Allison Kave is a bartender, baker, entrepreneur, and the co-founder of Butter & Scotch, a cocktail bar & bakery. She's currently hiding out with Charlie, her elderly pit bull, teaching online culinary workshops, recipe developing, and business consulting from her Brooklyn kitchen.
Founded in 2015 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Butter & Scotch is a badass cocktail bar and bakery specializing in fun, creative riffs on classic American desserts and cocktails, with a strong emphasis on feminism, activism, and community engagement (with a hefty dose of humor).
When did that Eureka moment happen when you realized your mission is to be a bartender?
For me, bartending had always been a way to make extra money, and I never really thought of it as more than that until I started working at Cookshop, a farm to table restaurant in Chelsea, in 2010. I had an amazing bar manager there who taught me everything about classic cocktails, and drove a really seasonal approach to their bar program. I had recently started my small pie company at the time and saw a lot of parallels between developing recipes for baking and for bartending.
What are the TOP 5 skills every bartender should have?
1. Muscle-memory knowledge of the classics: This is foundational and helps to bolster creativity and invention. 2. Multi-tasking: Wiping down the bar while noticing the guest who's ready for another round while smiling at the person who's just walked in the door while grabbing tickets out of the printer. I think of this as a global awareness of what's happening in the room. 3. Empathy: Being able to read your guests' needs and desires, some people want to be left alone, others want a therapist! 4. A sensitive palate: Being able to taste a cocktail and know immediately what's missing or needed. Crucial during R&D. 5. Respect: For yourself, your space, your colleagues, and your guests. Even when someone's being an asshole, there's a way to 86 them with dignity.
Which cocktail is the biggest pain in the ass to make, pardon our French?
Even though they're not necessarily challenging to craft, hot drinks always seem to mess up the flow of service, especially on busy nights.
And which cocktail is served in your version of heaven?
A Rocket Fuel, a piña colada variation served specifically on Fire Island, which is pretty close to my version of heaven.
The more unpleasant a guest is, the tighter that smile is plastered to my face.
Which drink or cocktail would you say is way underrated? (And a tricky followup: Which one is the most overrated?)
I drink Bamboos at home more than almost any other cocktail, and while they're not necessarily underrated, they don't get as much love as they should! As for overrated, I truly enjoy an AperolSpritz, but the hype is a bit excessive imho.
You come home, slide into something comfortable, and throw yourself on the couch. What's in your glass?
If I'm feeling really lazy, it's wine (on hot days like these, usually Riesling or a cold Gamay). If I'm feeling marginally less lazy but still pretty lazy, I'll pour a shot of amaro (usually Cynar) into a bottle of Miller High Life (don't knock it until you've tried it). If I have the fire in me, it's probably a 50/50 Ginmartiniwith olives.
What are the five essential ingredients every booze lover should have in their home bar?
Not including base Spirits, Angostura bitters, sweet vermouth, dry or blanc vermouth, a bitter aperitivo like Campari, and an orange liqueur like triple sec or curaçao.
I consider myself a baker as much as a bartender.
Which booze is the most versatile?
Probably Vodka, but as someone who doesn't really drink Vodka, I'm going to say Tequila!
Is there a favorite life hack you learned at your job?
I'm not really sure what constitutes a life hack, but bartending really taught me how to kill with kindness. The more unpleasant a guest is, the tighter that smile is plastered to my face. Or as Michelle Obama would say, "When they go low, we go high."
What's the craziest anecdote you're willing to share with us?
In the early days of Butter & Scotch, I came in one evening and the whole team was acting really cagey. I went downstairs to look for something in the liquor room and noticed a closed case of lemons on the floor - definitely not where lemons are supposed to live! I picked up the box and it was strangely light; thank goodness I didn't shake it, because I opened it to discover a tiny kitten inside! One of our bartenders had rescued it and was hiding it downstairs until his shift was over.
What are your passions outside the world of Spirits?
I consider myself a baker as much as a bartender, and derive huge satisfaction from that, both personally and professionally. Finally, I'm politically active and working daily to embodyanti-racism in my personal and professional lives.
What would you be doing if you weren't a bartender?
I've had a few careers already, the potential next one that I dream of the most often is librarian (specifically working with archives related to food, drink, and hospitality).