Upon meeting people the very first time, remembering their names is NOT always my best quality. Faces and moments, for sure, but names … well, I need a little help in that department. But every now and then I meet someone who is so incredibly intriguing, that I can’t dare forget there name. That was my first time meeting Lana Gailani, that or I thought if I forgot that she could snap me in two. Although she is known for having the best “guns” in the business (thanks to her also being an aerialist,) don’t let her intimidating demeanor fool you.
Lana is truly one of the sweetest and most supportive people in the business and is just a real pleasure to be around no matter what side of the bar you find her. She is truly talented and dedicated to making truly great cocktails and making sure each customer is happy, if you want to find a way to her heart, here are some hints, she has a penchant for boomerangs and cheat day food.
A real gal after our own heart and equal parts bad-ass and silly fun. Trust us and find her at Seamstress or Pouring Ribbons soon, and without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, let’s go drinking with Lana Gailani …
Favorite NYC spots to hang out when meeting someone for a drink or ten?
I don’t get out that much, but lately I’ve been making the trip to Brooklyn for Leyenda… I also had some great drinks at Mother of Pearl recently, I’ve been to Bar Goto a couple of times, and I like the Up & Up. For after work, I usually swing by Holiday Cocktail Lounge for a beer (they know to garnish mine with a dinosaur, gotta love that) and some sing-a-longs. If I need a burger with my beer, then I go to Boilermaker.
Favorite place to take an out-of-towner for a cocktail?
I like to show out-of-towners how we do things differently here…
- if they’re chefs or bartenders, then I take them to Amor y Amargo (“no, this bar doesn’t have any citrus.”)
- If they’re beer people, then Proletariat (“no, you’ve never seen any of their beers before.”)
- I take everyone to Holiday (“no, I can’t explain anything happening in here.”)
- If there’s a Going Up at Von while they’re here, we’ll do that (“it’s a surprise bar!”)
What’s your go-to drink order?
A beer and a shot, generally mezcal and a Tecate, dressed up if possible. Sometimes it’s a whiskey and a Modelo. If I’m having a cocktail, then it’s a Daiquiri or Negroni. When I make myself a cocktail, it’s an Old Fashioned.
First job in the industry?
I made the fresh pasta at a little Italian restaurant in Seattle. It was nepotism, I was dating the sous chef, and he got me in the door. My first FOH (front of house) job was at a Greek restaurant, also in Seattle.
I was fresh out of graduate school, I had no idea what I was doing, and my manager was a tyrant. I got screamed at a lot. One guy tipped me $20 after I was berated in front of his table. He said, “Sorry your manager is such a dick.” On the plus side, I learned some things.
First alcoholic drink you ever had?
When I was six or seven, my parents threw a barbecue and I found the box of Franzia. I thought it was punch and totally went for it. No one noticed until I was drunk. I just remember being really happy and a little dizzy. My mom was pretty mad.
What were you drinking the first time you properly got?
My parents went out of town and I had a couple friends over and we got into a plastic handle of vodka. I must’ve been 13 or 14. I did like 8 shots and thought I was completely fine because the alcohol hadn’t hit me yet. Suffice to say that 30-minutes later, I was NOT fine.
The worst part was waking up at 8am because there were construction workers arriving to do some work on the floors. Actually, no, the worst part was that I’d eaten hot dogs the night before. Not a good look.
With summer almost over, what’s your summer drink and what do you look forward to drinking in the fall?
Rosé all day. And bubbles in everything. I drink a lot of wine in the summer, along with lower-proof beverages: Campari, Cynar, Suze, Sherry. In the fall, I look forward to resuming my Old Fashioned habit.
Coffee or tea?
Coffee. Black with sugar. One cup every morning, often from Pause Café up the street. Sometimes from Root (across the street from Pouring Ribbons) or Oslo (down the street from Seamstress.)
That reminds me, I made a cup of coffee an hour ago and it’s just been sitting there staring at me.
What’s your hangover remedy?
Tears and recriminations. Actually, I try to take Ibuprofen or something the night before and I wake up several times throughout the night and drink a shit ton of water. Nothing else really works for me.
What cocktail is the benchmark of a good bartender?
Shaken, a Daiquiri. There are very few ingredients and yet so many ways to fuck it up. It took me three months to learn to shake a Daiquiri properly at Pouring Ribbons. Stirred, a Manhattan. Again, the choice of ingredients, the balance and the technique are all critical.
