This story is published in partnership with Bacardi’s Spirit Forward Women in Leadership series, an annual summit dedicated to championing the spirits trade community and accelerating the advancement of women. For more information, and to find out how you can attend the program’s five-city tour, click here.
One of the the good things to come out of the 2008 recession was Pam Wiznitzer, president of the United States Bartender Guild and owner of Seamstress, a cocktail bar on New York City’s Upper East Side. After getting laid off from her corporate marketing job in the downturn, she picked up an undesirable day shift at a sports bar in Murray Hill, where she built her own clientele, slung muddled mango-chile-tequila concoctions and key lime pie Martinis—and made more money than she ever had before.
Out of a need to legitimize her craft and prove to her parents that she wasn’t wasting her time, Wiznitzer studied YouTube videos on mixing techniques, joined the USBG and got a master’s in NYU’s food studies program. All the while, she climbed the bartending ladder, eventually joining the opening team at The Dead Rabbit, where she received an education in making good drinks quickly.
From the sports bar to Seamstress, she’s always catered to her guests’ tastes first. “I would never make a drink that a customer wouldn’t want a second round of,” she says. “I understand the idea of fringe cocktails, but I want to put things on the menu that taste good. And maybe you’ll want two.”
“Every menu needs something brown, boozy and stirred. This was the last cocktail I put on Seamstress’s menu, and it’s still the number one-selling cocktail today. I wanted to do a Manhattan variation that included Barrow’s Intense Ginger Liqueur and play on the idea of spice. So I worked in rye and chai-infused Martini & Rossi vermouth…I named it after the pigs Mauve and Mortimer that were at Whistlepig at the time. We’ve moved on to using other ryes, but the name has stayed the same.”
“This is the second best-selling drink at Seamstress. I put it on at a time when I was so done with every mezcal drink I had in the city. They were all spicy, or had a vegetable in them or were just a variation on a Margarita. I wanted a cocktail that I could drink on the beach in the tropics. So I used fresh lime and pineapple, a lemon grass syrup, coconut liqueur and Aperol, which I have an ungodly love for. It’s finished with Ilegal mezcal. It’s popular with our regulars, including one guy who comes on every single Tinder date and orders two. It’s named after Café No Sé in Antigua, where Ilegal got its start.”
“This cocktail is completely narcissistic. I wanted to put everything in a cocktail that I like to drink. It’s no secret that I love heavy cream cocktails; I’m unashamed to admit I had a Ramos at lunch yesterday. This is like a root beer float on crack. The base is Aviation gin, which I use for its sarsaparilla flavor. There’s Cynar for bitterness, lemon for acidity, vanilla syrup, egg white and heavy cream. Instead of using soda, it gets a root beer topper. And I’ve got a secret technique that creates a heavy, creamy head in two minutes.”