Rising Star Mixology Award presented by:
Mixologist Stefan Trummer was born and bred in the restaurant business in Austria. His father had a restaurant and his grandfather before that. It was only natural when Trummer decided to study hotel and restaurant management. As part of his training there, he worked behind the bar and fell in love with the creativity of mixology, and the human interaction that goes hand-in-hand with service. Today he lends the same polish and inventive spirit to Trummer’s on Main, which he opened with his wife Victoria in her hometown Clifton, Virginia in 2009.
Of course, there was a bit of work for Trummer along the way. After leaving Austria, he traveled extensively in Europe, working his way through its luxury hotels in both back and front-of-the-house before coming to New York in 2000. Once stateside, Trummer straddled the service and production branches of the industry at the restaurant Citarella. He then moved on to hone his hospitality skills at Masa and Bouley. Word got out about his novel way of re-mixing cocktail classics and he was hired as general manager and beverage director at Bouley Upstairs.
He eventually joined forces with his brother Albert Trummer (now mixing his magic at New York’s Apotheke and Theater Bar) to open their Long Island restaurant and bar Trummer Home. After two years he went on to consult for New York and DC bars, and liquor and wine companies including Moët, Kahlua, Belvedere, and Navan. With fellow 2010 Rising Stars Chef Clayton Miller and Pastry Chef Chris Ford behind the stoves, and Trummer behind the stellar cocktail menu, Trummer’s on Main is set for a stellar future.
Interview with Mixologist Stefan Trummer of Trummer’s on Main – Clifton, VA
Will Blunt: What drew you to restaurants and in particular to mixology?
Stefan Trummer: My parents used to own a restaurant, which my dad took over from his dad, so I guess it was destiny for me to follow in their footsteps. I went to Austria to study hotel and restaurant management for three years. They teach you to cook and to run a dining room and the front desk. You study nutrition, languages, lessons in cocktails, and running a bar. I worked in bars in the equivalent to an internship, and discovered that I like the creativity and the interaction with guests. That's what drew me to the bar—when I create something I can tell if they like it or not; it’s a lot of fun.
WB: How would you describe your mixology style?
ST: I like to incorporate as many of the six senses as possible. My cocktails aim to create visual stimulation, highlight a particular nostalgic or distinct smell, layer flavors, include a unique textural element, and the ultimate: creating umami. To experience my style you must be sitting at the bar when ordering a cocktail.
WB: What inspires you when creating a new cocktail?
ST: I definitely look to the seasons, and my style leans towards working with fruit and fresh herbs. I go to markets for inspiration; I find something I like and try to create something with that. When the chef comes up with a new dish, I’ll sometimes take one of the ingredients and work on a cocktail pairing. We’ve done tasting menus that include pairings with cocktails, in addition to wine and beer.
WB: What are some of the current trends in mixology in this area?
ST: The Prohibition era cocktails, which weren’t really my thing. For one thing, they’re pretty aggressive in that they’ve got such a high alcohol content, and I’m interested in pairing cocktails to food.
WB: If you could have any chef cook for you who would it be and why?
ST: [It would] probably would be Masa [Takayama]. He was one of the people who inspired me the most. Not only is he really passionate about what he is doing, he also really showed me how to tweak and fine tune my drinks. I love Japanese food—[it’s so] pure, simple. I don't think here in DC there's anything. If I go up to New York I go to Bar Masa or Bouley Upstairs (which shut down, but the Japanese chef is amazing too).
WB: What ingredient do you feel is under-appreciated?
ST: I don’t know if it’s under-appreciated, but blue corn. You boil it and get juice and color out of it; it’s really interesting and something new and different.
WB: What is your favorite mixology resource book?
ST: American Bar: The Artistry of Mixing Drinks by Charles Schuhmann. In Europe we called this the bartender's bible.
WB: How are you involved in the local mixology scene?
ST: We did the Taste of the Nation event, and we’ve done two events with Share Our Strength.
WB: Is there a lot of competition within DC’s mixology scene?
ST: There is a ton of talent in DC; I was blown away when we moved here. But we are all extremely supportive of each other and learn from each other. I think this is the place for cocktails right now!
WB: If you weren’t a mixologist, what do you think you’d be doing?
ST: I'd probably be a chef, in the kitchen somehow.
WB: How would you define success?
ST: Success for me [is that] I'm lucky that I can do what I love to do, enjoy it, and appreciate it.
WB: What’s next for you?
ST: Trummer Bar. Details to follow at a later date.
WB: Where will we find you in five years? Will Trummer’s have changed?
ST: I don't expect Trummer's to change much, only expand! We expect our base to always stay in Virginia but we may look at other regions.