If someone wants to impress you, what are they pouring / making?
Lately the “how” has been impressing me more than the “what”. A person’s manner behind the bar, the way they work a room, how they move while they build a drink. It’s a dance, and it’s real sexy when done well.
Favorite Industry Folk?
- Ivy Mix: speaking of sexy, I just like to watch her build drinks. I’m stealing all her moves, she’s beautiful to watch and totally un-self-conscious. I aspire to that fluidity.
- Pamela Wizniter: her way with people blows my mind, she is fast, and she never gets rattled. Working with her makes me better with people. I love that lady.
- Sother Teague: talk to him about the social dynamics of a room. He’s so analytical and thoughtful and such a nerd. I love it.
- Mat Resler: he is a cantankerous, crotchety old man but he loves what he does and he does it well.
- Danny Neff: he gives some seriously great hugs. Hugs are important.
Best spots to eat when you are drinking, or let’s be honest, drunk?
Unless I’m ordering seamless in a blackout fugue, I like to eat where I drink. The okonomiyaki at Bar Goto is incredible. The burger at Boilermaker makes me happy. Leyenda has incredible steak with chimichurri and also goat tacos.
What’s the best selling drink(s) on your menus?
- Pouring Ribbons: “I’m No Doctor” It’s cane, ginger, lemon, Cynar, Peche and apple cider vinegar, bonded bourbon and cognac. It tastes a bit like southern tea meets a whiskey sour. It’s delicious.
- Seamstress: I think right now it’s the “No Say” lemongrass, pineapple, lime, Aperol, coconut, and Ilegal Mezcal. It tastes like lying on a beach in Miami.
What’s is your fave spot date night drinking recommendation for all the lovers out there?
Apparently, Seamstress has quite the late-night nooky following, or maybe Bob Wagner just sets a great mood… we somehow attract a baby-making crowd in the wee hours.
A good date spot, to me, is quiet enough to have a conversation and also has some semi-intimate corners (i.e., not everything is a communal table). Maybe someplace you could have a snack or something lower-proof so you remain….functional…later in the evening.
Wassail is an awesome cider bar with cocktails and great food – vegetarian! Donostia is a very cute Sherry bar with great small bites. Bar Goto is pretty sexy as well, though you’d want seats in the corner.
Hidden or underrated NYC gems?
Answering this would require that I actually get out once in a while… I think the Jeffrey is doing a great job in a weird neighborhood- they hit all fronts with good cocktails, an eclectic beer list, and good late food on 60th St.
It helps that Jacob Tschetter is one of the nicest, most hospitable humans ever (he also gives great hugs). If you live or work in the East Village, you should know about Sunny and Annie’s, a bodega with some of the best sandwiches, well above and beyond a regular bodega sandwich, and they don’t close.
If you can handle spicy food at that hour, try the Pho Real, a Pho-inspired hero. You’ll be happy.
What are you most proud of in your career thus far?
The fact that I have one. I used to think that I could never be a bartender, and here I am.
Who can we thank (besides you, duh) for your delicious work?
I have learned a lot from everyone whom I’ve worked for and with. Right now my cocktail development is benefitting from the fact that I work for Pam Wiznitzer and Joaquin Simo. Pam is incredible at suggesting unusual flavor combinations or approaches to incorporating flavors, and Joaquin is a master at layering flavors.
They both have incredible palates and always know just how to tweak something a little bit to make it a million times better. I also have to thank the staffs for being so helpful to me when I’m working on cocktails, we have a very strong culture of collaboration at both bars that I’ve relied heavily on. They are also both incredibly kind and hospitable and excellent reminders that our work is about far more than drinks.
You are part of the talented but also kooky Seamstress crew, who is the best drinking buddy for a wild night?
Pam. She starts trouble. You are NOT getting to bed on time and you ARE probably going to end up dancing on a table. Or a bar top. Or singing karaoke.
If you weren’t part of the crazy hospitality biz what would you be doing?
If this all goes to hell I’m going to run away and join the circus.
Straight Up(date) – Let’s hear it, all of it!
We’re finalizing the new menu right now for Pouring Ribbons, it’s going to be a major conceptual shift for us as a bar and I’m really excited about the move to thematic menus. I hope you’ll all come check it out!
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