December 2013 Bartender of the Month: Yael Vengroff
Name: Yael Vengroff
Establishment: Bar Manager, Audio Discotech & Bergerac San Francisco
Recent Gigs: Originally from Houston, Texas, Yael Vengroff moved to New York City in 2005 to attend New York University. Since then, Yael has gained extensive experience in high volume nightclubs, fine dining restaurants, boutique cocktail bars, live music venues, and dive bars in New York, Houston and Los Angeles.
Early in her career, Yael worked alongside some of the world’s best bartenders in New York’s best bars, including notably as the youngest and second female bartender behind Audrey Saunders’ iconic Pegu Club, as well as Head Bartender of New York City’s acclaimed Tiki bar Painkiller.
Yael went on to specialize in beverage development and operations management for Proprietors LLC, a hospitality design and operations company based in Los Angeles and New York City. She is served as the bar manager at Harvard & Stone in Hollywood. Yael is the 2012 champion of the highly regarded Speed Rack, a national charity bar competition honoring woman bartenders that raises funds for breast cancer throughout the United States.
Yael now resides in San Francisco, California serving as the bar manager for the newly opened Audio Discotech and Bergerac Bar. You can find her riding a Fernet Branca bike on various rooftops or searching for bars that carry Fireball.
Why did you become a bartender?
I started bartending when I was in college attending NYU. I needed a way to pay my rent, and was looking to meet people and find a family in what was a terrifying, big city to me at the time. I found a job as a cocktail waitress at a local sports bar and eventually worked my way up to bartender, and the rest is history.
What is Bergerac doing differently?
Bergerac is bridging the gap between a precious cocktail bar and a high volume house party. We care about quality ingredients and techniques but ultimately none of that matters if the customer doesn't have a great experience. We don't want to provide just a great cocktail we want you to also have a blast.
What are some fun winter flavors you’re working with?
I've always had a bit of a secret penchant for dessert drinks and winter is the perfect time to bring a lot of these flavors into play. Right now I am working on a hot, salted, "buttered scotch" that incorporates lots of warm, winter spices like allspice, nutmeg, and clove.
What's in the mixing glass or shaker for your customers?
Depends who I'm dealing with. Gin is probably my favorite spirit to mix cocktails with. I like to call gin the gateway, as it is the base spirit in a lot of classics that opened many bartenders’ eyes to the harmony of a well-balanced drink. If I'm fortunate enough to have a more adventurous customer, almost 100% of the time I'm pouring brandy. I think it is a really under - utilized spirit with endless incarnations that needs to be brought more to the forefront of American drinking culture.
What are you sipping on and why?
Fireball. Or Sherry. Usually both. Not together, though. Come to think of it.... I've been fortunate enough to have worked in many different kinds of bars in many different cities --- sports bars, dive bars, live music venues, fine dining restaurants, cocktail bars, nightclubs, you name it. My drinking choice is usually reflective of where I'm working. At Bergerac we have both Fireball and Sherry, so I am a very lucky girl.
What are you dancing to while mixing?
Future Islands, Grimes, and the Beastie Boys. Electronica or Hip Hop will usually do it for me.
What are some quirks/quotes you are known for?
I am the Mother of Dragons. And winter is coming.