Bar manager and hospitality expert Nicole Lebedevitch took to the service industry at an early age and has since worked her way through top Boston establishments like Eastern Standard and The Hawthorne. Nowadays, she oversees the beverage program at Yvonne’s with a dedication to the guest experience and fostering a strong team dynamic: “it’s the hard work of every team member that allows us to be great at what we do, but also to make sure that it seems seamless and effortless to the guests (which, believe me, it is not!)” Here, she shouts out to her favorite off-the-clock spot, delves into the miscellany of her home bar and admits to the pleasure of shaking a Ramos Gin Fizz.
How did you get involved in restaurants and bartending?
The day that I was able to have a job, I began working in the service industry. First at ice cream shops, then as a server at an Italian restaurant in Connecticut – you know the kind where you get a salad with any entrée you order (Parmesan peppercorn dressing, of course), huge bowls of pasta run out on oversized trays and there was still the smoking section of the restaurant (!!!) You can say I caught the bug of long hours, hard work, but above all, the ability to create experiences for and with those around you. Whether it’s for the first time with new guests, over and over again with those regular faces, or with the staff that surrounds you. The restaurant industry is always fresh and new with challenges and excitement.
What’s your favorite drink to make?
My favorite drink is the one that you don’t expect to like but ends up putting a huge smile on your face and gets you drinking things you have never tried before. But for a more technical answer, my favorite to make is any drink with an egg white. I like the conversation it starts with guests around me. I love the way it feels in the shaker, and the presentation and texture are most often unlike any other drink going over the bar top: the beautiful decorative bitters on the top of a Pisco Sour, the froth of a Whisky Sour around a traditional garnish, and yes, the sexy pop of the Ramos Gin Fizz that’s the greatest dessert in a glass. (Yes, bartenders, I just said it’s one of my favorite drinks to make.)
How do you feel about the ‘mixology’ movement?
I think every craft bartender is over the ‘mixology’ movement. We are bartenders. We take care of our guests, we make sure they have a good time and we serve them drinks and food. Here in Boston we are super lucky to have such a close-knit community. We all do the same thing for each other that we do for our guests on a daily basis: we take care of our friends, we make sure they are happy and we often share food and drink with one another.
Where’s your favorite place to grab a drink when you’re not on the clock? And what can you usually be found sipping?
Proximity is often a precursor to choosing an off-the-clock drink and, well, JM Curley’s, I owe you a thank you! For always being there for me with a daiquiri or a cold cider on draft, fried pickles, a smile and a “how are you doing?” I have also never turned down a glass of wine. (Chardonnay, anyone?)
Are you excited about one spirit in particular?
I love brandy: Cognac, Armagnac, American, Spanish. I love the way it plays in cocktails, slightly richer in texture, playful with citrus and luxurious when stirred.
What’s on your home bar?
Lots and lots of modifiers. If someone wouldn’t mind passing along a recipe for a cocktail that includes only: maraschino liqueur, vermouth that’s been open too long, experimental ‘not for sale’ bitters, and a .1 of rum, that’d be super helpful. But honestly, I’m an old-fashioned girl at home. I drink straight spirits on the rocks which is why you won’t find many at my house, they just don’t last that long!
What’s something you wish the average guest knew about your job?
That no one person makes up a bar program. It is up to the team to execute day in and day out. The best compliment a restaurant can receive is a guest saying they have an amazing time every time they come in. That means that everyone who is working there is having a good time, reflecting that back to the guests and making the restaurant a place that people want to go.