Lauren Corriveau’s path to becoming the head bartender at New York’s Nitecap was, as she puts it, a “strange journey.”
Prior to her current role at the lauded Lower East Side cocktail bar, the Finger Lakes-area native got her degree in fashion, working in interior design and at a luxury jewelry company; held stints as a cocktail waitress in Brooklyn Heights and a bartender at an Upper East Side sports bar; and helped open Williamsburg’s Battery Harris, before becoming known for her playful drinks at Donna. Along the way, she picked up high-volume drink-making skills and got certified by a bartending training class (a loophole she took advantage of so she could work behind the bar before turning 21), where she learned how to make “crazy ’90s cocktails—all of the good, trashy stuff.”
But in spite of several years behind the stick, it wasn’t until recently that she considered bartending a career option. “If I ever felt overwhelmed by my career path, I knew I could always bartend to make money while I figured my life out,” she says. She was still working in jewelry when she was tapped to open Battery Harris—and it was there she became invested in the idea of opening a new space and vocal with her ideas and opinions about the bar.
It was also around that time she discovered Natasha David through Instagram. “She basically represented this idea of what I would have always seen myself as in this industry.” That admiration of David (her “personal Beyoncé”) has since served as her North Star.
At Donna, Corriveau continued her path of self-teaching through exposure to the bar’s extensive spirits selection and nightly face-time with cocktail-savvy guests. It was also at Donna that Corriveau met David’s now-husband, Jeremy Oertel. Soon after she asked Oertel if there were any female bartenders at Nitecap, Corriveau received an email from David asking to meet—and then the offer of a full-time role there.
When her fashion colleagues couldn’t understand why she was leaving a great opportunity to work at a bar full-time, she broke it down for them as follows: “The Beyoncé of bartending has summoned me, and I have to go.”
Lauren Corriveau Makes the Crystal Visions Cocktail
Corriveau’s time at Nitecap has honed her love of low-ABV cocktails that “help you let a little loose, while never passing that line where you’ve had too much,” as she puts it. David’s approach to bartending and hospitality also continues to inspire, in particular, her willingness to dive in and be on the front line. And even as Nitecap remains a popular destination for celebrated bartenders and chefs post-shift, Corriveau has no desire to be a “star-tender.” As David regularly reminds her, “At the end of the day, it’s just a bar.”
So, what does Corriveau do when she’s outside Nitecap? Here, she takes our Lookbook Questionnaire to share her weirdest hobby, the best meal she’s ever had, the one thing she wishes would disappear from drink menus and expert tips on how to drink like the French, plus the recipe for her aperitif cocktail, Crystal Visions.
Head Bartender at Nitecap.
What do want to be when you grow up?
A Creative Director—a curator of magical, intimate experiences where I get to obsess over tiny details, sensory stimulation and little unexpected surprises for our guests.
What does “drinking French fluently” mean to you?
To me, “drinking French fluently” means slowing down to experience and celebrate life. Making everything with fresh, local ingredients, taking the time to come together and enjoy the day, most likely over a long meal.
Tell us about your drink and why it’s a good aperitif.
Crystal Visions is a play on all of the attributes that I personally look for in a white wine. It’s dry, crisp, vegetal and refreshing. You could drink a bottomless glass, or be in no rush to finish it at all. And obviously, bubbles make everything better.
I chose St-Germain to really highlight the natural floral elements of the profile. A lot of people expect it to be to be this candy-sweet, syrupy liqueur, but instead it’s pleasantly juicy and tart, with a dry finish—which makes it very valuable in light refreshers.
How do you define the aperitif?
A light, low-ABV beverage meant to stimulate the palate and prepare you for the evening ahead.
How do you approach creating an aperitif-style drink?
Like most of my cocktail creations, my approach starts with a feeling. I like to imagine a time and place and an emotion, then define a flavor profile that will transport you there.
What do you most like about French culture?
The unrelenting celebration of life and its most fulfilling offerings—all of the romance that comes with losing oneself in time and space.
Best thing you ever drank:
Any shift drink.
Weirdest cocktail experiment you’ve ever attempted:
I try to stay reasonable, within the boundaries of what my guests will actually want to drink/be brave enough to pay for. That said, I’m most proud when my favorite bartenders can tell which drinks are mine based on the unorthodox profiles.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not behind the bar?
Enjoying my peaceful Greenpoint neighborhood: riding my bike or wandering the side streets to admire the historic architecture, finding solace at the Transmitter Park waterfront during the week when no one is around.
If you had to listen to one album on loop for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Jungle by Jungle. They just really hit the mark on modern funk. That album curbs my unrelenting complaint that they just don’t make music like they used to.
What’s the weirdest hobby you currently have or have had?
I love crafting and grew up in a very thrifty household—so I’m always convinced that I can make something myself, on the cheap. Lately, I’ve been learning different knot techniques to make macramé wall and plant hangings.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago?
Trust your gut. Invest in stimulating conversations. Don’t waste your time surrounded by people who don’t absolutely appreciate and inspire you.
Your favorite bar, and why:
Departamento in Mexico City. It’s designed to look like an apartment, with different rooms all detailed in such a convincing way. They’ve got great drinks and host amazing DJs that turn it into a dance party. Just knowing that people can exist in a space like that, to allow themselves to be transported within such an everyday environment is really something special.
Best meal you’ve ever had:
Modern Love in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I’m a vegetarian/aspiring vegan, with a real-life gluten allergy—so it’s rare that I get to really indulge in culinary experiences.
What’s your go-to drink in a cocktail bar?
I think it’s important to celebrate all of the hard work and creativity that goes on behind the scenes, so I always order something on the menu—typically the oddest combination of flavors. If the bar doesn’t have a menu it’s often an Americano, 50/50 Martini or just a glass of sherry.
Campari and soda, a dry cider or a glass of whiskey neat (if I don’t trust their ice).
The one thing you wish would disappear from drink lists forever:
Obnoxious lists of ingredients unrecognizable to the average guest. A little mystique to open conversation and trust on both sides of the bar is healthy for us all, but if you look at a menu and feel like you’re reading a foreign language, you’ll never feel safe to fully indulge.
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