2017 Los Angeles Rising Star Bartender Chris Amirault of Otium

2017 Los Angeles Rising Star Bartender Chris Amirault of Otium
April 2017

Otium
222 S Hope Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
otiumla.com

Photos

Chris Amirault grew up in Boston and made his way to Los Angeles with a theatre degree in hand. Soon, the hospitality industry reeled him in instead. He started as a barback at Fresh before snagging a bartending gig and finding his way to Julian Cox’s training program. 

Next, Amirault worked for Rising Stars alum Kiowa Bryant at Eveleigh, where he learned to work with seasonal, fresh ingredients. In 2014, Amirault opened West Hollywood cocktail bar Harlowe, where his cocktails and talent started to gain recognition. His work at Harlowe earned Amirault inclusion on Zagat’s “30 Under 30” list and led to consulting gigs at Clifton’s Cafeteria and The Corner Door. After Cox departed from The Fiscal Agent, Amirault took over as beverage director. A mentee had stepped into his mentor’s shoes. Active on the competition circuit, he won L.A.’s Espolòn Cocktail Fights in 2015 and Ti’Punch Cup USA in 2016.

The Fiscal Agent happened to sit right above Chef Tim Hollingsworth’s barbecue concept, Barrel, and Ashes. And when the time came to open Hollingworth’s downtown L.A. stunner, Otium, Amirault joined him as bar manager. At Otium, Amirault works with the kitchen to build a whimsical, culinary-driven cocktail list—with a touch of drama held over from his acting day.



Interview with L.A. Rising Star Bartender Chris Amirault of Otium

Caroline Hatchett: How did you get your start?
Chris Amirault:
I worked as a barback at Fresh, which is now a public school kitchen in Culver City. In its day, it was a good restaurant. I applied to be a barback, then they had a bartender opening, and I lied my way into it. That’s when I went through Julian Cox’s [six week bartending  boot camp]. 

CH: Who's your mentor?
CA:
I’ve had a lot. My most recent is Michael Neff. I worked with him opening Clifton’s. I guess the reason I say I have multiple mentors is that I’m a firm believer in having multiple parts to your utility belt, you take the pieces you find that ring most true to you. Julian Cox was my first mentor, then Josh Goldman, they’re all different parts [of my utility belt]. That’s the exciting part of bartending in L.A. 

CH: How are you involved in the local culinary community?
CA:
Our community is the most supportive bartending community in the world. I’ve taken a small step back from competing to get my young bartenders involved in competitions: going out and training, taking all those fun steps, the networking, fun nights at Harvard and Stone… It’s a Necessary part to being a young bartender in this city. Making sure my staff is staying involved is important; making sure they’re part of the community, that’s how we grow. 

CH: What's the biggest challenge facing your restaurant? 
CA:
Balancing creativity with what guests want. We’re in a cool time in L.A., when most people are open to more advanced F&B. Some people are not as familiar with the stuff we do, so we find a happy balance between making sure work doesn’t become minutiae, and search for different techniques and textures so we’re here for our guests. The scale is never perfect. Balance is the most vital thing—guests still have to come first. If it’s too heady and doesn’t make sense, it might not be the right moment or venue for that. 
 
CH: What's your five year plan? 
CA:
Funny how things change. I still have a concept that would work for the East side. I haven’t abandoned that idea. But taking on a larger role with this company is my goal. This is Tim Hollingsworth’s second project in L.A. The idea of being a beverage director for a few spots and surrounding myself with people who are like minded, business-wise and creatively, appeals to me. Here, [at Otium] we share a philosophy in how we see food and hospitality. I want to see where that journey goes; it’s important to have a good team. 

CH: How often do you change the cocktail menu? 
CA:
We did a roll-out in January, rolled out 10 or 11 drinks. We also try to make changes semi-seasonally, just change those couple of cocktails, whenever we see fit. We’ll change the Pina Colada soon; for summer we’ll do Passionfruit Colada. As part of the next menu, we’ll start to push our purveyors to the next level. We did a Bellini with peach blossoms and leaves—the leaves taste like almonds. I’m always looking for different farms and going on the walks, finding wild fruits and things like currant leaves.