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Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

Know your bartender: Jess Lambert at Boleo and Vol. 39

Written by
Elizabeth Atkinson

From streamlined beauties at Vol. 39 to fun pisco-laced sippers at Boleo, Jess Lambert is responsible for the wide array of drinks you'll find at the Kimpton Grey Hotel. We checked in with her to see what she likes to make at home, how she got into bartending and where she goes when she's not working.

How did you get into bartending? It’s actually kind of funny. I was working in cardiology at the hospital, and I hated my job, so I quit. I thought, Man, I need to make fat cash, so I went to a sports bar and asked for a job. I fell into this rabbit hole learning about wine and fine dining. Then I was working at this wine café in Phoenix, and our head bartender quit right before service. The bar had only one bartender, so my boss turns to me and goes, “Do you want to bartend?” I said yes and that was it.

Tell us about your approach at Vol. 39 and Boleo? They’re two very, very different and highly concepted menus. They’re two very, very different high-concept menus. I got to go to Peru to research for Boleo, so I had a pulse on that menu. But one of the things I did with Vol. 39 was, since the building was built in 1894, I wondered who would be drinking there when it opened. I made two muses, two characters to riff off of—a kind of masculine and a feminine. Boleo is much more culinary-focused, so that’s where I get to do all of my really weird stuff. And everyone who works behind the bar with me knows that I get really weird.

What are some of your favorite cocktails to make? Whenever friends come in, I love to make a tiki monstrosity and light it on fire for fun.

What’s your favorite drink to order from the bar? So, I’m a weirdo and when I go out…I always order a spirit neat and a glass of sparkling wine and a sparkling rosé. Sometimes it’s mescal, sometimes it’s single malt. They go kind of nicely side by side.

Where do you go on your night off? I try to not be in a bar on a day off, but some favorites you’ll always catch me at are Best Intentions, Sportsman’s Club and Billy Sunday.

Bartender tips: Don’t forget that there’s always a calculator on your phone. You can always do math after a few drinks to calculate a tip.

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