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Interview with Jackie Patterson-Brenner

jackie-brennerJackie Patterson-Brenner left the shores of Hawaii for San Francisco over a decade ago to study at the San Francisco Art Institute. Like many art students, she gravitated toward the hospitality industry as way to support herself during her studies, and by the time she graduated, she was winning bartending competitions and shaping the emerging craft cocktail culture with memorable drinks like her Celery Gimlet. She’s currently the director of marketing for Back Bar Project, a U.S. importer of spirits including Giffard liqueur, Bigallet liqueurs, Nuestra Soledad and El Jolgorio Mezcal, and Sotol Por Siempre. Patterson-Brenner sat down with Joshua Harris of The Bon Vivants (and Pig & Punch) recently to chat about cocktails, the industry and what she’s up to when she’s not punching the clock.


Josh Harris: Back Bar has been a big supporter of Pig & Punch. What is it about Pig & Punch, particularly with it being a start-up, that makes you want to be involved?
Jackie Patterson-Brenner: First and foremost, it makes sense for us because it’s about serving other people. The other part of it is that there are no other events that have the hearts of the movers and shakers in our industry. Everyone loves to go to Pig & Punch and Swig n’ Swine. It has the feeling of a good time with your friends, and that kind of attitude is something we cultivate in our company. We are just one ingredient in a bunch of different punches, but at the same time we make the punch, and we’re in the punch with all of our friends.


JH: What’s your go-to drink?
JBP: I’m not going to lie—I’ve become a white wine spritzer drinker. I’m such an old lady these days! I like low-alcohol aperitif-style drinks, which is great for Giffard because we bring 17 flavors into the United States. They make 70 in France. I find myself often going back to a really simple model of what we call a French soda. Any of the Giffard crèmes work in this cocktail perfectly, but the Pamplemousse Rose is my favorite. Take an ounce of that and mix it with three ounces of chilled soda water over ice—it’s so good, you can’t stop at just one!


JH: When you can truly detach from your work, what do you like to do?
JBP: My latest passion is natural perfume making. The summer I got engaged in Paris, I bought a book called Diary of a Nose by Jean-Claude Ellena, who is the exclusive perfumer for Hermès. It’s his diary about his process for creating new fragrances, and it sounded so much like the way I approach a new cocktail. I have always been fascinated with scent, and my nose, by far, has been my strongest sense. I love the history of it, the magic involved and the ritual of fragrance.


JH: What’s your favorite fancy restaurant?
JBP: It’s funny, I used to be really into fine dining since I thought it was the end-all be-all of the culinary world, but the more I had super high-end fancy-pansy food, the more I was like, “I can’t eat this.” It was just too rich, too intense and too far away from what the original ingredients were. That being said, my favorite experience with super fine dining was at Atelier Crenn in San Francisco. Dominique Crenn, the chef/owner, is an amazing female chef doing creative things.


JH: And your top dive/casual restaurant?
JBP: I love the el pastor tacos at the El Tonayense taco cart in San Francisco. I dream about those tacos.


JH: Tell me about your not-to-be-missed travel destination.
JBP: This secret beach outside of Tulum in Mexico. It’s just a turnoff on a dirt road just north of Tulum. You drive all the way down the dirt road, then go through a guard gate, past private houses and a couple of hotels, to a fallen down shack where there is a giant fryer over an open fire, cold beers, and the best ceviche I’ve ever had in my life. There are plastic tables and chairs, hammocks and the most beautiful beach in the whole world. I want to go to there right now.


JH: What makes Giffard special to you?
JBP: Beyond anything else, it’s the liquid itself. Everything has a cool story and beautiful people behind it, but more than anything the liqueurs taste better than anything I’ve ever had in those categories. There doesn’t need to be any bullshit story or marketing spin. It’s just the best.


French Soda
3 oz. dry white wine
1 oz. Giffard crème of choice
3 oz. chilled soda water
Tools: barspoon
Glass: highball


Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled glass and stir.

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