egg cream.

I cannot say with certainty how this drink got its name -- there is neither egg nor cream in the recipe -- yet, the name has stuck. It is typically made with chocolate syrup, milk, and seltzer water. This cocktail takes some inspiration from the frothy, chocolate mixture, but with a different kind of bittersweet approach.

 Chill a highball glass.   

Chill a highball glass.

 

 While stirring, top off with sparkling water or Club Soda.

While stirring, top off with sparkling water or Club Soda.

 Measures of Aperol, Cocchi Americano Rosa, Cold Brew Coffee, Simple Syrup, and Whole Milk.

Measures of Aperol, Cocchi Americano Rosa, Cold Brew Coffee, Simple Syrup, and Whole Milk.

 Settle back and enjoy your frothy Aperol Egg Cream cocktail.

Settle back and enjoy your frothy Aperol Egg Cream cocktail.

photos by Sammy Faze Photography

step by step.

A highball is a labor of love.

It begins with a polished glass, set softly on the bar. We don't want any fingerprints showing up, so hold it delicately by the base, with clean hands, of course.

 Sammy Faze Photography:  Degrenne  Paris High Tumbler

Sammy Faze Photography: Degrenne Paris High Tumbler

The next step is to carefully fill the glass three-quarters of the way with ice, stirring a couple times for frosty chill, and straining off the melted water.

 Sammy Faze Photography

Sammy Faze Photography

Then, the spirit: poured with pride, with the label facing the guest to showcase their spirit of choice. At this point, the drink calls for a couple stirs to introduce the alcohol to the ice and the chill to the spirit.

 Sammy Faze Photography

Sammy Faze Photography

The mixer is often overlooked, but whether is it club soda, tonic, or a ginger ale, keep in mind that it makes up a majority of the drink in volume. Use something that tastes amazing on its own, and keep it chilled.

Pour precisely and deftly over your chilled mixture, avoiding the ice and even the side of the glass if you can. Mixers only have so much sparkle to share. These bubbles should be delivered directly to the spirit, rather than dashing against the edges of hard ice and glass, giving up effervescence before being given the chance to mingle.

 Sammy Faze Photography: Fever-Tree Elderflower Tonic

Sammy Faze Photography: Fever-Tree Elderflower Tonic

There is no need to stir a highball. This agitates the ingredients needlessly. The best way to integrate the fizzy mixer with your spirit is to use a bar spoon to gently nuzzle the ice upwards, creating a vortex in the bottom of the glass where the spirit and mixer may socialize without interruption.

All it takes is a steady and gentle hand to guide the ice back down and to gingerly extract the bar spoon without jostling the ice.

At this point, the highball may need a final topping of sparkling and ice so that the glass is satisfyingly filled from base to lip with ice-cold refreshment.

 Sammy Faze Photography

Sammy Faze Photography

Tip: Garnish as you like, but hold back on those straws. The small steps we take to minimize plastic waste will add up to something great. Not to mention, that these highballs sip so well from the glass.

The bubbles bring out some beautiful aromatics to the surface of the drink that you may miss out on if drinking from a straw.

pom·e·lo.

Winter is a lovely time of year when we are blessed with the bright beauty of citrus. Coming in all shapes and sizes, there is a whole world of citrus out there beyond lemons, oranges, and limes.

 Sammy Faze Photography

Sammy Faze Photography

Take the pomelo. A fruit with many names: Chinese grapefruit, shaddock, pumelo, pommelo, or pompelmous, to name a few. Colors may vary, but this citrus is recognizable by its large size, pillowy pith, and near floral aromas. As for taste, I find that the flavors range from bitter like lime and sweet like an orange, to tart like yuzu.

 Sammy Faze Photography

Sammy Faze Photography

My favorite part of working with pomelo is cutting into the yellow-green fruit to reveal the beautiful rose-colored segments of fruit inside. It reminds me of a mosaic of stained glass. A bit of warmth in the winter months.

illuminate.

Some bars are cozy dens, built inside caves of paneled wood. Other bars are sleek and modern, cold castles of marble and steel. There are bars with windows, views, skylights, and there are those with only the glow of burning candles and the occasional ray of light from a streetlight across the street. 


The two "bars" where I create cocktails and Sammy photographs are all and none of these things. 

