Hailing from Portland, Oregon, Eryn Reece has been working in the hospitality industry since she was merely 16. She moved to New York in 2007, where she found herself falling in love with the bar scene, and has worked her way up through well-known bars across the city. Over the years, Reece has been seen behind the bar at Mayahuel, Death & Company, and is now the Head Bartender at Banzarbar.
1. How did you get into bartending?
Bartending was a bit of a happy accident for me. I had moved to New York and was working at an art gallery. I had studied art history when I lived in Pacific Northwest and was applying to colleges to continue that. As time went on, however, I basically realized I didn't love it the way I thought I would. I had worked in bars before and took a job at a cocktail bar. I got more and more into it and ended up really falling in love, the rest is history.
2. Who has been your inspiration in the industry?
Someone I've always admired and I'm happy to say has become one of my closest friends is Lynnette Marrero. What she has done with Speed Rack is incredible, it's really been groundbreaking in supporting women in the service industry not to mention the huge contribution to breast cancer treatment and research. She does a lot of hugely important work in holding up women and people of color in our industry, always putting the spotlight on her bartenders and others she works with, rather than herself.
3. What’s an easy cocktail recipe that everyone can make at home?
Personally, I really love a good Dry Gin Martini. It's really simple to make, only 2 ingredients, and is really customizable to your taste, just change the balance of the 2 to make it more or less strong. Take 2 ounces of your favorite gin, and 1-ounce dry vermouth (I like Dolin but any will do). If you don't have bar tools, no problem! Combine in an ordinary pint glass, fill to the top with ice, and stir with a bar spoon/chopstick until well chilled. Pour through a tea strainer into any glass you like, with or without ice. Twist a freshly cut lemon peel over the top. Great as an aperitif or after a long day!
4. What are some of your favorite places to drink in New York when you're not working?
So many! It really depends on what my night looks like. If I'm looking to have a few laid-back drinks and some delicious seafood, I go see the guys at Goodnight Sonny in the East Village. If I need a perfectly crafted cocktail in my life, I'm all about Attaboy on the LES, formerly the world-famous Milk & Honey. For a solid dinner/drinks combo, I head to Casa Mono on Irving Pl, and then across the street to Dear Irving for a Gibson.
5. What is your favorite ready-to-drink cocktail/brand?
Honestly, I don't drink a lot of RTD products, but the one brand I remember liking is Cutwater Spirits. They make a really varied line, but I tend to prefer their simpler one and ones-- I remember the gin and tonic, whiskey lemon tea, and rum and ginger all being good.
6. What are some upcoming drinks trends you see?
Well, I think mostly what bars and bartenders are concentrating on these days is simply surviving. First and foremost, I think it's really important to recognize the bars and restaurants that are managing to do good for their communities and employees during this difficult time, while also giving full support to efforts to relieve the incredible financial strain operators and employees alike are under. Now, that being said, I can say that much of my work recently has to do with cleaning house and finding innovative new ways to use products I might not otherwise put in a drink. I've talked to other operators and they have similar stories right now. Overall, I think we should be heading toward simplicity in our work a little bit more; making cocktails more accessible to everyone.
7. One tip for people looking to make cocktails at home – what’s something that they should ALWAYS do?
I'd say the most important thing that often gets overlooked is ice! Make sure your ice is fresh-- you don't want it smelling like any food that might have been sitting around in your freezer for a little too long. While the stock white trays that come with your fridge are fine, overall the larger the cube, the better for cocktail purposes. Check out the ice molds made by Tovolo, try the 1:1:1 for shaking and stirring, and the 2:2:2 for serving drinks or spirits on the rocks.