The first time we pulled up a barstool at New Orlean’s acclaimed Compère Lapin, we were immediately drawn in by the presence of the bartender. She was confident, strong and commanded the entire room. That bartender was Abigail Gullo and she is truly a major force to be reckoned with behind the stick and beyond.
A native of Hyde Park, NY, with roots in Georgia and Virginia, Abigail Gullo first discovered her love for mixology when her grandfather taught her how to make a Manhattan when she was only 7 years old. As an experienced singer and actress, Gullo made her way Dublin then New York City to pursue her craft until making the decision to make the bar her proper professional career.
From 2010 to 2012, Gullo served as Head Bartender at Fort Defiance (another thirsty favorite) in Brooklyn, while helping to open The Beagle in East Village in 2011. However, fate would was calling her to New Orleans where she landed the job as head bar chef for Sobou, then the newest venture from the Commander’s Family of Restaurants in the Crescent City. In 2015, Gullo was tapped by award-winning bartender Ricky Gomez, to join the beverage team at Compère Lapin, where she worked alongside Gomez in developing the restaurant’s cocktail menu.
Along the way, Gullo’s work has been recognized in numerous national and international competitions as well as in the media including being named Eater NOLA’s “Bartender of the Year” in 2014. She had us at first sight and cocktail, so without further ado, let’s go drinking with Abigail Gullo.
Drinking with Abigail Gullo
Tell us about the Beverage Program at Compére Lapin
This is the most complex, delicious and extensive program I have ever worked with. It’s a playground for bar nerds. It has something for everyone and pairs perfectly with the food. It stands alone as one of the finest bars in New Orleans. I am incredibly proud of the work that my team does 365 days a year.
Tell us a little about Compére Lapin and what you suggest a first-timers sitting at the bar?
You cannot go wrong with this menu; every dish is a delight. Start with oysters and a sherry cocktail and slurp sherry right out the spent oyster shells. Get some raw bar Louisiana seafood, like the marinated shrimp, and pair that with a martini variation like our Page of Swords. Don’t forget to order a pasta dish; Chef Nina is famous for her gnocchi. Wash that down with a Taylor Bird Sazerac. You should leave room for dessert and more sherry. Always more sherry.
How did you get startedin the biz?
On the other side of the bar. Sitting at bars in New York City while the new cocktail golden age blossomed around me. I was lucky enough to have a bar manager named Clif Travers take a chance on me and let me get a foot in the door at a cocktail bar.
What is your current go-to drink order?
Depends where I am. Dive bar is Irish whiskey or shots of warm gin (It’s a delicious way to fast all the botanicals). If it’s a good bartender, I’ll get a Manhattan or a Sidecar.
Coffee or Tea?
Well, I work next to a great coffee bar, Tout La in the lobby of our Hotel the Old No 77. I drink cortados and they make mine perfect in little punch cups, the glass size is perfect. I drink there 6 days or more a week!
Tell us about your first boozy experience.
Growing up, our family’s idea of dining out was local diners and Chinese food restaurants. I was fascinated by the colorful cocktail menus on the placemats with a Mai Tai, Pink Lady and Absinthe Frappe. When I turned 21, I tried to order a Rob Roy at the Moonstruck diner on 7th Ave (in NYC). They told me they didn’t have the ingredients. I set out to find those ingredients and people who could put them together. Before that, I was on a school trip to the UK when I was 13, but I looked much older. I was ridiculed by the mean kids I was with so, I made a friend on the senior citizen tour bus we were all sharing. I felt too old for my group, she felt too young for hers. She taught me how to order Irish coffees and Rum & Cokes with confidence. She was awesome.
What is your hangover remedy?
Grazing all day on healthy food and lots of TV.
If you are vacation day drinking, what’s your not so guilty pleasure poison?
Miami Vice by the pool in Vegas is heaven. And anything pink and/or with bubbles.
What is your very last sip death row drink?
That is too morbid to think of! Death row implies I did something horrible. I hope it’s more like the song “Julep” by the Punch Brothers.
If you could have drinks with anyone dead, alive or fictional, who would it be and what would you both be drinking?
My grandparents. We would drink Manhattans and cheap Italian wine. My grandma is turning 99 this year. She’ll say “I’ll drink to that!”
Who are the best industry drinking buddies?
Telling bartender jokes in my underwear in a pool in Puerto Rico with my fellow Bartender of the Year honorees and judges Jeffrey Morgenthaler and Lynn House felt like perfection to me. Also watching English soccer at 7am with chopped cheese sandwiches at Suffolk Arms with my dog Ronnie and Giuseppe Gonzalez.
What’s your theme song behind the stick?
“Getting to Know You” from The Sound of Music. Julie Andrews is my spirit animal. When I free pour a drink and still get it right, I joke that I am the Mary Poppins of bartending, “Practically perfect in every way!”
What’s your favorite classic that originated in New Orleans?
The Sazerac. But a Brandy Crusta from Chris Hannah might be why I moved to New Orleans.
How many times a year do you change your menu? What is currently your most popular drink?
We change up a few drinks every few months. Some are already classics, like the Andromeda with pisco, green chili vodka, Rose Cordial, grapefruit liqueur, honey, lime, egg white and a Peychaud Bitters bunny on top.
Abigail Gullo Approved New Orleans Spots:
Taking out-of-towners for the quintessential “Only in NOLA experience:
Bacchanal, Maple Leaf and any Mardi Gras parade under the I-10 overpass to listen to the high school marching bands.
Romantic “let’s get it on” date night:
Angeline in my special booth.
A Classic Dive Bar:
Any in New Orleans is classic when its filled with friends. We are filled with classic dive bars like Erin Rose, Cosimos, The Saint, Bar Tonique, and Buffas, to name a few.
Super Crafty Cocktails:
Revel with Chris and Laura Macmillan. Craft cocktails should come with stories.
Late Night Spot for (Drunk) Eats:
Possibly Haunted Bar … for those who believe in that.
Every time I go to Boondocks Saint, “Wagon Wheel” plays on the jukebox and a handsome boy asks me to dance. That is my kind of spirit.
Best Spot for Proper Nawlin’s Creole Cuisine?
Creole cuisine is classic New Orleans to me. That French style of smothering food with the best natural gravies, but that Caribbean influence with spice and local seafood and veggies. Every neighborhood has their favorite local spot and I live in the Treme, so it has to be Dooky Chase run by the legendary Leah Chase. She reminds me of my grandmother. She is so kind and works so hard; her gumbo and fried chicken restores my soul. Both her and my grammy are in their 90s – I have got to get those ladies together! Even though its way uptown from me, I do also feel at home at Brigsten’s because you are in a home turned restaurant and greeted by Chef Frank Brigsten and his wife Marna. The staff even feels like family and some are! I spent New Year’s there this year and we cleared the tables and had a dance party after midnight, just like my family in New York does!
Shameless Plug Time – what’s going on in your drinks world to share with thirsty readers?
Every drink is made with thought, care and love, and we just want to make you happy. That is all.
Get Social with Abigail Gullo:
Instagram: @abigailgullo / @comperelapin | Twitter: @nycbaby