What do you like to drink after a shift?
After a long shift, there’s nothing more satisfying than the coldest beer that’s in the closest proximity. It may sound simple, but I’d put money on almost any bartender agreeing with me. The end-of-the-shift beer is the best beer there is.
What is the all-time best dive bar jukebox song?
“Emotional Rescue” by the Rolling Stones. It’s catchy and weird, but isn’t going to annoy anyone, nor will it make the entire room start singing.”
After all these years bartending and creating drinks, do you still enjoy going out to bars?
I love going out to bars of every style! As a bartender, I think it’s really important to get out there and see what industry peers are doing. Sometimes I find myself more inspired by a quiet neighborhood bar experience than a craft cocktail bar. If we never put ourselves in the perspective of our guests, how can we expect to know what exactly it is that our guests are looking for—and [how] to be able to best satisfy their needs?
Name the first good drink you ever drank and where you had it.
When I moved to New York, I was invited to a little East Village bar called Death & Co. I knew nothing about cocktails at the time, and my friend told me to get a Coffey Park Swizzle. I’ve henceforth referred to this drink as my epiphany cocktail. I still remember the delight I felt the first time I was able to make it for a guest behind the bar at Death & Co. That cocktail changed my entire life trajectory.
What book on cocktails or spirits is your go-to resource?
I keep a copy of Dave Arnold’s Liquid Intelligence handy at all times. I also find books on cooking and food, in general, to be extremely useful. Two of my particular favorites are the Flavor Thesaurus and the Vegetarian Flavor Bible.
What’s your favorite cocktail and food pairing?
Who is your favorite fictional bartender?
My favorite fictional bartender would have to be Sascha from Casablanca. He encapsulates the steadfast, ever-present, supportive listener and confidant that bartenders are meant to be.
Is there one person (dead or alive) you’d like to make a cocktail for?
I happen to be only the second female head bartender at the American Bar in history. The first, Ada Coleman, was at the helm nearly 100 years ago. I think that the two of us would have quite a lot to talk about, and it would be a great honor to be able to make her a drink.
What’s your favorite shot-and-a-beer combination?
A shot of Del Maguey Santo Domingo Albarradas Mezcal paired with a Schöfferhofer Grapefruit Beer.
What is the one tool that you always make sure to pack when you’re traveling for business?
When I travel for work, I’m always sure to have a roll of blue painter’s tape and a black permanent marker. You’d be shocked at how often they come in handy.
Shannon Tebay is the head bartender at London’s legendary American Bar at The Savoy.
Interview has been condensed and edited.