Mixologist Ame Brewster
Café Boulud | Palm Beach
It might seem ironic that Texas-born Ame Brewster, who found her
calling as Bar Manager at Café Boulud in Palm Beach,
was raised by a teetotalling mother and a father who rewarded himself
with a weekly beer after mowing the lawn. Until Brewster left home,
the closest she came to sampling spirits was the communal wine offered
at church on Sundays.
To pay for her schooling at Cornell University, Brewster took a full-time job at a local restaurant and worked her way up to bar manager. After graduation she moved to New York City where, armed with a Political Science degree, four years of restaurant experience, and a friend who worked for Mario Batali, she got a job as assistant sommelier at Otto Enoteca. Brewster had spent a year studying in Croatia on a Fulbright Scholarship and had begun to educate herself about wine; at Otto she learned formal wine presentation and service, participated in wine tasting and purchasing, led wine seminars for the staff, and developed a working knowledge of more than 700 Italian wines.
Brewster delved deeper into viticulure at Alto, where she worked as assistant sommelier to Eric Zillier. Zillier helped Brewster hone her presentation while educating her about vineyards, vintages and varietals. After she left Alto, Brewster worked as a wine buyer/manager at Blanc & Rouge, a boutique wine store stocked with an international selection focused on high-end classics and the unusual.
As Café Boulud’s Bar Director, Brewster designs
the seasonal cocktail lists, educates the employees, and teaches
a weekly class about high-end liquors and cocktails. When it comes
to spirits, Brewster’s preference is for the unusual and artisanal,
which she approaches with a wine-lover's zeal.
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Were you trained in bartending or mixology?
AB: I was trained as a bartender in my first job and my teacher was very strict. It was a very traditional and classical training.
AFB: What are some current
trends you’ve seen in the cocktail market? How have trends
AB: I see a lot of retro inspiration, especially in New York City. People are looking back. I see a lot of simple prep but with high quality ingredients. In Palm Beach though, there’s definitely a focus on spirits and new-fangled products.
AFB: What goes into creating
a new cocktail? How long does it take to create a new cocktail?
AB: I usually find inspiration in a classic cocktail, and then try to factor in seasonality. Sometimes it’s easy, but other times it takes longer to make it work. [The process is] really very ingredient-based. I like seeing the beauty in a product and highlighting its flavors.
AFB: What is your favorite
cocktail to drink? To make?
AB: To drink I like the old school Presbyterian (ginger beer and whiskey). To make, I like things that I get to muddle, like Mojitos and Caipirinhas.
AFB: What are you favorite
AB: I have a simple bar and I like to keep it that way. I like my long handled spoon, my muddler and my food processor.
AFB: What is your favorite
mixology resource book?
AB: Anything by David Wondrich. His work on classic cocktails (in Esquire and elsewhere) has been my main resource – I like to use the old cocktails with a modern twist.
AFB: What is your most important
AB: Alto (in New York City) was indispensable because of the wine training. It was very strict in technique and knowledge. From that experience, I learned how to taste, how to read people, and how to know a product.
AFB: If you weren’t
a mixologist, what would you be doing?
AB: I’d be a sommelier!
AFB: Which person in history
would you most like to go for drinks with?
AB: Hemingway – he inspired a lot of cocktails.
AFB: Is there an ingredient
that you feel is underappreciated or underutilized? Why?
AB: Vegetables in general. There is always a focus on the protein in cooking – I think vegetables should get more attention, and be a highlight.
AFB: What does success mean
for you? What will it look like for you?
AB: It’s not a job title. It’s an accumulation of knowledge. There may never be an end to the process, as long as there is more to learn.
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