As soon as she landed her first restaurant job — hosting at the Border Cafe when she was seventeen — Nathielly De Oliveira knew she wanted to be behind the bar. Since then, her professional travels have taken her from Harvard Square to Somerville and the South End, where she’s a familiar face to regulars at Burro Bar. She recently took a break from muddling mint and lime for mojitos to chat about the state of the bar scene in Boston, what boozes she keeps stocked at home and which spirit she thinks is poised for its breakout moment.
Where do you work now? What’s your position? Where else have you worked in the last five years?
I currently tend bar at Burro Bar in the South End, we opened in May of 2018 and I have been here since. Prior to this I was working at our sister restaurant in Davis Square, The Painted Burro from 2016-May 2018. Before working at the Painted Burro I was a bartender at the Gallows, also located in the South End. Last, but definitely not least, I worked at the original Tavern in the Square – Central Square, from fall of 2013 up until January of 2016.
Briefly, how did you get involved in restaurants (and, specifically, bartending)? What draws you to this line of work?
I was first introduced to the restaurant world back when I was seventeen, and my aunt landed me my first restaurant job. I was a host at the Border Café in Harvard Square. This job was super fun because I met tons of amazing people. While at the host stand I’d admire from afar, and watch all of my new server and bartender friends in hopes of one day being able to move up to their position. About a year later I got my next restaurant job where I promised myself I would get into serving to then eventually make my way to the bar. I have always been a very visual learner, so once I did become a server my eyes were always at the bar. I tried to learn what to do and what not to do by observing my coworkers, so that when I did get offered the promotion I would be prepared. I am very much a people person, which is why I believe this line of work is perfect for someone like me. I get to talk to people and make them smile for a living! Doesn’t that sound amazing? You never know what kind of day someone is having, so I make it my mission to make sure that they are leaving my bar happier than they entered it.
What’s your favorite drink to make (or wine or beer to pour)? Least favorite?
The answer to this question changes for me after working at a place for a while. For instance, The Gallows is a great craft cocktail inspired bar, there I made tons of Old Fashioneds, Manhattans, and all of that goodness. So much that it didn’t feel so special after a while. However, now that I have been working at a tequila bar for a few years, I have been making thousands of margaritas, so much that my eyes sparkle at the sight of a service ticket that reads “OLD FASHIONED”! As far as beer goes I will gladly pour anything by Maine Beer Co. with the largest smile on my face, because I absolutely love most of their products. As far as my least favorite drink to make goes, I guess I would have to say the famous mojito… maybe it’s because I work in an establishment where there are so many wonderful options of delicious cocktails, it’s almost as if you’re missing out on something great just to drink something you should save for a day on the beach. Don’t get me wrong, mojitos are absolutely delicious and super refreshing on a hot day, but there is something about stopping mid service to muddle limes and mint that grinds my gears.
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?
I absolutely love the whole mixology movement. The term definitely appeals to me. This movement gives us bartenders a place to be creative, and play around with spirits, creating authentically delicious cocktails. I personally think it makes our job feel more important, and it obviously sounds super cool! The bartender culture we have in our city today is incredible. We have all types of restaurants/bars where the food is not the main staple of the establishment, but the drinks and creativity of the cocktail menus are.
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. What about you?
We all have that one place where we just love to go and hang out–for me, it just so happens to be another Mexican/tequila bar. I love going to Lone Star Taco Bar, not only because it is so close to me, but because they have a wide selection of agave spirits that I have been learning so much about in the last few years. Catch me at Lone Star with a Pacifico Clara and a mezcal on the side, it will most likely always be Del Maguey’s Chichicapa. Every once in awhile I take a peek at their cocktail menu and have something special, and they often do carry Maine Beer Co., so when they do that is definitely what I’ll be having before returning to my go-to.
What do you always keep stocked at home? Are there different things you like to drink or to make for special occasions?
There will most likely always be a bottle of tequila in my apartment. Bitters, bitters, bitters, I can’t live without them. Whether it be on a morning where I wake up regretting all I had to drink the night before, or an evening where I really want a Manhattan, the bitters always come in handy. I was born and raised in Brazil, and my family takes full advantage of their related bartender. Catch me in the kitchen whipping up caipirinhas at almost every family function.
Are you excited about one spirit in particular? Are there any spirits that you find to be really overrated or underrated?
Tequila has been my life for the last three years, so call me biased, but tequila excites me the most right now. I do believe there are so many overrated tequilas that are holding people back from expanding their horizons and trying so many other brands/spirits that come from this wonderful agave plant. Though mezcal lovers are growing and there seems to be more of them these days, I do think it isn’t receiving the credit it deserves just yet.
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?)
I often hear people saying things like “I’m gonna pick up a bartending gig to make some extra cash!” and that gets on my nerves. Our job is more than just a quick gig! Especially nowadays with this whole mixology movement growing more and more, I wish people understood the work that happens before we unlock our front doors. From the set up, to the ordering, to the daily/weekly prep we have to stay on top of in order to make sure we can have all we need to make your experience unforgettable. There is so much that goes into that drink that is in front of you right now, I wish it were more appreciated sometimes.