Going 10 Rounds With Top Bartender Yana Volfson
The beverage director of acclaimed New York restaurants Cosme and ATLA tackles our speed round of questions.
What do you like to drink after a shift? “Mezcal.”
What is the all-time best dive bar jukebox song? ““Come and Get It” by Ralph Robles.”
After all these years bartending and creating drinks, do you still enjoy going out to bars? “Yes, of course. I enjoy visiting my friends and tasting new flavors.”
Name the first good drink you ever drank and where you had it. “The Dominicana at Milk & Honey. I’d been in the industry and immersed in cocktail culture for several years by that time, but my first Dominicana at Milk & Honey was one to remember. Maybe it was the chivalrous nature of my co-bartender Toby Maloney or the fact that the drink is a total guilty pleasure.”
What book on cocktails or spirits is your go-to resource? “I like to reference the Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart.”
What’s your favorite cocktail and food pairing? “If we think about the complexity of mezcal as a cocktail, I would say Tobaziche and Oaxacan cheese...but if this answer is cheating the question, then I would say a wet Gin Martini and Jonah crab claws.”
What drink are you most proud of creating? “Our Michelada at Cosme and ATLA. The drink to me explores the function of acidity in a gose beer in place of lime juice.”
Is there one person (dead or alive) you’d like to make a cocktail for? “Lalo Angeles, my favorite maestro mezcalero. I love tasting with him and learning with him. It would be an honor to have him as a guest for a cocktail.”
What’s your favorite shot-and-a-beer combination? “Champagne and mezcal are my favorite way to double fist!”
What is the one tool that you always make sure to pack when you’re traveling for business? “A Microplane. Really multifunctional. I can use it for prepping both citrus and hard spices, which I do often in my line of work.”
Yana Volfson, a Bronx native and mezcal aficionado, is the beverage director of acclaimed New York restaurant’s acclaimed Cosme and ATLA.
Interview has been condensed and edited.