“I tend to take an incredibly light-hearted approach to cocktail-making,” says Alex Jump. It’s not something you’d expect to hear from the bar manager of Death & Co. Denver, the first outpost of one of New York’s most influential and serious-minded cocktail bars. But for Jump, striking a balance between studiousness and whimsy has become something of a signature.
Originally from Chattanooga, Tennessee, Jump’s interest in bartending was, in her own words, “a slow burn.” At college, she majored in religion and minored in classics (or “Greek mythology, basically,” she jokes) and anything other than a future in academia seemed out of the question. “Pretty much my only option was to keep going to school and I just had always assumed that’s just what I would do,” she says.
But a brief stint working at a wine store while studying abroad in Florence, Italy, introduced her to the idea of exploring the drinks world professionally. Upon returning to Chattanooga she was adamant to at least learn how to bartend. “I started learning the craft and after my first shift bar backing I pretty much knew that’s what I wanted to do,” she says. “I love creating drinks—like, the physical act of bartending.”
She soon landed a bartending and managing position at Easy Bistro & Bar before moving to Denver two years ago. There, she picked up shifts at RiNo Yacht Club and the James Beard Award-winning restaurant, Mercantile, before officially signing her paperwork for Death & Co. in January of 2018. “I heard about three years ago that Death & Co. were thinking about opening a second location in Denver and so I moved out here with the hope of working for them,” she says.
Jump’s drinks at Death & Co. Denver, which offers a menu totally unique from its New York City counterpart, manage to find a middle way between abstract and approachable. “It can kind of be easy to fall into that highly conceptual [approach] that then no guests want to venture to try,” she says. But part of what enables Jump to find that balance is her universally relatable jumping off point: “I’m really inspired by food,” she says. Her Rescue Team, for example, channels the nostalgic flavors of a PB&J through peanut butter-washed rum and banana liqueur, while her Southern Nights was originally conceived of as a carrot cake cocktail. “I feel like my approach comes from just being able to not take it too seriously and be willing to try something weird, like cheese, in a drink.”
Here, get to know Alex Jump in four cocktails.
Originally conceived of as a carrot cake cocktail for the “Flip” section of the Death & Co. Denver menu, Jump ultimately cut the carrot element from the equation. “I worked on that drink for two months and it was terrible,” she jokes. “It never tasted like carrot cake.” Consisting of aquavit, Cognac, peanut-infused oloroso sherry, lemon and mascarpone cheese, and topped with crushed ice and peanut brittle, it still has a dessert-like quality. “I’m like an allergist’s nightmare, I love peanuts and peanut butter,” she says.
At Death & Co. Denver every section of the menu starts with a no-ABV and a low-ABV option. Neon Moon is a no-ABV recipe from the “Fizz” section, consisting of Seedlip Spice 94 and a syrup made with kaffir lime leaf, lemongrass and shiso, along with kefir whey and egg white. “It just kind of came out of my obsession of putting dairy and weird things in the drinks,” says Jump, adding, “it’s super fresh, not very heavy and bright.”
Inspired by the Fault Line, a cocktail from bartender Shannon Tebay at Death & Co. New York—which Jump describes as “arguably one of the best drinks Death & Co. has ever had on a menu”—her Another Country reads like a Boulevardier variation. A rye base marries equal parts J. Rieger Caffé Amaro and Cocchi Vermouth di Torino with a small measure of carrot eau de vie.
“I’ve always said this is the best cocktail I’ve ever created,” says Jump of her peanut butter Daiquiri, a drink she’s kept in her back pocket for years after first trying a version of the drink in Puerto Rico. “This is kind of like my 2.0 version,” she says. Peanut butter-infused rum is complemented by banana liqueur that’s then shaken with lime juice and cane syrup like a traditional Daiquiri. “It’s so pleasant; it kind of tastes like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
Illustration by Nick Hensley-Wagner.