- interview by Sara Gorelick
If you are venturing into the Washington DC area and desire a fantastic cocktail, take the time to visit Chantal Tseng at the Tabard Inn, 1739 N St. N.W. (www.tabardinn.com). Chantal is the head mixologist/bartender at the historic Tabard Inn, one of Washington DC's oldest hotels, which was built in the late 1800s.
Chantal designs her cocktail menu by working with the restaurant's chef and pastry chef to coordinate pairing specialty house-made ingredients, and emphasizes the importance of aromatics and textures in cocktails. She especially likes utilizing fino and amontillado sherries, various amaros, fresh herbs and loose leaf tea in her drinks, although her favorite cocktail and ingredients are ever changing. "We try as best as we can to keep the place 'green' and source many of our herb ingredients on various roof top and patio gardens during the warmer months," Chantal said. "Always fresh ingredients and jiggers and measuring are essential."
Chantal's signature cocktail is the Tabard Cocktail, which she describes as "a little savory, a little sweet, full of flavor and unexpected deliciousness."
Stir all ingredients in chilled bar glass, strain into cocktail glass. Cut circular orange peel and lightly squeeze oils on top of drink then float upside down. Place sprig of fresh thyme on peel like a lily pad.
Chantal began her bartending career at XandO coffee house in Capitol Hill, where she waited tables. One night the staff was short a bartender, and she stepped in and was able to fulfill requests for standard drinks. She learned basic recipes, as well as how to use coffee for drinks, which proved an important role in her career. Discovering her niche, Chantal began bartending fulltime and said it has gotten more and more rewarding as a profession.
Nowadays, Chantal calls the Tabard bar an ideal place to work for the non-club bartender. "The hours aren't super late, and the clientele is fascinating with an avid regular crew of guests traveling from all over the country," she said. "It is a home away from home, literally, for a pretty large population of everyday people." She also loves the fact that some of the seasonal herbs that she uses in her drink recipes come from the Tabard's own gardens. "We are a collaborative bar and kitchen, and I learn a lot of techniques in making syrups, purees and other skills from them," she said.
Chantal has spent the last eight years bartending in the D.C. area. She is a Bar Ready graduate of the B.A.R. program, a Certified Sommelier via the Court of Master Sommeliers. She is also a founding member of the D.C. Craft Bartenders Guild and serves on the board as acting Secretary. Chantal keeps ideas fresh using her personal cocktail book collection, changing her recipes up at the Tabard where her shifts are on Wednesday and Thursday nights, and Sunday brunch.
Sara Gorelick keeps a pen on hand at all times to write down ideas, cocktail recipes and innovative tips from top bartenders around the globe. She is a cocktail enthusiast who found a match to her MA in journalism writing about spirits and bartenders on BarNone and Examiner.com . By day, Sara is a spirits publicist in Manhattan at Colangelo & Partners and at night enjoys shaking a beverage or two for family and friends.