Q&A: Phoebe Esmon, The New Bartender at Chick’s

A few months ago, much ballyhooed bartender Katie Loeb left her post at Chick’s Café in Queen Village for the Oyster House. This morning, I telephoned her replacement, Phoebe Isabelle Esmon, to discuss booze, boys, and the one word she’d like to strike from the lexicon.

Hi, Phoebe. How are you this morning?
A little tired. I worked last night. We closed at midnight, but I just moved and haven’t recovered.

OK, well, I’ll get right to it so you can get back to sleep. What’s your poison? Gin? Rye?
Yes and yes … It depends. This summer, I’ve been tending toward gin. But I’m always a sucker for an Old Fashioned.

You obviously knew of Katie’s reputation prior to taking over at Chick’s. Difficult shoes to fill?
Big, big shoes to fill. Katie’s a really talented lady. It was a challenge. It still is.

What do you do differently?
Katie and I both take a culinary approach to drink-making, but I’m bringing in more fresh herbs, fresh produce. Less essences of things and more of the real thing. Last night is a good case in point. On Tuesdays, we do a fresh market cocktail. I go to the farm market, buy whatever looks good, and put it all up on the bar. Before shift, I come up with a cocktail using the ingredients, and that’s the special for the night.

What’s with these $28 bottles of beer you are serving during a recession? Do people actually order them?
Believe it or not, people do order them. They’re bottles of beer you can’t get anywhere else. They don’t move that quickly. But they do move.

Which drink order makes you roll your eyes?
Anything and Diet Coke.

What’s wrong with that?
It’s just kind of a silly order. I just don’t see the point. I like to taste booze in my cocktails.

I’m guessing from your Facebook photos that you are romantically intertwined with one of the city’s other super-bartenders, Christian Galle [from APO and Noble]. What’s it like being in the same line of work as your man?
It’s not bad. We help each other out with stuff. Plus, the hours are easy. We work the same hours.

What drink does he make better than you?
Blood and sand.

And can you tell my readers what that is?
It’s a Scotch cocktail. [Yawns.] Sorry, I’m not quite awake.

It’s OK. Just one more question: What’s the most annoying trend in your industry?
While I understand the use of the word “mixologist,” I prefer “bartender” or “barkeep” at all times. I understand that mixology encompasses a number of things other than just throwing out beers and shots. But at the end of the day, we all tend our bar. It’s not just making drinks. It’s making sure that guests are taken care of. The drink is never more important than the person who walks into the bar. Call me old-fashioned.

Great. Thanks for your time. Now go back to sleep.
I appreciate it. I hope I made sense.