Meet Heather Minnick!
Heather is a bartender in St. Petersburg, Florida. As a child, she knew she wanted to be in the industry. As a kid, Heather would take orders from her family and serve them dinners her parents made. Even then, her mind wanted to concoct something. Heather played “potions” as a kid, where she used different containers and minerals.
“My first day on my first job as a hostess, I decided I would bartend one day, and I went after it as hard as I could.”
– Heather Minnick
Let’s take a look at what Heather does and how she came into the business.
Who has been most influential in your development as a bartender? A mentor, a parent, a fellow bartender, and why?
My family is incredibly supportive, and they always have been. Over the years, you meet a lot of people in the industry, and every so often, you meet a fellow bartender that shares that passion for me and with me. When you meet a co-worker that has that twinkle in their eye for a cocktail, you both push, inspire, and share insight on ideas together. Anyone & everyone along the way that has helped intensify that passion, for me, has been the most influential. Those people definitely know who they are.
Do you have any advice for novice/at-home bartenders?
My advice is always to learn the classics. In my experience, most things are a spin-off of a classic; if you understand the baseline rules, you can really go a long way with that, even if you don’t necessarily know a lot about other spirits. The classics are classic for a reason. Study them and build off of that.
What is your favorite ingredient right now, and why?
Lately, I have been all about mezcal. I find myself putting mezcal in a lot of things, and I’m okay with that. Just a little bit can change an entire cocktail.
How do you go about creating a new cocktail? Is there a specific process or simply a moment of inspiration?
I get inspired. It can come out of nowhere. It’s actually pretty nerdy and obsessive-but for me, it’s creative expression. I have a whole page of notes in my phone of just random things I think would be really good together or ideas that I want to try. It comes from anything. I have woken up at 3 a.m., rolled over, and added a note in my phone for a possible recipe. A lot of times, it comes from food. I watch a lot of cooking and food documentaries, and seeing all the ingredients that they use really gets my brain wheels turning. Once I have a baseline of what flavor I want, I like to research that thing and what might be good with it, and then I go to the bar and play with it.
Do you have a special technique you use or a tip for making a particular drink?
It’s all about balance. Just because you like or dislike an ingredient doesn’t mean another person doesn’t love it. If it’s for a bar guest, depending on who I’m making it for, I always like to survey the person a bit to see what they would prefer or not prefer. If they don’t know, ask them what they don’t like. They always know what they don’t want, so you can eliminate things quickly. Then I go from there and try to create the most well-balanced, likable drink for that particular person.
I read them a bit-if they seem really excited I’m going to try and give them a bit of a show. I like to light stuff on fire! If they are just interested in the cocktail itself, I enjoy going with a good classic based cocktail. But balance is key either way. Don’t be afraid to try things. Some of the best cocktails I’ve made came from me trying a random combination and going, “wow. Didn’t expect that to be good”. Again, it’s like cooking. Start with a base recipe, add things as needed, and taste along the way.
Where do you see the bartending/cocktail culture headed?
It’s only getting bigger and better, and I am here for it. This industry is something I have always loved so much, and it goes so much deeper than making drinks for people—the history behind it, the fact that there was once a time where people weren’t allowed to go sit at a bar. We’ve taken that passion and made it something really cool. An awesome cocktail could make or break the decision on where to spend your time and money. It’s become this awesome art form and it’s so cool to see what some of these bartenders all over the world are doing with their ideas. I see it only getting bigger. And hopefully, more people will be more appreciative of the craft and love it just as much as we do. We are essential!
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