The Speed Rack 2018 Winner stole our hearts back in NYC when we met at a bar, looked at each other and immediately decided that we should be friends. It was an honor to watch her take Speed Rack crown home in front of a fierce Chicago crowd during Chicago Style. A Midwest gal at heart, Haley Traub has spent the better part of her decade-long residency in New York working in bars and restaurants. She has called Dutch Kills and Fresh Kills home for the past two years–it’s where she can be found geeking out over cocktail formulas and explaining the science behind achieving a crystal clear 300-pound block of ice.
When she’s not behind the bar, Haley is probably crushing Dark N Stormies with her favorite drinking buddy, her dog Harold. We love that she is always smiling and has a great sense of humor, and since we love supporting the strong talented women out there bringing positivity, let’s go drinking with Haley Traub.
Drinking with Haley Traub
Let’s start by telling us about the overall beverage program and cocktail philosophies at Dutch & Fresh Kills.
We’re part of the Sasha Petraske family of cocktail bars (he opened Dutch Kills with Richie Boccato in 2009), so we do prohibition-era classic cocktails and modern variations on them. Aside from that, we have a strong focus on big ice (thanks, Hundredweight!) and bartender’s choice–talking to guests about their tastes and preferences to find them the perfect cocktail from our encyclopedia of options.
How did you get started in the biz?
I got my first bartending job at a new bar and restaurant on the Upper West Side in 2013. I had absolutely no bartending experience and was just looking for a flexible job while I continued to pursue acting, which I’d gone to college for. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the acting world made me miserable and bartending provided a new creativity outlet that challenged and excited me so much more.
What is your current go-to (boozy) drink order?
All daiquiris, all the time.
Do you drink coffee or tea?
I’m a diehard black cold brew drinker. I try to make it at home as much as possible to save a few bucks, but a Toby’s Estate opened across the street from Dutch Kills a while back and it’s all been downhill since then.
Tell us about your first boozy experience?
I went to NYU and remember one night my freshmen year where I drank my body weight in Long Island iced teas at some sports bar in the East Village. I was also wearing a fedora. It was a very weird time in my life.
What is your hangover remedy?
Advil, Gatorade, seltzer, bacon egg and cheese, and forcing my dog to cuddle with me and forgive my shame.
If you are vacation day drinking, what’s your not so guilty pleasure poison?
Rosè all day! I try to squeeze in a Hamptons getaway every summer and drink as much of the pink stuff as possible.
What is your very last sip death row drink to toast farewell?
I had the chance to try a new cask strength Knob Creek recently, so probably something strong and delicious like that to begin to ease the pain…
If you could have drinks with anyone dead, alive or fictional, who would it be and what would you both be drinking?
I never had the chance to share a cocktail with my grandfather before he passed away, so it would definitely be him, and we’d be drinking his go-to: Manhattan on the rocks, extra cherries.
Who is the best industry drinking buddy for a wild night?
My coworkers Natalie Jacob (the infamous @arseniclace) and Dana Skinner. We have to limit how often we hang out, because even meeting for matcha at 2pm turns into pouring ourselves home at 4am. They are amazing ladies and so much fun, but we are terrible influences on each other.
What’s your closing song?
I like to keep it chill at close, so it’s usually jazz (Herbie Hancock radio on Spotify is a solid go to). If I’m going for an epic close, Prince’s Purple Rain. If I’m trying to get the makeout couples out, the Blade Runner soundtrack (try it, it works).
If you had a magic power to make one social change in hospitality, what would it be?
The idea that male bartenders are inherently more knowledgeable than female bartenders. This has improved greatly within the industry and my male counterparts are extremely supportive and we challenge and teach each other on the daily, but from a customer perspective, the notion unfortunately oftentimes still exists.
How did you prepare for Speed Rack and what are some takeaways from your experience on your road to winning the crown?
Much like the classic dad joke “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice practice practice!”, Speed Rack requires a great deal of time, dedication and preparation. It was months of running drills to prepare for possible prelim round drink combinations, as well as studying and tweaking specs for all of the upwards of 85 drinks the judges could call for. All of this helped me to really discover my personal style and preferences, and I can happily say that I took the Miss Speed Rack title home while fully representing myself and my bar family.
What are some tips for young guns looking to break into the industry?
There’s more to working in the bar world than just making the drinks. Get your hands dirty. Learn how to assemble the dishwasher. Help with inventory. Schedule a tasting with the new brand rep. And don’t get caught up in your bubble. Especially in New York it’s easy to forget there’s anything beyond your city, but there are so many amazing things happening in this industry in other parts of the country and world. Keep learning, growing, and connecting!
Haley’s Favorite NYC Hospitality Spots:
Taking out-of-towners for the quintessential “Only in New York” experience: Attaboy
Romantic “let’s get it on” date night: I’m told our leather booths at Dutch Kills are romantic AF…
A Classic Dive Bar: Sunny’s in Red Hook
Super Crafty Cocktails: NoMad, Death & Co, Maison Premiere
Late Night Spot for (Drunk) Eats and Post-Shift: Good Night Sonny if I’m in Manhattan, La Isla Cuchifrito if I’m heading home and am in need of late night super cheap Puerto Rican eats in Bushwick
Outdoor Drinking: `Pig Beach, especially if you have a dog (or a desire to pet one.)
Shameless Plug Time – what’s going on in your world?
Having won Speed Rack nationals, the next stop is representing Team USA at Jameson’s Barrelmen’s Homecoming in Ireland at the end of June. Aside from that, summer menus at Dutch Kills and Fresh Kills are just around the corner!
Follow Haley to keep up with her thirty adventures
@hetraub is my personal Instagram account (warning: 98% dog photos), @dutchkillsbar and @freshkillsbar are the best way to keep up with the bar fam!