June 2014 Bartender of the Month: Jennifer Colliau
Name: Jennifer Colliau
Establishment: Bar Manager, Long Now Salon & Founder, Small Hand Foods
Recent Gigs: Award-winning San Francisco-based bartender Jennifer Colliau founded Small Hand Foods in 2008 to serve the needs of colleagues and restaurants who needed authentic and delicious ingredients for Prohibition-era cocktail recipes. The quality and consistency of her products has led to Small Hand Foods’ syrups being used by top bartenders throughout California, as well as stores and bars across the US. Jennifer loves being a cocktail geek, and prefers to use science to explain how to make drinks more delicious. She is also the founding Beverage Director of The Interval at the Long Now, opening in San Francisco in Spring 2014.
Why did you become a bartender?
Bartending was what I did to put myself through school, first trade school as a cabinetmaker, then a fine arts degree in Wood/Furniture. I started making orgeat while at the Slanted Door and so many local bartenders wanted it that Small Hand Foods became a full-time gig. I love tending bar because of the energy; you show up, work your tail off, then it's time to go. It's invigorating and incredibly fun.
What are some fun flavors you’re working with?
Tonic Syrup, the latest Small Hand Foods product, is fascinating because of how many ingredients come together to make this iconic cocktail ingredient. Deciding not just which spices to use (cinchona bark, citrus peel, gentian, etc.) but how to treat them to get the best qualities to shine (grinding, simmering, infusing, etc.) was such an exciting process! I sourced an incredible cinchona bark in resinous chunks rather than powder that really brings forward masculine, cigar-box notes. It's so much more complex than quinine extract.
What are you doing differently?
I pay attention to every detail of a cocktail, from researching what varieties of citrus were used 100 years ago to stirring with thermometers to insure the best quality, repeatable result.
What's in the mixing glass or shaker for your customers?
I'm stirring a Navy-Strength Gin Gimlet, poured from draft on a nitrogen push. I use the kegging technology to eliminate oxidation in the lime cordial.
What are you sipping on and why?
Ponche de Granada. It's a traditional Mexican drink of silver tequila and fresh pomegranate juice, aged a few months to several years. The older it gets, the more oxidized and nutty it gets, like Madeira. I made this batch in December, and will make it every year, so over the years you get to taste how time affects it. It's beautiful.
What are you dancing to while mixing?
I love modern bluegrass like Devil Makes Three, or some classic lady rock like Joan Jett.
What are some quirks/quotes you are known for?
I've made almost every piece of furniture in my house, including my sofa and a rug I spun, felted and wove. Also, I curse like a sailor, which I try to curb while working!