Going 10 Rounds with Top Bartender Lisa Brown
The beverage director of Chicago’s The Promontory tackles our speed round of questions.
What do you like to drink after a shift? “After a long day of work, most times I’m too tired to craft myself a cocktail, so I like to keep it simple and wind down with a good ol’ Boilermaker. That’s right, I’m a shot-and-beer kind of gal!”
What is the all-time best dive bar jukebox song? ““Hotel California” by the Eagles.”
After all these years bartending and creating drinks, do you still enjoy going out to bars? “Absolutely! I do my best to stay up to speed on what’s going on in the industry and tailor the current trends to suit our clientele, so it’s important for me to experience different places around the city. I also enjoy going out to visit my comrades at their respective bars when I can.”
Name the first good drink you ever drank and where you had it. “Admittedly, I had my first ‘good drink’ at the age of 20 in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. I was there on a family vacation when it came to my attention that I was legally old enough to drink in that country, ohhhhh did I take advantage! There was a low ABV milkshake cocktail called the Hummingbird that I fell in love with. So much so that I got the recipe from the bartender to try to sneakily recreate it at home. Oddly enough, I still have the recipe and make the drink at home every now and then...and yes, it’s still pretty tasty!”
What book on cocktails or spirits is your go-to resource? “For cocktails, I get a lot of inspiration from The Dead Rabbit: Mixology & Mayhem, written by the founders of ‘The World’s Best Cocktail Bar,’ Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry. Having visited the bar myself, I can attest that they absolutely get it. For spirits, I really enjoy revisiting A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage, which colorfully walks us through the history of drinking culture across the globe.”
What’s your favorite cocktail and food pairing? “My go-to food and cocktail pairing is without fail oysters and a filthy Fifty-Fifty Vodka Martini with bleu cheese stuffed olives.”
What drink are you most proud of creating? “The creation that I am most proud of as of late is called The Mumbai Mambo. It’s an Indian spice riff on a Margarita with notes of caraway, fennel, cardamom and chili pepper, along with the traditional agave and lime juice.”
Is there one person (dead or alive) you’d like to make a cocktail for? “I’d love to make my Purple Rain cocktail for Prince, for pretty obvious reasons!”
What’s your favorite shot-and-a-beer combination? “Lagunitas A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ and Four Roses Bourbon.”
What is the one tool that you always make sure to pack when you’re traveling for business? “A smile!”
Lisa Brown is the beverage director of Chicago’s The Promontory.
Interview has been condensed and edited.