 Photo: Sammy Faze Photography  Location: Momose's Kitchen Counter Cocktails

Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

Location: Momose's Kitchen Counter Cocktails

The kitchen counter at home is cold, hard stone, but the walls are bright and warm like mustard seeds. The north-facing window allows some light in during the day, and at night we can see lights from the train, cars, and lamps outside.

 Photo: Sammy Faze Photography  Location: Oriole

Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

Location: Oriole

 Photo: Sammy Faze Photography  Location: Oriole; a bright moment before opening.

Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

Location: Oriole; a bright moment before opening.

At Oriole, the bar space is tucked away, out of sight. Once ready, cocktails, wine, and spiritfrees are served on tables cloaked in white, in a lofty room with natural beams of light before sunset and the bright glow of lamps after dark.

Sometimes it is good to move away from the usual. Dim the lights and see if the cocktail is still as striking when the visual elements are blurred. Raise the lights. Is the sprig of mint fresh or withered? Are there brown spots on the twist, or is it curling, dried out from being cut hours ago and left out? These are all details that may be missed in the dim light of the bar, which are put in focus with the flash of a camera. Let the drink be camera-ready, in any light. It is important to take a moment to acknowledge the ambiance which the bar environment creates, and explore how to use that to highlight the drinks in the most effective way.

 Photo: Sammy Faze Photography  Location: Momose's Kitchen Counter Cocktails

Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

Location: Momose's Kitchen Counter Cocktails

 Photo: Sammy Faze Photography  Location: Oriole

Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

Location: Oriole

spiritfree.

    I am actively championing for nonalcoholic cocktails to become a part of more beverage programs. In this pursuit, I am also hoping that we can all move away from the somewhat negative term “mocktail,” to a name that signifies a concoction as complex as any alcoholic drink.

    Now is the time for influencers to change the way we talk about nonalcoholic cocktails. There is power in a name, along with hidden history, association, and purpose. Linguistic traits have a way of influencing our thoughts and actions whether we realize it or not. Why not harness this power, and create a word that captures the essence of this particular category of drinks? 

    The following is a manifesto if you will, of resolve to, as a united front, move away from the term “mocktail,” to a new word. I myself have gone through various iterations, from simply nonalcoholic, to the more technical zero-proof. At long last, I have developed a thought and intent towards a particular word. There are no trailing nouns, no hyphens, and no spaces, it is this: spiritfree.


 Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

 Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

 Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

 Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

 Photo: Sammy Faze Photograhpy

Photo: Sammy Faze Photograhpy

welcome.

I have worked more shifts as a host this year than as a bartender, and I genuinely believe that it has helped me grow in ways that I would not have by solely bartending.

This notion of hosting stems from the important and simple step of hospitality: to welcome someone in. Be it your home, bar, or store, a warm welcome is essential to put people ease and to allow them to settle in and enjoy all the other wonders you have to offer. But first, “Hello.” “Welcome.” "Thank you so much for choosing to celebrate with us tonight.”

The welcome begins at Oriole with a smile and assurance that "Yes, this is the entrance to a two-Michelin starred restaurant," and "Yes, this is an elevator that we are standing in." Tensions soften as we offer to take a jacket or heavy work bag. Then, there is the offer of a little cocktail: spiked or spiritfree. 

 Photo: Sammy Faze Photography   Warm, welcoming glow of lantern-like pendant lights in the dining room.

Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

Warm, welcoming glow of lantern-like pendant lights in the dining room.

 Photo: Sammy Faze Photography   A welcome of Milk Punch made with Hojicha, Peach Rooibos Tea, Verjus Rouge, Lemon Juice, clarified through Whole Milk. Optionally spiked with Cocchi Americano Rosa.

Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

A welcome of Milk Punch made with Hojicha, Peach Rooibos Tea, Verjus Rouge, Lemon Juice, clarified through Whole Milk. Optionally spiked with Cocchi Americano Rosa.

 Photo: Sammy Faze Photography   The bright, white tile of Oriole's open kitchen.

Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

The bright, white tile of Oriole's open kitchen.

I find at times in the midst of service behind the bar, that the welcome is not as warm as it could be. It is more calculated, and little nuances that make this first interaction so special are left to the wayside in a flurry of questions, order-taking, and drink-making.

Having the opportunity to host at Oriole this past year has taught me, and reminded me of the invaluable intangibles of our industry. One of the most important, which I am working on, is listening. Not just hearing, but truly listening.

Listen to remember, so that after getting the names of their children, you may escort the guests to their table, answer questions about the menu, get their water preferences, and remember each piece of information to pass on to the server who takes the reigns for the rest of their experience. That is the key.

