Jillian Vose began her boozy career when she was 17 at the Four Peaks Brewery in Tempe, Arizona. For the next five years, she worked her way from food runner to bartender and then manager, developing a strong work ethic along the way. She continued her experience at Elements and Jade Bar before moving to New York City.
In 2010 shortly after relocating to New York, Vose attended the 5-Day B.A.R. program to immerse herself in the local scene. The program led to a management position at Brooklyn’s Clover Club, which provided further insight into the city’s diverse bar culture. Early in 2011 Vose departed Clover Club for a bartending opportunity at Maxwell Britten’s Maison Premiere, a Brooklyn mixology powerhouse. During her time there, she also began working part time at Death & Company in Manhattan’s East Village.
In 2012, Vose became head bartender at Death & Company, leading one of the foremost mixology programs in town and adding 40-plus new cocktails to the already extensive menu. Vose draws on her varied experiences to craft technically precise and balanced drinks, and she’s proven that she has the gravity, dedication, and skill to back up a formidable industry reputation.
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Interview with Mixologist Jillian Vose of Death & Company – New York, NY
Dan Catinella: What drew you to restaurants and in particular, to mixology?
Jillian Vose: I just started working in a bar to make money. I wanted to do business management or finance originally. I got a job in a bar a lot of my friends were going to—I was too young to drink at the time. I worked at Four Peaks Brewery for five years, and I fell in love with it. I learned a really great work ethic and loved the rush of being busy and trying to be the best in my job. After five years it was time to move on, and I wanted something a little more challenging.
DC: Were you trained in bartending or mixology?
JV: I have a Sommelier Level 1 certificate and 5-day B.A.R. I studied Hotel and Restaurant Management at Northern Arizona University, and I’m still working on the degree. I don’t really recommend taking a bartending class. I keep up with things by reading on the internet.
DC: How do you develop your recipes?
JV: By understanding classic recipes and the quality of your ingredients and then building off of that. Take the classics, take things out, and replace or add new elements. Sometimes, if I need to fill gaps in the menu, I’ll look at my base spirits and the qualities of them and build from there. Sometimes I’ll really want to make something that’s grape-based and you think about what you have and what new products are on the market and what can I do with it.
DC: What ingredient or spirit do you feel is underappreciated or under utilized?
JV: That’s a tough question. There are so many products out there, and people are getting better about using fortified wines and Sherries. Maybe this is in newer places, but sugar is really important. Understanding the different kinds and the textures and flavors they offer—I think that’s something people really need to understand when they build drinks.
DC: What are some current trends you’ve seen in the cocktail market?
JV: I think people are still on the barrel-aged, making your own bitters thing. I feel pretty strongly that I would like to not see trends anymore. It’s really frustrating to see these programs do all these crazy things. And I want people to just learn to make good drinks. People need to understand what being a good bartender is and learn to make great drinks and not just be a crazy person.
DC: What's next? Where will we find you in five years?
JV: I definitely want to be at Death & Company for at least another two years, and I know what doors can open for me down the road. It’s hard to say if I want my own bar. I’ve thought about it and the people I want to work with, and the funding is something else to think about. Being 30 and running a bar and trying to have a family is kind of impossible. Not to say I couldn’t do it, but I want to be in a position where I can travel. It would be nice to do some kind of consulting and having part ownership of some things while staying creative and traveling.