. Trends come and go but these are my top predictions:

  1. Low proof/Mocktails: It's happening and it's really exciting.
  2. Eco-friendly/mindful and sustainable bars and drinks: It's the next step we have to take to make sure we are headed in the right direction for our industry and planet.
  3. Bringing back old liqueurs and cockails and "modernizing" them: Some incredible bartenders like Yael Vengroff at The Spare Room is serving up an amazing version of the Midori Sour. I love seeing bartenders revive some brands that have received bad reputations over the years and are quality products.

What’s in the mixing glass or shaker for your customers?

What they order! I'm happy mixing up any concoction that makes them happy to sit with me for a few rounds.

What are you sipping on and why?

On most nights, water. I don't drink on the job or after a night of work. But on the few occasions when I'm not on the clock, I like to keep it light with a Campari Soda, perhaps a glass of rosé, a Budweiser or Miller High Life, or else a good old Negroni, Cognac Old Fashioned, or 50/50 Gin Martini. And if a bar has root beer, I will drink a highball of Aviation Gin and Root Beer. Yum.

What are you dancing to while tending bar?

Every song that plays in our bar. Seriously, I can't stop dancing when I work. I've been called out for it many times. Just as long as its not hardcore country or death metal (can't dance very well to that).

What are some quirks/quotes you are known for?

I'm well known for being extremely upbeat, talkative, patient and attentive. And a bit goofy.

Benjamin Franklin is famous for saying "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." What's your beer mantra?

When in doubt, drink a High Life!