Sarah Ellis was whipped into shape with a bar spoon wielded by famed classic-cocktail guru Sam Ross of Milk & Honey in New York City.
Ellis comes out of the Noble Experiment and El Dorado school of mixology, which means following Ross' advice and learning how to perfectly measure out and make all the classic cocktails first before spreading wings.
“I was trained to jigger everything,” says 23-year-old Ellis, clad in a vintage-looking feather hairpiece, a black blouse and sleek black suspenders. “I was trained pretty strictly and taught to measure out every little thing. But now I'm learning to let go.”
Ellis has been bartending at Jaynes Gastropub (4677 30th St. in North Park) for five months, and while she kept the menu the same for the first few months so as not to “shell shock all the regulars,” she's recently been rolling up her sleeves and slinging the type of complex craft cocktails well worth the $9 to $10 you'll pay.
So far, Ellis has played around with a few of the classics, switching up just one or two ingredients and changing the flavor profile in subtle, smart ways that show off her hours spent studying the history of cocktails and spirits.
In her Serious Kick concoction, she mixes up a variation of the classic Cameron's Kick, substituting Laphroaig 10-year-old scotch whisky in place of a Highland or blend, while keeping the rest of the recipe (Irish whiskey, fresh lemon and Orgeat) the same.
“I'm a big fan of smoky, peaty scotches,” Ellis says of the small switch. “But I always keep in mind that a lot of drinks have been around for hundreds of years because they're great, and there's a specific formula that works. I'm starting to like experimenting where I just deviate one or two steps from the classic so it's still a very balanced cocktail.”
The rest of Ellis' current cocktail menu is a nod to the classics mixed with a few surprises. One drink, the El Diablo (Blanco tequila, ginger beer, fresh lime and Creme de Cassis) is the result of her fascination with the tiki-cocktail movement.Next time you stop by Jaynes and Ellis is behind the bar, skip the beloved Jaynes Pimm's Cup and ask Ellis to make you her excellent, yet-to-be-named espresso cocktail, which is served with a splash of her current spirit of choice, the monk-made herbal liqueur, Green Chartreuse.