May 2015 Bartender of the Month: Caitlin Laman
Name: Caitlin Laman
Establishment: Bar Manager, Trick Dog
Recent Gigs: This year, Caitlin Laman, earned the title of fastest female bartender in America, competed in the most prestigious bartender education program in the U.S., was chosen as Best Mixologist by Food & Wine, and was made bar manager of Trick Dog, the newly designated 33rd best bar in the world.
Laman is magnificently efficient. On a typical weekend evening, Trick Dog will serve 810 cocktails. Both of Laman’s hands are constantly in use. First measuring ingredients, then shaking one drink while stirring another. She then grabs two more shakers, bangs their bottoms together with a clang, and shakes them for several seconds. While doing so she makes sure her last customers are enjoying their drinks and takes the orders of her next customers.
“I simply love the process of making drinks,” Laman says. “I like the sequence of how to make drinks, how to make drinks efficiently, and how to make them well.”
Years ago, entering Babson College on the outskirts of Boston, Laman had dreams of being an investment banker or an accountant. Though she graduated with a degree in business administration, she found more satisfaction in playing rugby. In 2007, she suffered a major concussion that made playing impossible. Finally she decided to return to the hospitality industry, first working in Pacifica and then fibbing her way into a bartending job at the short lived restaurant Lafitte in San Francisco.
There she met Alex Bachman, who became her mentor and turned her on to craft cocktails. She followed Bachman to Southern Pacific Smokehouse in Novato and took over that bar program after he moved to Chicago. She bartended at Starbelly in the Castro until the same restaurant group opened Lolinda in the Mission. It was there she was recruited by Josh Harris of Trick Dog.
In addition to her position as Bar Manager at Trick Dog, Laman is involved in growing the annual Sherryfest which has events on both the east and west coasts plus Canada. She also works as a consultant at the Andaz Hotel in Napa, both designing their cocktail program and training their staff, plus frequently coordinates cocktail events for Google Glass.
Why did you become a bartender?
I was attracted to the personalities of the girls behind the bar where I worked as a cocktail server. Then, I bugged the shit out of my manager until he let me back there.
What are some fun flavors you’re working with?
It is stone fruit season in California, also known as the best time of year. Therefore, I am playing around with apricots and nectarines, mainly so I can eat them as I work.
What’s in the mixing glass or shaker for your customers?
Whatever they want and if they truly want anything at all usually something with mezcal, sherry and fresh fruit.
What are you sipping on and why?
Sherry, always. Right now more Manzanilla than anything.
What are you dancing to while mixing?
Mac Dre, Feelin' Myself
What are some quirks/quotes you are known for?
Forgetting socks and having to wear my clogs without them, and opening beer bottles with my teeth. Sorry Mom.
How important is beer to you as a bartender?
Hugely important. It is what we drink after a particularly rough push behind the bar. We split a beer between everyone behind the bar in small fancy glasses and call it a buddy beer. Beer also makes the non-cocktail drinker feel at home at a cocktail bar, I pay as much attention to our beer list as our cocktail list at Trick Dog.