Happy Hour with Tiffanie Barriere
If there were an award for smiling-est bartender in town, Tiffanie Barriere, a.k.a the Drinking Coach, would surely be a finalist. Barriere may be best known for her long stint seven and a half years running the award-winning drinks program at One Flew South, the restaurant/bar that literally set the bar for airport awesomeness. But to Atlanta's tight-knit bartender community, Barriere is like a friendly beacon of knowledge, always willing to share, always happy to lend a hand.
Barriere's first bartending gig was at LongHorn Steakhouse, in the days when it still had a hometown Atlanta vibe. She credits her five years there with instilling the service mentality that guides her work today. But starting in 2008, One Flew South put Barriere's name on the map, alongside chef Duane Nutter and mentor barman Jerry Slater. There, she served travelers from around the world, and tempted Atlantans to get to the airport just a little earlier to squeeze in a visit to the bar.
After helping Nutter plan for a new restaurant called Southern National in Mobile, Alabama, Barriere has done what many professionals are doing these days: gone solo. At least for the time being, she calls herself a freelance bartender, doing pop-ups, working with chefs, and continuing to inspire other Atlanta bartenders. She just announced a series of events in partnership with chefs Jennifer Hill Booker and Deborah VanTrece titled the Cast Iron Chronicles, meant to celebrate the work of African-American women in the industry. The launch event takes place at VanTrece's Twisted Soul Cookhouse on Mon., Dec. 4, offering an evening of cocktails and conversation on the topic.
Creative Loafing sat down with Barriere to get the scoop on life in the freelance bartending world plus a recipe for one of her favorite cocktails, the 357.
Most folks associate a bartender with their bar. Tell us about the idea of a being of a freelance bartender.
Bartenders are personalities, knowledge, energy. I like to think guests love the bartender as much as the bar. So freelancing to me is like what chefs call pop-ups. It's a chance to share who you are as a bartender, to show your style, confidence, ambition, and camaraderie in other environments. It keeps it saucy. I just did an intimate dinner at Studio No. 7 dedicated to hip-hop, showcasing iconic lyrics in hip-hop that mention food. And I have a pop-up with chef Deborah VanTrece from Twisted Soul coming up.
Would you say you have a certain style or bring a certain philosophy to your cocktail making?
I share a fun fact with every cocktail I serve. It's not arrogant or pushy it's just one-liners on the spirit, mixer, or history. It opens up conversation and, in my eyes, makes the drink taste better when you know a little more.
How has your positive vibe affected the way you interact with people from behind a bar?
Connecting over a drink is where it's at! Dialogue, smiles, and compliments are free to give folks. That's not personality, that's kindness and essential when you encounter people. Putting the drink in their hand is the easy part.
Is there anything that's got you down these days?
The obvious political crap, poor rap lyrics, the Grady Curve traffic on 75 South, and slushie machine cocktails.
Music is exciting! Expression and opinions are all over the place, and music helps to articulate that. My Spotify is a beast and full of musical mood swings. I could listen to Jay-Z, 2 Chainz, J Dilla, and Erykah Badu all day, every day, no particular order. Weird, I know. Their vibes, lyrics, and messages keep a smile on me.
What was the first time you tasted a cocktail?
Sipping my mom's drink as a kid, Crown Royal on ice! I had to be about 10.
First time you actually made a cocktail?
The founder of LongHorn Steakhouse taught me how to make a proper Old Fashioned when I was bartending there. Sugar, bitters, and bourbon. I though it was the best thing ever! The sugar matched the Angostura perfectly and was a game changer to my palate. The balance was everything, and I made them every day for guests. It was a signature show-off drink.
How does it feel now when you're in the airport? Do you still want to stop by the old stomping ground?
I left One Flew South in May of last year, and I miss the guests so much! You'd be surprised to know how many folks fly to work weekly. When I was there I sometimes took guests who missed their flights, or just wanted a night in Atlanta, to Clermont Lounge, concerts, dinner. A handful of my friends are regulars from One Flew South, and I've visited them in their cities and bars. Since I left, I've traveled a ton, but the flights have been really early or late, so I haven't had much of a chance to visit. I did stop in for the first time in late July. Some of the guests were still asking if I worked there. Bittersweet for sure.
What's your guilty pleasure drink?
Ros̩ is my jam because I can consume it anytime all the time. The French do it right, but the Spanish do it fun! Cynar and Chartreuse are my guilty pleasures, also. I don't keep them in the house because I can't keep my hands off of it.
Favorite drink to relax with?
Relax at home anything neat. Relax out anything the bartender wants to give me. When the bartender is confident, I'm relaxed.
"I've been enjoying tequila a lot in the past few months. This one is inspired by my love for Negronis, swapping the Campari for Cynar, and tequila for the gin. Noni's on Edgewood does it right for me every time I'm there. They call it the Barriere in the computer, but I call it 357 because that's Noni's address, and I love the odd number combo the ingredients involved are just as odd." - Tiffanie Barriere
1 ounce Avion Silver tequila (or similar)
.5 ounce Cynar
.5 ounce sweet vermouth
Combine all ingredients in large mixing glass over ice and stir until cold. Pour over fresh ice and garnish with orange peel.