Everyone who loves bar culture knows the name Dante; it is impeccable. So when Dante partnered with AvroKo to create the Dante at Genuine collaboration, they needed a triple-threat to be entrusted with the role of Head Bartender. That position went to a remarkable and worthy talent by the name of Stacey Swenson who left the flagship to run the show.
She has tended bar in New York City for the past 4 years at Booker & Dax, American Whiskey and has spent the past two years as Head Bartender at Dante and now Dante at Genuine. Before New York, Stacey called Chicago and Iowa her homes and has been in hospitality for almost 15 years.
She also works as a Creative Consultant for Simple Serve, a marketing agency that focuses on brand building for spirits companies. Stacey was also the US finalist and top 8 global finalist for the Beefeater MIXLDN competition.
Let’s start by telling us about the overall beverage program and cocktail philosophy at Dante at Genuine?
Dante at Genuine is a collaboration with Avroko in Little Italy. We have some of your Dante favorites like the Garibaldi and Negroni Bianco but although we are very much a part of the grander Dante cocktail and hospitality philosophy, but have many unique offerings as well (i.e. the Negroni fountain, highball menu, and Aperitivo Hour food specials).
We’ve brought back authentic Italian aperitivo drinking culture to Little Italy. I can see that Little Italy is becoming a food and cocktail destination for actual New Yorkers and not just tourists and we are really proud to be a part of that.
How did you get started in the biz?
Like many of our stories in hospitality begin, I worked in restaurants and bars all through college. It didn’t take me long after graduating to decide that I did not want to continue on to law school and that I truly loved working in hospitality. I’ve had several jobs in the industry since then and it took me a while to find my niche.
What is your current go-to (boozy) drink order?
I drink a lot of Sbagliatos but I’m very much a when-in-Rome type drinker. I order based on mood and environment. I don’t order cocktails at dive bars, not because I don’t trust the bartender, but because if I’ve chosen to go to a dive bar then I probably want a Budweiser and a shot of tequila.
Do you drink coffee or tea?
I’m not a big coffee or tea drinker. Although I love the taste of coffee, I’m hyper-sensitive to the caffeine in coffee specifically so I only drink it when I really need it. I can drink a Red Bull and be fine, it’s weird. For my daily caffeine fix I drink a diet soda (Dr. Pepper usually).
I love tea in cocktails, especially punches but rarely drink it on its own. There’s a coconut black tea I get from Kalustyan’s that is such a great base for whiskey and rum punches.
Tell us about your first boozy experience?
I believe I was drinking Peach Schnapps and Squirt at a party in high school. I chugged it and got really sick and can never smell peach schnapps again without gagging. I guess we all have a story like that.
What is your hangover remedy?
In this order: Advil, Pedialyte freeze pops, watermelon, chocolate milk, Coca-Cola, buffalo wings with ranch.
If you are vacation day drinking, what’s your not so guilty pleasure poison?
What is your very last sip death row drink to toast farewell?
Something high proof because I won’t have to worry about a hang-over. Probably a cask strength Scotch.
If you could have drinks with anyone dead, alive or fictional, who would it be and what would you both be drinking?
I’d be drinking Champagne with Bowie but I’m sure I’d be so nervous because like, what do I have to say that David Bowie would care about?
Who is the best industry drinking buddy for a wild night? (someone notable in the industry)
I don’t get wild often but the next time I do I think it’ll be with Erika Ordoñez.
What is the secret to the perfect Negroni?
Good ice and fresh vermouth. It’s really hard to screw up a Negroni when you have the proper ingredients. Whether you’re an equal parts stickler or like to amp up the gin, just pay attention to dilution and don’t use a vermouth that’s been opened on a shelf for months.
What’s your theme song behind the stick?
This is so hard! It really depends on what bar I’m behind. I have so many but I’d probably have to choose The Modern Lovers’ “Roadrunner,” Waylon Jennings’ “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way” or No Doubt’s “Just a Girl.”
What is the coolest experience bartending has afforded you thus far?
I have so many, especially in the past couple of years but it would probably be representing Dante at the American Dream pop-up in Athens alongside some of the best bars and bartenders in the U.S.
What are some tips for young guns looking to break into the industry?
Do the dirty work. If you’re not getting down on your hands and knees and cleaning your bar every once and a while then you’ll never have empathy for those who do it every day. We have incredible porters and barbacks that work very hard to keep our bars clean and functional and we need to appreciate them more.
I see so many young bartenders who jump right into bartending without having to do some of the less sexy jobs and I think they’re doing themselves and their co-workers a real disservice.
Stacey’s Favorite New York Hospitality suggestions for:
Taking out-of-towners for the quintessential “Only in New York” experience:
The Nomad, Amor y Amargo and McSorley’s Old Ale House
Romantic “let’s get it on” date night:
Lilia and The Nomad
A Classic Dive Bar:
Duff’s, Turkey’s Nest and Midway
Super Crafty Cocktails:
Maison Premiere, Death & Co., Dante, Dear Irving
Late Night Spot for (Drunk) Eats and Post-Shift Drinks:
Extra Fancy, Spuyten Duyvil, Roof at Park South
Shameless Plug Time – what’s going on in your drinks world to share with thirsty readers?
I’ll be working hard at Dante at Genuine all summer helping to put on some cool events, especially during Negroni Week. Also, look for some pop-ups and collaborations happening soon (can’t reveal).
I’ve gotten to do some awesome things and go to incredible places but right now I want to focus on how to make myself a better host to our guests and to pay attention to those little details I might be overlooking to make every experience memorable. I think a lot of us get caught up in the industry scene, events, guest shifts, and cocktail weeks, and forget that we have bars and guests to take care of.
Follow Stacey’s adventures – @steakbonestacey
Video Review: Dante at Genuine
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