Throughout her twenty years in the hospitality industry, Kristan Arnold has worked every restaurant position. However, it wasn’t until she became a bartender that she could truly say she felt at home. Once she stepped behind the bar and started to whip up drinks, it instantly became clear to her that the craft was not only her passion, but also her destiny.
To this day, she constantly seeks out more knowledge in order to constantly sharpen her skillset. Arnold currently works at the Elgin Public House in Elgin, Illinois, an establishment with a caring staff whose top priority is to collectively create a fun experience for guests.
Chilled had the chance to catch up with her, and learn more about her place of work, what ingredients and techniques she prefers to use, and what inspires her liquid creations.
Where do you tend bar now? What makes it unique?
I am currently at the Elgin Public House in Elgin, IL. This place is great, we have such an amazing atmosphere. Every staff member works together and makes every moment a fun experience. We have an amazing menu, and some of the best guests I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Our owners are by far the most caring people and just amazing to work with. A lot of these attributes are hard to find, especially all at the same location.
Who has been most influential in your development as a bartender?
Honestly every other bartender that I have ever met. We all have different techniques and experiences, and I love learning from each one. As I am mainly self-taught and was more so just thrown behind the bar one Friday night, I have taken advice from anyone that wants to give it.
Do you have any advice for novice/ at home bartenders?
You’re going to make mistakes and not everything you throw together is going to taste good. Start with the basics and get creative after you have a good foundation.
What is your favorite ingredient right now and why?
I love working with any fresh herbs, mint, and rosemary mostly. I am starting to love making smoked cocktails, it heightens the simplest of cocktails. Also, always Whiskey!
How do you go about creating a cocktail? Is there a specific process or simply a moment of inspiration?
A lot of my inspiration really does just hit me at any moment, mostly during fun conversation’s. Someone will say a random name for something and bam, I have to make a cocktail that suites that name. Some trial and error, but I usually have a pretty good knack for recipes.
Do you have a special technique you use or a tip for making a particular drink?
Some will argue this, but shake your Vodka Martinis, and make them cloudy. I have had the most compliments about how great my Vodka Martinis are.
Where do you see the bartending/cocktail culture headed?
I see a bright future for craft cocktails. There are so many techniques and new ideas. We just have to have the guts and know how to try.
Smoked Cherry Bourbon Smash
- 1 3/4 oz Knob Creek Bourbon
- 3 smoked luxardo cherries
- 7 mint leaves
- 1/4 oz fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 oz simple syrup
- 2 squirts cherry bitters
- Cherry wood chips
Preparation: Muddle Mint (slapped rolled and torn), smoked cherries, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, and bitters. Add small, cubed ice and then bourbon. I use a smoking block on the top of the glass to smoke my cocktail for at least 90 seconds.