Bartender Lauren Festa approaches cocktail making like an artist. Her canvas is the bar and her palette is, well, just about anything. In any downtime from her new gig at The Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, Festa can be found tending to a garden at home that sports about 90 different herbs and vegetables. These fresh delights, she claims, continuously inspire her muse. “I walk out to there and see all these different products that people love,” Festa explains, “and I think why not make them into cocktail? There’s nothing like the experience of tasting something that’s just been picked 24 hours ago.”
For Festa, the sky’s the limit when it comes to cocktails. A mushroom-infused libation she designed for former employers FT33 worked local food bloggers into a tizzy. Certainly her new employers at The Mansion are expecting the same creative spirit. Festa remains as cool as one of her garden cucumbers. “My passion for seasonality is definitely one of my strongest assets,” she asserts. She gets to show off her prowess in the new fall drink menu she’s creating with fellow barman Danny Caffall. “My favorite so far is the Plum and Rum cocktail, which is now available on our late summer menu. It’s made with 10 Cane rum, fresh plums, lemon juice and a sprig of lemon verbena from my garden.” Sounds like seasonal perfection.
What would you tell a beginning bartender?
You need to have lots of patience. Also, a genuine passion for hospitality is a must. If you don’t have those two, you don’t need to be in this business.
Tell me about your first day ever behind the bar.
I was 18. I’d learned all the specialty cocktails they gave me, but I didn’t know what a rusty nail was. Of course that was the first thing someone ordered.
What’s the toughest part of the job?
The hours can be hard on your personal life. However, I have a significant other who understands. So if that’s the worse thing I have to complain about, it’s not that bad.
Tell me about something cool you’re working on.
I’ve really gotten into pickling, which is something we’re going to be offering soon at The Mansion. Anything you would find in a martini, we’re pickling ourselves. That includes anything that’s in-season at the moment. We’re going to be offering things like house-pickled cocktail onions, radishes, and even caper berries with our martinis.
What’s something you want to tell your customers?
Never apologize for ordering what you enjoy. So many people apologize for what they are drinking. They’ll come in and say ‘I’m sorry, I just want a vodka soda.’ Don’t apologize. If you love vodka soda, I would love to make you a vodka soda.
For more info: The Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek is located at 2821 Turtle Creek Boulevard, Dallas, Texas 75219; (214) 559-2100.
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