Five Questions: Katie Loeb, Head Bartender at Oyster House

Katie Loeb, one of the city’s premier mixologists (she shared a Best of Philly award last year for her inventive cocktails), is leaving Chick’s in Bella Vista for the born-again Oyster House, slated to open early next month at 1516 Sansom Street. We caught up with Loeb during the pre-opening bustle for a quick Q&A to find out what creative concoctions she’ll be serving up there.

You’ve put Chick’s on the map with your cocktail program. It’s just been named one of the best bars of the year by Food & Wine magazine. Why the switch?
I worked at the old Sansom Street Oyster bar for a few months back in 2005. I never got the chance to help it succeed the way I knew I could. Going back gives me a feeling of closure. The Mink family really wants to be the way it once was, to restore it to its former glory, and it’s exciting to be a part of that.

What can we expect from your bar at Oyster House?
We plan to keep the list very classic, very old-school. Very well-made sidecars, Manhattans, Bluecoat gin martinis, all made with the best ingredients. The house gimlet will be made with my homemade lemon or lime cordials.

How does a creative bartender fit into the classic oyster house genre?
Oyster shooters. No one else in Philly is doing them. We’ll take smaller-sized oysters and combine them with house-infused spirits. For example, the Londoner shooter will have gin infused with cucumber, lemon, and dill. We’ll have a yet-to-be named Asian-themed oyster shooter with a vodka infused with ginger, lemongrass, and Thai basil.

What about the original cocktails for which you’re so well known?
The debut list will stick to the basics, but I’ll still have my old favorite ingredients behind the bar, like my homemade ginger beer, so if someone wants something a little more interesting, I’ll be able to whip something up. As time goes on, I suspect the cocktail list will grow and you’ll see the Katie craziness added later.

What will happen to Chick’s?
I hand-delivered my replacement, Phoebe Esmon. She’s a great bartender, very creative in her own right, and a good friend. She’s got all my recipes. I’m leaving that bar, which is very special to me, in good hands. I think she’ll continue to evolve the cocktail program there.