Ask a Bartender: 16 Questions with Eryn Reece of Death + Company
While watching Eryn Reece behind the stick at Death + Company — where she splits her time between it’s sister tequila bar, Mayahuel—one comes to realize how what a machine she is, cranking out quality-driven cocktails in a manner that’s simply mesmerizing.
Mind you, most craft cocktail bartenders already own a certain je nais se quoi, that’s indisputable. Yet, Reece’s swift style of execution is perhaps her most viable charm, making it difficult to keep eyes off her while she’s creating.
That doesn’t make her any less personable, though: Before leaving her company, Reece halts that “machine” to share a shot of delicious mezcal.
Post shots, she made time for some questions.
The Daily Meal: So, what turns you on about bartending?
Eryn Reece: I love being creative. Being challenged by making new flavors. I also love that it’s not really like going to work. I get to go and hang out with all of my friends and essentially just host a party.
TDM: How long have you been a bartender? When did you know you wanted to make this your career?
ER: I have been bartending for just about 10 years. I realized when I moved to New York, and I got the pleasure of working with Tony Abou-Ganim. He opened my eyes to the world of craft bartending.
TDM: Where/when was your first gig? How many bartending jobs have you had?
ER: My first bar that I ever worked at was Mona's Bistro and Lounge in Seattle. Since then, I have worked at numerous bars over the years.
TDM: What bartenders in NYC have inspired you?
ER: There are so many great bartenders I have met or even have had the pleasure of working with behind the stick. One person that sticks out to me is Joaquin Simo. He's wonderful to watch, extremely thoughtful, and can make a damn good drink. Oh, and he's pretty entertaining as well.
TDM: What’s the best perk of your role?
ER: Always getting to try and play around with great new products
TDM: How long have you been at Death + Company? What do you enjoy most about working there?
ER: I've been at Death + Company for just over a year and a half. I love it because our staff is great and it's a family.
TDM: I heard that you worked at Mayahuel. Do you still?
ER: Yes, I've been there for three and a half years, and love it.
TDM: How do you split your time between the two bars? How do they compare from a bartender’s standpoint?
ER: I'm at Death + Company three nights and at Mayahuel on Fridays. They are both challenging in their own ways, but also it's nice working at two different places. It breaks up my week nicely.
TDM: What Death + Company cocktails are your favorites? What are guest favorites?
ER: I have tons, but two that stick out to me personally are Legend — a stirred cocktail of delicious cognac, sherry and amaro — and the Botany of Desire, which is interestingly refreshing for a stirred cocktail doing this by way of a wonderful blend of gin, verjus and calvados. Guest favorites … there are too many to name. Our menu is appealing to many different types of drinkers, so it's hard to nail down just a few favorites.
TDM: I probably already know the answer, but what spirit is sexiest to you and why?
ER: Ha. Mezcal. It seduces you with its aggressive smoldering boldness.
TDM: Which spirit is the most versatile?
ER: Having now worked at Mayahuel, I have become quite adept at playing with agave, so I've come to realize how interesting and how easily it pairs with other flavors and spirits.
TDM: What are your favorite bitters or herbs to use in your cocktails?
ER: I try to vary my ingredients, but some of my favorite things that I always come back to is Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters and Bénédictine.
TDM: Care to divulge your favorite watering holes?
ER: I don't go out that often, but, when I do, lately it's been to the Dead Rabbit and Attaboy, or to visit my favorite late night spot, Bua.
TDM: After the day is done, what’s your go-to, post-shift cocktail?
ER: Either a glass of wine or a Guinness.
TDM: What was that tasty mezcal shot you shared the other night? It was so smoky and delicious!
ER: I'm so glad you like it! It's one of my favorite ways to part ways with friends. It was Del Maguey Chichicapa Mezcal. Stigibeu! [Translation: “To the life force that is around us!”]