If you ever have a job that needs doing, forget Task Rabbit — Fresh Kills bartender Lauren McLaughlin is your girl. She was so intent in finding a bar job during her freshman year of college that she dropped off resumes at every restaurant, bar, and nightclub in Boston. But don’t let the wide net throw you — she wasn’t about to take just any old job. “I was looking for bartending shifts only,” she says. “Finally one place called, and I quickly found how tightly knit the service industry is.” She entered NYC’s real deal cocktail scene in 2010 when she got a gig at Lantern’s Keep, and nowadays she’s behind the bar at Fresh Kills, the hippest newcomer to Williamsburg from the team behind LIC’s Dutch Kills. Here, the Pennsylvania native shares three key traits to cocktail slinging in this city, where she’s heading in the wee hours, and why she is all about this craft everyday.
BoozeMenus: What are three of the most important traits to possess as a bartender in NYC today?
Lauren McLaughlin: Resourcefulness. Patience. Creativity.
BM: What was the last lesson you learned in this industry, and who did you learn it from?
LM: To focus on yourself and what you are passionate about. Dinah Peña, longtime best buddy and industry workhorse.
BM: How would you describe the cocktails offered at Fresh Kills Bar?
LM: Focused. Richard Boccato, who is steering our ship over there, dug deep and adapted some really awesome and overlooked classic cocktails. We aim to let our technique speak for itself. We make gorgeous, tasty drinks and I'm continuously inspired by our staff.
BM: Which cocktail on the menu do you most resonate with personally?
LM: The Inimitable Cocktail. It’s incredibly simple. It really shouldn't be so darn good, but it just is. It also is the perfect shade of pale pink.
BM: What's your favorite story behind one of the cocktails on the menu now?
LM: The United Service Punch. We really had to work together to get it where we wanted it. I’m really proud of how weird and tasty it is.
BM: What has surprised you most during your time at the bar?
LM: Fresh Kills is located in Williamsburg, which just like any section of the city, has a reputation one way or the other. I'm surprised and delighted that everyone has been really nice and excited about our drinks.
BM: Where do you find inspiration for your work?
LM: Trying classic drinks, as well as new creations of my co-workers’. When we are working on adapting a weird classic, or creating a contemporary riff on something, it’s really great to have knowledgeable people to bounce ideas off of, now matter how out of the box they may be.
BM: What ingredient(s) or cocktails are you working on right now?
LM: I’m really excited to be able to possibly contribute to our summer menu. The idea of something summery is pretty played out, so it'll be fun to try to create something light but interesting.
BM: If you could enforce one house rule at the bar, what would it be?
LM: "No hooting, hollering, shouting or other loud behavior." It’s just distracting for everyone. Thank you so much for reminding the whole room how much fun you are having. Congratulations.
BM: Why do you bartend?
LM: It’s a physical craft that is difficult using the technique that we use. I have a lot of pride in that. I also enjoy the history behind the American classic cocktail culture, in general.
BM: Where can you be found post-shift, and what are you drinking?
LM: Usually just a glass of red post shift, but if I get out on a night off, I really love going to Dear Irving.
By Nicole Schnitzler
(Photos from left: Interior: Lauren McLaughlin; Cocktail)