Our Mixologist of the Month isÂ Jacyara de Oliveira, bar manager at Sportman’s Club in Chicago. Â Here’s our interview.
I spent some time traveling in Brazil around the age of 19. My father is from Belo Horizonte and his entire family lives in Brazil. I realized that while I had visited, I’d never spent much time there. I helped out my boyfriend at the time by working in the little bar/music venue that he and some mutual friends ran. I sold cigarettes and beers and cachaca and had a ball! When I moved back to the US, I got a job in the field as a hostess at a new opening. It wasn’t long after that my brother clued me in to a position at one of the best cocktail bars in the city, the Drawing Room. I started as a barback under Charles Joly, Cristiana Delucca, Sergio Serna, and Tim Lacey.
2. What compelled you to become a bartender?
I was good at it? Haha! I’m not sure that I was compelled to become a bartender. I fell in love with it after working within the field for some time. I find a certain comfort and confidence in bartending that is not incredibly common in life. A creative outlet and a means of using my hands daily were huge draws as well.
3. What differentiates Sportsman’s Club from other bars?
There are several reasons why Sportsman’s Club is special amongst the sea of bars in our world. Sportsman’s sits somewhere squarely between a neighborhood corner bar and a cocktail lounge. We have a pretty funky and interesting collection of beers and spirits and hopefully something for everyone. The main difference between SC and the rest of the community is the way we structure our cocktail program. We make four different drinks each day and list them on a push board by ingredient as opposed to naming them. The barstaff is made up of mostly part time professionals who just happen to be some of the very best bartenders in the city. On any given night you can walk into the bar and see an industry pro who has his or her special history and knowledge base. We share with one another as well as with our guests and build, what I think, is one of the richest bars in the industry.
4. Why do you think rum is enjoying such a renaissance?
Rum is made from sugar. People like sugar. It may be slightly more complex than that, but in my experience it is one of the safest choices as a base spirit in a cocktail. Cocktails made with rum can be as approachable as need be due to its richness and softening effect. On the other hand, rum cocktails can be exceedingly complex and challenging when you know how to mix them. Rum’s wide range allows you to tailor a cocktail to the specific needs of the guest while maintaining the standards of your personal bar program.
5. If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have one drink, what would it be and why?
Hahaha, there are few things sweeter on an island than a Caipirinha. The Brazilian variation on a Daiquiri; the spirit used is similar to that of rhum agricole in that is made from fresh sugar cane juice as opposed to molasses. A few muddled lime wedges, sugar, and crushed ice make for one of the most delicious concoctions you’ve ever tasted, especially when you’re sitting on a beach.
6. What’s a great easy rum drink that people can make at home?
I stand wholeheartedly behind the Daiquiri as the “at home” cocktail. Keeping simple syrup (1:1 sugar to water) in your fridge is perfect for making cocktails like this (and for adding to iced coffee and the like.) Here’s my go to recipe at the bar:
2 oz Denizen white
.75 oz lime juice
.75 oz simple syrup
Shake hard and strain into a cocktail glass.
If you’ve been told a million and one times how to make a Daiquiri however, try this: substitute rum into your favorite whiskey cocktails and see what happens. A Manhattan made with Merchant’s Reserve? Delicious.
7. Who’s the most liberated spirit you know (past or present)? Who lives life the most freely?
I’m inspired by people who live not only for themselves but also for others. That’s the trouble with free spirits! They tend to act without thought of consequence- for better or worse. My mother is the most balanced woman I know. She is an artist and teacher. She is hysterically funny- loves travel and experience and exploration, but she is also committed to building a better life for her family and friends. I want to be like her when I grow up!