Midwest native and former professional baker, Bek Allen, spent a year training at the much-applaunded Pegu Club in NYC before trekking out to San Diego, where she was part of the original team that put together the cocktail program for Hotel Palomar's Saltbox. Allen next consulted for Little Italy's Sora, where she created a custom bar menu that reflected the restaurant's Japanese and Italian influences. She was recently nabbed by Chaplos, which opened in Cortez Hill last fall, to lend her considerable skills to a reinvention of their bar list; find her behind the restaurant's 1920's era vintage bar every night except Tuesdays and Sundays.
What's your favorite drink on(or off) your menu right now and why?
A Rum Old Fashioned; it's not currently on our menu but when I meet a guest who is up for something off the menu I like to serve them this. I add a dash of orange bitters to spice it up along with the Angostura Bitters. I like it because I have a sweet tooth and I love to have one at the end of a meal for dessert or at the end of my shift.
Where do you like to drink or eat when you're not working?
Sarah Ellis does a great job at Jayne's Gastropub mixing up the Watermelon Rum Fix and Pimm's Cup. I love how she keeps her menu light and refreshing. She makes wonderful drinks that are classics or have classic undertones that highlight her cocktail personality. Every time I go into Jayne's, I find myself trying something new, that's how much confidence I have in her talent.
Brooklyn Girl is my go-to for an amazing Vietnamese banh mi. It reminds me of working back in Brooklyn!
Is there anything that you're "over", in terms of played-out bar trends or cocktail ingredients?
This cocktail market is still emerging and people are truly creative here, so I haven't found anything that I'm over yet but I do find that many restaurants feature cocktail lists made up of appletinis and cosmopolitans, and simple additions and subtractions could make all the difference in my eyes. Some fresh juice, herbs or different liquor can take a drink to a new level; mix it up and see if people like it!
Everyone has to be on board though, and that's business owners included, but the cocktail resurgence in San Diego has really just begun.
Do you have a wish or request for the San Diego bar scene or local drinkers?
I would love to never hear, "Do you have Monster or Red Bull?" behind the bar ever again. At the same time, I feel like it's my responsibility to persuade the guest to try something new and different. It makes my job both fun and challenging.
I like to start out by making these guests a classic cocktail. I have one cocktail that I call The Gateway that was created by Dale Deogroff (author of The Craft of the Cocktail and The Essential Cocktail, served at The Rainbow Room). It was originally called the Whiskey Smash (Makers, Lemon, Mint, Simple Syrup). When people walk in and ask for a simple Red Bull and vodka or Jack and Coke, I ask them if they would like to try something a little different and they always love it; I've never had anyone return it.
This type of exchange not only makes the customer realize they're open to drinking different cocktails, but more importantly, allows them to trust me with their palate.
What makes bartending in San Diego different than other cities you've worked in?
Bartending here is different than anywhere else because most people haven't been introduced to classic cocktails yet, but here are a handful of great cocktail bars out there like Seven Grand which has created a simple menu of classics, so people are getting more familiar with the term.
Despite this trend, there are still a ton of people out there who simply have not had a well-prepared drink before. I find myself behind the bar every night re-introducing classic cocktails to people, like creating a proper Manhattan or a Gimlet. People need to taste the basics first and foremost, and then we can get creative as bartenders.
· Chaplos [Official Site]
· All Industry Dish on Eater [~ESD~]