Going 10 Rounds with Top Bartender Carrie Heller
The general manager at The Normandie Club in Los Angeles, tackles our speed round of questions.
What do you like to drink after a shift? “A Gin Martini without a doubt. The entire Normandie team knows just how I like it and even my favorite neighborhood bars start chilling a glass as soon as they see me.”
What is the all-time best dive bar jukebox song? “That’s a tough one: Elton John and Talking Heads are always solid choices, but I’d say Garth Brooks “Friends in Low Places.””
After all these years bartending and creating drinks, do you still enjoy going out to bars? “I just recently bought a Tempur-Pedic bed that has made going out way less fun. But that aside, I really do still enjoy it, more so to visit friends behind the bar and people I want to support.”
Name the first good drink you ever drank and where you had it. “The first good drink I ever had was a proper Old-Fashioned at Tony’s Saloon in Los Angeles. It was super simple but blew me away coming from crushing shots and Vodka Sodas. It was on a big sexy Penny Pound Ice Cube and the bartender carved the orange peel into a ‘C’ and put it on top of the cube. Then I married that bartender, no joke.”
What book on cocktails or spirits is your go-to resource? “It’s not necessarily a cocktail book but I grab The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg first for everything.”
What’s your favorite cocktail and food pairing? “A medium-rare steak and a shaken Gin Martini. Yes, I said shaken.”
What drink are you most proud of creating? “I had a one-hit wonder and it was the first drink I ever came up with. I used Sipsmith Gin, amontillado sherry, cucumber, orgeat, and lime juice. Throw it on some crushed ice and try not to chug it. We don’t generally name our drinks at The Normandie Club but it lives by Puppy on a Surfboard in my memory.”
Is there one person (dead or alive) you’d like to make a cocktail for? “My older brother Jeff. Not because he would have appreciated it—he definitely would have just wanted a Budweiser tallboy—but I think he would have been proud.”
What’s your favorite shot-and-a-beer combination? “A shot of mezcal and an ice-cold light beer but pretend the beer is a Spritz.”
What is the one tool that you always make sure to pack when you’re traveling for business? “A notebook, mainly the notes app on my phone. I have to write everything down or I’ll forget and it’s filled with hundreds of random notes that more often than not don’t make a lick of sense.”
Carrie Heller is the general manager at The Normandie Club in Los Angeles.
Interview has been condensed and edited.