Each week, we dive into the world of NYC bars and meet the drink-shaking players behind them. From the latest cocktailing trends to crazy stories on the job, these are the Bartender Tales of New York City.
Alissa Atkinson, general manger, Precious Metal
What is your signature drink?
The Smoked Mirror, which is a mix of mescal, Aperol and Lillet Blanc. It’s kind of a take on a Negroni, with mescal subbing in for the gin, Aperol for the Campari and Lillet for the vermouth. The Aperol is gentle enough to allow the mescal to come through, and the floral Lillet balances out the smokiness of the drink.
How did you get into bartending?
I worked in restaurants while I went to college in Boston, and one of them was an Irish pub where I learned to bartend at the age of 19. So I transitioned from serving food at tables to serving drinks at the bar, and I found I really preferred the latter. It’s a totally different experience; you get to really interact with the customer, and at the same time you’re more in control of their experience.
Have you noticed any trends in the industry lately?
I’ve noticed bartenders taking classic cocktails and breaking the rules with them, subbing in mescal in a Negroni, like I talked about—that wasn’t done five or 10 years ago. Now that classic cocktails have been revived and bartenders are more comfortable making them, they’re also more comfortable playing around with them to create something new.
What’s your biggest customer pet peeve?
I can’t stand it when customers demand to have their cell phone charged—just thrusting it at me and saying, “Can you charge this?” That’s why, when we were designing Precious Metal, we decided to put outlets everywhere. You have your charger? You’re good to go.
Have any crazy bar stories?
Years ago, at an unnamed bar-restaurant in Park Slope, I was having a really slow night, with just two customers sitting at the bar. They had both just gotten there, I had served them each one drink, and they were strangers. All of a sudden, one guy slams his pint glass on the bar and is holding a shard of the broken glass up to other guy’s throat. Just as I go to the phone to dial 911, another guys enters the bar and casually says to the guy holding the glass, “Hey, what’s up man?” And the guy drops the glass and is like, “Oh, hey, Mark, what’s up?” I told the guy he needed to get his friend out of there ASAP, and just like that, it was over.
Photograph: Zandy Mangold