Our industry relies on relationships, and relationship building starts at the front door, or sometimes, in the elevator.

Remember: always be ready. Reset. Think of how you would want to be greeted as you walk into a new and exciting eating and drinking adventure.

patience.

You could say that blueberry muffins are good for the soul, and you would be right. I would also add that baking said muffins is good for the soul too. The oven warms the whole house, and soon the aroma of butter, berries, and love fills the room.

 Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

My mother taught me to bake — how to measure and weigh ingredients — long before I learned to bartend. I thank her, and my father for that bit of OCD that I was raised with. 

Though we are living in different countries now, baking always reminds me of time with Mom in the kitchen, when I was barely tall enough to reach the counter. She was so patient with me, and I constantly look back to moments with her to remind me of how I want to be. 

Patience is a virtue, as they say, and it takes patience to be patient. Just working that out in my mind is taking some patience right now. Although, the one thing no one said, is that it would be easy, right?

ありがとう、お母さん。

styling.

With a confetti of ingredients scattered across the base of the glass, the coaster, the bar, this scene begs the question, what happens if I pick up the glass? A mess!

 Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

I probably wouldn’t play this kind of practical joke on you at the bar. But for a photo shoot with Sammy Faze, it is fun to move away from the practical and into the poetic with a little bit of cocktail styling.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, perhaps a spritz of embellishment will help bring more to the story of green tea, hibiscus, vanilla, and Champagne?

For comparison, another photo of the very same cocktail:

 Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

It makes quite a different, does it not?

Enough questions for now.

Time for some more fun with cocktail styling.

perspective.

It is fascinating to me how differently a cocktail may be perceived based on the angle of the viewer. Through photography, we are reliant on the lens and the focal point dictated by the photographer’s eye.

However, at the bar and on the restaurant floor, the glass and cocktail are moving elements, going from empty to full, naked to garnished, on the bar-top to the guest’s lips. At each moment the glass is seen not only by the bartender and the person for whom it is intended but by the entire room.

 Photo: Sammy Faze Photography  The Pour

Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

The Pour

 Photo: Sammy Faze Photography  The Cocktail

Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

The Cocktail

For this reason, I like to think of the drink as a floral arrangement that will be set in the middle of the room. It should be gorgeous to the person facing it, of course, but also to the guests who see it passing by on a tray, or sitting across from the one who got the drink.

 Photo: Sammy Faze Photography  This is the cocktail Going Green, with Gamle Ode Dill Aquavit, Dolin Dry Vermouth, Green Chartreuse, and St. Germain. The garnish is a Dianthus flower pierced through a sage leaf for the effect of flower and leaf together, with beautiful aromatics of green.

Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

This is the cocktail Going Green, with Gamle Ode Dill Aquavit, Dolin Dry Vermouth, Green Chartreuse, and St. Germain. The garnish is a Dianthus flower pierced through a sage leaf for the effect of flower and leaf together, with beautiful aromatics of green.

This is this ever-so-popular overhead shot, a position that few of us are ever actually in when we are looking at a drink, but a really fun way to showcase the drinks as if it were confined to the plane of a flat circle. The glass truly is the canvas. The density of the cocktail dictates what may be floated or painted on to the drink. When there is ice in the glass, it serves the role of continuous chilling, but it also acts as a support for garnish.

Keep in mind that like the angle at which the drink is seen, time has a way of warping perspective as well. When using ice, it is important to think about what happens as the drink is being sipped, and the ice is melting. How does the garnish look once the drink is halfway gone?

 Photo: Anthony Tahlier Photography

Photo: Anthony Tahlier Photography

 Photo: Kailley Lindeman

Photo: Kailley Lindeman

 Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

Each of these drinks "ages" in a different way. On the left, the Hummingbird Highball. The dill is held to the side of the glass by the lime clip. Therefore, as the drink is sipped, the dill slowly follows the ice downwards but remains on the side of the glass as an aromatic element. In the center, an egg white cocktail.

Egg whites create the perfect white canvas for painting with aroma, color, and flavor. In this case, aromatic bitters with fresh chamomile flowers and greens. The micro foam of the egg white retains its texture and hold as the drink is enjoyed, slowly creeping towards the bottom of the glass, but never losing its structure.

Finally on the right, the Hammersmith Palace spirit free (nonalcoholic cocktail). A fountain of tarragon bursts from the center of a lime wheel. This lime will acts as a flotation device so that as the drink goes down, the lime keeps the tarragon upright.

