2014 Los Angeles Rising Star Bartender Devon Tarby of HoneyCut
Behind 819 South Flower Street
Los Angeles, CA
Devon Tarby discovered her bartending abilities while working on a degree in Music Business and Audio Engineering at the University of Southern California. Outside the classroom, she developed a keen interest in the industry at large. And fortunately for the drinking public she happened to be in Los Angeles when craft cocktails were first taking off. Once she discovered the kind of hands-on craftsmanship of venues like The Varnish, Tarby opted for real-deal experience instead of pursuing culinary school.
After harassing Eric Alperin for about six months, Tarby ended up as a host at The Varnish, but it didn’t take her long to get behind the bar. And that’s where she met Alex Day in 2010, who also worked behind the bar at The Varnish. He had recently moved to L.A. from New York (and Death & Co). Noticing her natural talent and drive, Day and Dave Kaplan brought Tarby into their company, Proprietors LLC, where she’s worked for the last three and a half years, opening hot spots like Honeycut, becoming partner, and designing and implementing training and beverage programs across the country as part of the trendsetting Proprietors team.
Interview with Los Angeles Rising Star Bartender Devon Tarby of Honeycut
Antoinette Bruno: So, tell us about this cocktail? It’s lovely—short and sweet (not too sweet) and tastes of summer! [Crop Top: Beefeater 24 Gin, Amaro Montenegro, Giffard Pamplemousse, and Fresh Lemon Juice]
Devon Tarby: This is from the section [of the menu] called Pick Me Up! The style of drink is “reviver.” But I wanted to stay away from the word “reviver” because I didn't want to call back to anything speakeasy or old timey. But that's the theme of the cocktails. They're cold, refreshing, and they’re not supposed to sit too long. They’re gone in four or five sips.
AB: What was the inspiration for the Crop Top?
DT: I'm a big fan of “equal-parts” drinks, like the Last Word or Paper Plane, with a citrus, a sweet liqueur, something a bit bitter, and a traditional base spirit like gin or bourbon—something straight forward. There's something beautiful about a drink that takes its balance from the ingredients themselves rather than the proportions. There's something so cool about finding four ingredients and putting them together without doing anything to them.
AB: This drink is very feminine. The texture is amazing, like silks pajamas! Why do you think this drinks works? [Four to the Floor: Campo de Encanto Pisco, Giffard Pamplemousse, Verjus Blanc, and Dolin Blanc Vermouth]
DT: It’s somewhere between a stirred and a shaken drink. It's really cool because we wanted to experiment with texture. The acid level is something you would normally find in something shaken. It's the texture of a stirred drink. We use verjus as the acid. It's clear and integrates into a stirred cocktail like a liqueur or a vermouth as opposed to something like lemon juice which has a lot of solids. If you were to stir that, it would only integrate for a minute or two, the solids would separate out from everything else and there would be an unpleasant mouth feel and unpleasant look to the drink. It’s four ingredients and it's a panty dropper drink: a euphemism for doggy style, plus, it sounds good. It’s a reverse engineered sauvignon blanc.
AB: How do you come up with the names?
DT: We have a big list of names that we came up with. Every time we hear a funny expression, we write it down. A drink name should be fun and evoke an image or feeling in a very fleeting way. You should be able to say it out loud. If it's hard to pronounce or too long, it's intimidating.
AB: The Deadpan is velvety, it’s a man’s drink. I picture a guy with a vest and a smoking jacket sitting by a fire. Tell us about it. [Deadpan: Toasted Sesame El Dorado 12 year Rum, Pierre Ferand 1840 Cognac, Lustau East India Solera Sherry, Giffard Madagascar Vanilla, and Honeycut Aromatic Bitters]
DT: Lightly-toasted white sesame is infused into the El Dorado. The Pierre Ferand is a small-batch Cognac, but still affordable. A friend of ours makes the house bitters, it’s aromatic with plenty of cloves. It’s not smoky, but a bit of cognac and sherry and vanilla add a bit of sweetness. It’s the kind of brown cocktail I like to prepare.
AB: What’s your favorite cocktail to drink?
DT: A Daiquiri with any kind of rum. It's refreshing, balanced, and it can be different depending on the rum you choose, but still all the things you're seeking. You can have it any time of day. To me, a daiquiri is good rum, fresh squeezed lime juice, and a bit of sugar to balance—shaken and served up in a coupe. I like light rum for something refreshing or I can make it more decadent. A daiquiri is a good gauge for me as to where I am—if I'm tired and it doesn't wake me up, then I know I need to go down. Must be the vitamin C in the lime juice!