Measure Lounge’s Sarah Karakaian has a love for the hospitality industry that is nothing short of all encompassing. The Texas native grew up in Pennsylvania and worked at McDonald’s and Dairy Queen throughout high school — and enjoyed every second of it (her enthusiasm was apparent enough to land her on a regional billboard). “I loved the restaurant industry — interacting with people is something I love,” she says. She pursued her musical theatre dreams at Kent State, where she bartended on the side. She carried that formula with her to NYC, where she’s been living and bartending between gigs for 10 years. At Measure Lounge at the Langham Place, her classics meets originals drinks list, mixed with her outgoing by nature attitude, are a surefire bet for a fun night. Here, Karakaian shares her last memorable drinking experience, the hotel bar she must visit for cocktails, and where she finds inspiration.
BoozeMenus: Which drink on the menu has your style written all over it?
Sarah Karakaian: Most recently I created the Sunnyside Up. I have had a long time affair with Tequila, and I love drinks that are creamy in texture. This sneaky little cocktail boasts a delicious marriage of fresh egg whites, Don Julio Blanco Tequila, fresh lemon juice, and a dash of Pavan. It's a fun way to mix up your margarita cravings!
BM: What should every cocktail have, and what should every drinks list have?
SK: Like a good cocktail, every drinks list should be well balanced in taste and variety. A drinks list should also have an identity—a story to tell. What is our bar all about? What is our passion?
BM: Any cool stories behind any of the drinks?
SK: We pride ourselves in creating variations on the classics. Have a fun twist on the negroni? Great! Want to spice up an old fashioned? We're all for it.
BM: Can you tell us a bit about the "Meet Our Bartenders" section of the menu? What does this mean, and what inspired it?
SK: "Meet Our Bartenders" has been a part of our menu for years now. Our bartenders are very passionate about creating and sharing with our guests, so much so that guests started to ask for these carefully crafted custom cocktails more often than ordering off the menu. To accommodate our guests, we started the "Meet Our Bartenders" menu. Guests often ask, “which bartender made it and why?” Oftentimes it was inspired by a guest—this makes them feel special and come back for more. Our 'Liquid Kitchen' was brought to us by a guest manager from another property. It's all about encouraging creativity and participation.
BM: What was the last ingredient or technique you've learned about and incorporated behind the bar?
SK: Right now we're having a lot of fun creating house tonics. It started off by recreating popular recipes, but now we're starting to get creative and trying to come up with something unique to our bar.
BM: What was your last memorable drinking experience? What made it so?
SK: A girlfriend of mine just booked a great job, and there is nothing better than celebrating over a fantastic bottle of Champagne. The bubbles, the cheese plate, and the friendly bar staff made the evening very special.
BM: What have you learned through working in a hotel bar versus a standalone spot?
SK: Working in a hotel bar has brought my service skills to a new level. Balancing five-star service with my passion for being approachable and friendly has helped curate a long and loyal list of fantastic regulars. I've also finessed my abilities to win over persnickety patrons because of the intense training received while working at a luxury hotel.
BM: What's someplace in the world you'd love to travel to for the drinking experience or culture?
SK: Hands down Artesian at The Langham, London. I've had the opportunity to meet and work alongside Alex Kratena, but I'd love to sit down at that award-winning bar and try one of their theatrical cocktails. Not to mention, I've never been to London!
BM: What was the very first recipe you learned as a bartender -- and what was the most recent one?
SK: My first experience behind the bar was at a popular waterfront bar back in Pennsylvania, so naturally I got very good at making pina coladas! Most recently, one of our bartenders has been having fun with negroni variations in honor of negroni week. His cocktails are so good that I've been making sure I know them by heart, so I can always suggest them to my die-hard negroni regulars!
BM: Where do you find inspiration?
SK: I love collaborating. I find inspiration when working alongside my talented colleagues. I find inspiration with fresh foods that are in season. I find inspiration from my guests who love challenging me to create something unique for them!
By Nicole Schnitzler
(Photos From Left: Measure Lounge Interior courtesy of Langham Place; Sarah Karakaian courtesy of Langham Place; Spring Cocktail by Eric Vitale)