Patrice Hammond, bar manager of Tonic Restaurant and Bar in DC’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood, is ready to sit down and chat—well, almost. First, she needs something. “I’m going to make myself a drink, if that’s okay,” she says, flashing a gigawatt smile.
And with that, she’s off to the bar, pouring herself a shot of Jameson. “I’m just a little bit nervous,” she admits while glancing at the camera. Her penchant for Jameson is the result of her father’s Irish ancestry. He was in the military and met Hammond’s mother while stationed in the Philippines.
Hammond credits her mother, who worked as a caterer, for her passionate desire to play around with ingredients. “To me, cooking and making cocktails go hand in hand,” she says. “Both are about using different elements, knowing their nuances and flavors, and having them come together.”
She would know. In addition to being a bartender for nearly eight years, Hammond has also worked as a personal chef for Wizards superstar Gilbert Arenas, whom she met through her partner, Drew Cleary, the strength-and-conditioning coach for the basketball team. Together, they have a seventh-month-old boy.
Hammond didn’t always know she wanted to be a bartender. And getting behind the bar wasn’t exactly easy.
Before landing her first job at U Street’s Bar Nun (now called Pure), she spent time working for a venture-capital firm in New York City. Prior to that, she was in the Marine Corps for eight years. It was during an evening at Bar Nun, after she’d moved back to the Washington area, that Hammond had an epiphany.
“I found myself sitting at the bar, staring at the way the bartenders were make cocktails and taking mental notes of the things I liked and disliked about the drinks,” she says. “I realized I wanted to learn more about the techniques, the ingredients—all the different nuances of bartending.”
So she approached the owner, asked for a job, and was summarily rejected. “He knew I had no experience and didn’t want me crossing from one side of the bar to the other,” Hammond says. Undeterred, she would sneak behind the bar with the help of the bartenders, whom she had become good friends with, to practice. Her efforts paid off.
From Bar Nun she went to Topaz bar, where she spent about a year and a half, and then worked briefly at Cantina Marina before settling at Tonic, where she’s been almost five years.
Hammond’s agenda these days includes not only bartending three nights a week at Tonic but also taking care of her kid. Now that basketball season is under way and Cleary is busy on the road, “A nanny is in the works,” she says. She did, however, make some time to share one of her favorite cocktails, the Strawberry Basil Cooler.
Check out the video of Hammond making the Strawberry Basil Cooler and get the recipe below.
Strawberry Basil Cooler
Patrice Hammond, Tonic
4 basil leaves
¼ seedless jalapeño
1 ounce simple syrup
1 ounce Stoli Strawberry
Splash of ginger ale