While a bit unrealistic, my aim is for a drink to be as beautiful and camera ready when it returns to the glass washer, as when it was just made and placed in front of the guest.

 Photo: Kailley Lindeman

Photo: Kailley Lindeman

homeland.

This time, one year ago, I was home.

 Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

I think I was most excited to introduce Sammy to Japan. But it had been five years since I had returned home, and as the island came into view from the plane, I felt my heart beat a little stronger, with the joy of being home again.

At the time Sammy and I were boyfriend and girlfriend. Now, we are engaged. He asked my parents for their blessing one of our first evenings with them. They asked him to wait a couple of days before they could give their answer.

 Photo: by me, using Sammy's camera

Photo: by me, using Sammy's camera

We went off on a journey to explore Japan and visit Japanese Whisky distilleries.

It was extraordinary to revisit the place I grew up and to go to cities I had never been before. It truly was like seeing everything with new eyes.

To stand in a rickhouse amongst barrels and barrels of whisky ageing quietly under the watchful care of passionate workers, gave me goosebumps, and makes each pour of whisky from those distilleries that much more meaningful to me.

 Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

Upon our return to my parent's house, while I must have been asleep, Sammy sat with my parents into the wee hours of the night, and they gave us their blessing. He told me this story as we were leaving Japan to return to Chicago, but the actual marriage proposal didn't come until we were truly ready ourselves. I suppose that is a story for another time.

Until then, here are some gorgeous photos of my homeland, the food, and the people. Have a dram of Japanese whisky as you look over these if you can. I think it would be quite perfect.

 Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

hospitality.

Some thoughts on an important topic from an essay that I wrote for the Heaven Hill Bartender of the Year competition.

Hospitality: I remember a year ago, sharing some stories for this very competition, to explain what hospitality meant to me.

My answer now remains the same: one could say that as a bartender my responsibility is production and service. However, it extends beyond that to something far greater and harder to define, which is hospitality.

 Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

Hospitality is ever-evolving. It is of the moment, dependent on time, place, and person. It is curating experiences, exceeding expectations, and above all, acting and reacting to make the person across from me feel at ease and taken care of. Hospitality is how I involve emotion in service. It is a feeling. Take hospitality out of bartending, and the drink might as well be coming out of a vending machine. Aside from the basic people and technical skills, a hospitable bartender has the ability to be in the moment. This involves shedding the stresses of the day and coming in to work with body and mind ready to take care of the guests and to support and inspire those I work with. It is being able to sense needs and empathize with others.

 Photo: Buda Photography

Photo: Buda Photography

To be in the moment is to know when to engage and impact, and when to be invisible, yet available to any eyes that scan the bar for attention. Precision and an acute awareness of everything that is going on in every direction around me are critical; knowledge and technique are important, but empathy and creativity are what can set a bartender apart.

That is all for now, in an on-going, ever-evolving discussion of one of the most difficult to define elements of my life's work.

the beginning, again...

There is the opportunity in life, for many different beginnings and fresh starts. At the outset of this year, I may have surprised some people when I left the job that had brought me some amount of notoriety. I knew that it was time to move on, and I decided to trust my gut and initiate the next phase of my career: a break.

I tried keeping a blog, of sorts, once. This was years ago. Longer, it feels, back when I was living and working in Baltimore. I was creating, and I was excited about the journey of an idea to final product.

I am going to write again. This time, as a way to get my thoughts down, and to lay my convictions out. I have been fortunate enough to work with a few talented photographers, who have captured my ideas, finalized, in the glass. I hope to use this website and blog as a platform to share the art and inspirations.

 Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

I have a collection of notebooks holding thoughts and processes — pictures, diagrams, and recipes. Sometimes there are poems or words that struck a chord and that I wanted to remember for later. These books are stashed about the house, in different purses, bags, beside the bed, and on various shelves. Some are chock full of ideas, simply bursting at the binding, while others are half-full, more indicative of a change in subject, place, or time.

My aim is to go through these archives of visions and dreams and to recreate and reconceptualize those that speak to me. It is time to digitalize the recipes that have been lost in the pages, perhaps to be recreated one day as it was created, or maybe as something new.

 Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

Photo: Sammy Faze Photography

So here I go. Perhaps no one will see this, but that is okay. This is something that I choose to do for myself. Maybe, someone will stumble across a phrase or image that speaks to them, and, if that happens, I will be glad.