Kayla Quigley’s big smile makes you feel right at home. She’s a natural-born people person with a lot of passion and even bigger drive, so it’s not surprising that after making the rounds at a few Fenway favorites, she has grown from pouring the shots to calling the shots in her current gig as Bar Director at Allston’s Our Fathers. She shares her definition of bartender culture, why a simple drink order is her preference when out, and how a trip to London inspired the gin selection at Our Fathers.
Where do you work now? What’s your position? Where else have you worked in the last five years?
After bartending at Citizen for two years, I am now the bar & beverage manager for the Franklin Restaurant Group, which includes Franklin Cafe, Citizen Public House & Oyster Bar, and Our Fathers. Before FRG, I worked behind the bar at Sweet Cheeks across the street from Citizen in the Fenway.
How did you get involved in restaurants? What draws you to this line of work?
I come from a long line of bartenders, servers and cooks; it’s in my blood to work in restaurants. I am drawn to the organic nature of the business — developing relationships with guests and the constant learning of new products and cocktails.
What’s your favorite drink to make (or wine or beer to pour)? Least favorite?
It’s hard to pick a favorite drink, though I am really enjoying the gin-based cocktail program we have at Our Fathers. It’s been exciting to open people’s eyes to how diverse gin can be. In terms of a least favorite drink, I would have to pick any sort of bastardized tropical rum drink like a Mai Tai that has been done a disservice by overly sweet first impressions.
How do you feel about the ‘mixology’ movement—does that term appeal to you, not appeal to you? What do you think it means to be involved in the bartender culture, if you agree that there is one?
The term itself doesn’t appeal to me because I feel that it adds a level of pretense to hospitality. Of course, I appreciate the creativity and scientific nature behind the concept of mixology, but the term itself is problematic for me. I do believe there is a bartender culture — it’s that shared experience and excitement about beverage, which is an organic and ever-changing field.
On your days off, what kind of places do you frequent? A lot of industry folk are happier with a Miller High Life and a Fernet than composed cocktails or craft beer. You?
I’m a creature of habit, so I don’t veer too far from the Fenway where I first started to work behind the bar. I like going to Thornton’s, Sweet Cheeks, and Eastern Standard. I’m most happy with a beer and a spirit, or a glass of wine; a simple order because the goal is usually to unwind and talk to a friend. If I’m looking for a composed cocktail, I order a martini at ES.
What do you always keep stocked at home? Are there different things you like to drink or to make for special occasions? Snow storms, sick days, having friends over, drinks for dinner, etc.
I don’t make drinks at home, or really drink at home at all, come to think of it. If I do, it’s something simple like a Japanese whiskey or an Italian red.
Are you excited about one spirit in particular? Is there something really overrated or underrated, in your opinion?
Gin, hands down. We carry more than 80 gins from around the world at Our Fathers, so there really is something for everyone, even if you think you hate gin. Before we opened Our Fathers, we took a research trip to London to check out the thriving gin scene and it was truly amazing to get immersed in that culture. I’m really excited to bring some of that culture to Boston at Our Fathers.
What’s something you wish the average guest knew about your job—not service-wise, but related to the craft of bartending. (In other words, apart from common courtesy and being a good guest, what’s something you think everybody should know about bartending?)
It may be surprising for people to know how much study and effort goes into learning and educating oneself to become a good bartender. Also, how much it means to build a relationship with a regular and how important those relationships with guests are. As a neighborhood restaurant group, we truly appreciate our regulars.