Karen Fu | Beverage Director, Donna Cocktail Club

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Karen Fu is, without doubt, one of New York City’s top drink-makers. Originally taking up bartending after college as a means to support her writing (she studied English at Barnard), she went on to cut her teeth at some of the city’s top bars—first at PDT and then Prime Meats, The Happiest Hour, The NoMad and Llama Inn. Most recently, she’s brought her style and attention to detail to Brooklyn’s tiki-tropical-inspired Donna Cocktail Club, where she serves as beverage director. 

So, what does Fu like to do when she’s not drinking or drink-making? Here, she takes a stab at our Lookbook Questionnaire to talk about her first time getting drunk, the one thing she wishes would disappear from drink lists forever and the weirdest cocktail experiment she’s ever attempted.

Current occupation:
Beverage director at Donna Cocktail Club.

What do want to be when you grow up?
A modern-day renaissance woman, a writer and traveling journalist, physical therapist, recreational hip-hop dancer and Storm from X-Men with extra ability to teleport.

Best thing you ever drank:
Challenging to pinpoint because the superlative best is delightfully marred by time and place, experience and future tense of believing best has yet to come.  Recently, remembering first-time I ever drank from a porron, revisiting Hakushu 18 and a Suze-sicle: a Suze gimlet with lemon-lime cordial.

Worst thing you ever drank:
A blueberry-vodka shot on the last night of working at my first-ever restaurant. Can’t believe I regularly drank Scarlet O’Haras—cranberry and Southern Comfort—for sheer romanticism before palate’s wits finally came to their senses.

First time you ever got drunk:
Murky, trashy, dingy basement of West End during freshman college orientation in which I brutally ripped my new pinstripe corduroy pants dancing to Britney Spears. That’s pretty much all you need to know.

If you had to listen to one album on loop for the rest of your life, what would it be?
This question is like opening Pandora’s Box. Jamie XX In Colour, on repeat like a heartbeat; Bach Cello Suites by Pablo Casals; Patti Smith Horses.

What’s the weirdest hobby you currently have or have had?
Perfecting origami paper cranes nearly everyday after middle school at Aunt Hilly’s gift shop. As a tween, I collected “Got Milk?” ads as a that covered the entire span of a bedroom wall. Timed speed-typing tests while copying down my favorite poetry. Notes, notes everywhere: chicken scratches, illustrious, chaotic, even web-like flow charts on loose ends of paper and on the palm my hand.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago?
How equally important it is to be compassionate and forgiving to yourself as it is unto others—that self-equilibrium will get you through.

Weirdest cocktail experiment you’ve ever attempted:
A Calpico-kumquat-gin drink. My boss threw down some shade.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not eating, drinking or drink-making?
Bikram yoga, finding solace and discovery in a city after 14.5 years of inhabiting it, re-reading The Handmaid’s Tale and strategizing how to survive dystopia.

Weirdest drink request you’ve ever gotten:
A nonalcoholic olive-brine cocktail for a kid at a fine-dining omakase restaurant.

Your favorite bar, and why:
Grand Banks because it’s on a boat. 

Best meal you’ve ever had:
Birthday meal at Eleven Madison Park and my aunt’s congee in San Francisco outfitted with the most glorious teal 1,000-year-old egg. 

What’s your go-to drink in a cocktail bar?
Snaquiri, sherry or mezcal, neat, and unfamiliar spirits.

Wine bar?
Any wine from Jura, rosé from Basque country, something from the Canary Islands if they have it.

Dive bar?
Ferrari, or cider with a rye whiskey, neat.

Your preferred hangover recovery regime:
A streamy shower, endlessly flowing sparkling water, tea and ramen: cold or hot, pickled vegetables, sesame seeds, seaweed, scallion, shio, simmered egg and unadulterated spice to the face.

The one thing you wish would disappear from drink lists forever:
Housemade tincture.

The last text message you sent:
“? sounds like a strong contender for ‘whatever.'”

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