In June 2016, Amanda Smeltz took over the wine program at New York’s Bar Boulud and Boulud Sud, filling the shoes of longtime sommelier Michael Madrigale. There, not only did she set out to make subtle tweaks to the list, introducing a wider selection of domestic wines, she also began wearing a suit to work—something that wasn’t exactly par for the course during her previous tenure.
For five years prior, as wine director at Roberta’s (and later, at Blanca), Smeltz made a name for herself by creating one of the city’s most unexpected drink lists. Emphasizing accessibility and affordability, she focused not only on natural bottlings but on under-appreciated regions and styles, offering a wide selection of sherry, cider and orange wine. Open and unfussy, she’s bringing her attitude to New York’s Upper West Side despite a notably different clientele, not to mention dress code.
So how does this sommelier like to spend her days off? And what’s her most despised drink request? Here, Smeltz (who moonlights as a poet, by the way) lays out her answers to our Lookbook Questionnaire to share her Game of Thrones-inspired aspirations, go-to hangover recovery regime and the best thing she’s ever drank.
Sommelier. That’s for money. Poet. That’s for health.
What do want to be when you grow up?
The King of the North.
Best thing you ever drank:
At last year’s Rieslingfeier, which is a big white wine party for the dorkiest wine dorks in all the land, one of my very favorite producers brought a Very Rare Bottle. It was Weiser-Künstler’s only beerenauslese they’ve yet produced, from 2005, their first vintage. The wine was composed of prism and gossamer and triumphant angel things. Pure synesthesia. It was one bottle of only three they had remaining in their cellar.
Worst thing you ever drank:
Traveling in Sicily this past spring, a certain Master Sommelier who won’t be named put me up to drinking out of the full dump glass at a large dinner. I was real inebriated but still was like, “Well heck no I’m not doing that!” and then he was like, “I’ll do it if you do it,” which, disturbingly, always seems to work.
First time you ever got drunk:
I actually don’t remember. But one of the worst earliest occasions was in college during my bf’s 21st birthday. It was like we were in a horrible race for who should get blotto first. I drank most of a bottle of Absolut Vanilla out of spite.
If you had to listen to one album on loop for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Either the full recording of Bach’s cello suites or Ready to Die.
What’s the weirdest hobby you currently have or have had?
You wanna know about the boring hatha yoga stuff or the New Nintendo 3DS XL Galaxy edition I just bought?
What do you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago?
That therapy is helpful and to get my wisdom teeth out before my thirties.
Weirdest cocktail experiment you’ve ever attempted:
Fernet and rosé magnums at a staff holiday party.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not eating, drinking or drink-making?
Flipping out over puppies at the dog park. Imagining my future as a gentleman pirate sailor.
Weirdest drink request you’ve ever gotten:
“I want a BIG YUGE RED WINE that’s DRY, dry, but fruity and pinot noir and not too tart. But DRY.” (This is not “weird.” It’s like every day.)
Your favorite bar, and why:
For nice drinking: The Up & Up, Dirty Precious, Attaboy—great drinks but unpretentious. For normal drinking: Pearl’s Social & Billy Club, The Rusty Knot, The Three Diamond Door—the right amount of scuzzy.
Best meal you’ve ever had:
It’s hard to pick one. But once I was in Peru and had a lovely family make me and companions whole chicken and yuca roasted in their backyard brick oven, and I still think it was the best chicken I’ve ever had.
In a wine bar?
Riesling, sparkling wine, sherry. Often in that order.
In a dive bar?
Clear liquor and soda. It’s called a Salad.
Your preferred hangover recovery regime:
If I can move, Shake Shack. If I can’t, Diet Coke, coffee, chips.
The one thing you wish would disappear from drink lists forever:
Industrially-produced, chemically-blasted wines. (Which is absurd given my above response.)
The last text message you sent:
“My dude between this text and your Saturnalia post I am a HUGE fan of whatever mystery science garbage turn your day has taken”