Food

What Happens When a Bartender Has to Give Up Drinking for Two Years?

Gina Chersevani at Buffalo & Bergen. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Since 2012, Gina Chersevani has opened two places of her own—the cocktail bar Buffalo & Bergen and the drinks truck Suburbia—at Union Market. She also gave birth to two daughters less than ten months apart. So what was it like being a bartender who couldn’t drink for two years? Here’s Chersevani:

“When I became pregnant, I knew right away who my friends were and who I’d never speak to again. People who were my friends were super-supportive. They surprised me with a baby shower at Tortilla Coast on the Hill—which was 80 people pounding pink frozen margaritas. The other people, I wasn’t fun for them anymore. I wasn’t able to go out and party or head to New York City at 3AM.

People look at bartenders like they’re therapists serving them drinks.

Gina Chersevani

“The best thing that happened to me—my palate became so sensitive. I would taste and spit. I had to write menus. I did a lot of ice-cream floats, I did a lot of weird cocktails. We did a pickled provolone cocktail that was super-strange and awesome—a gin martini served up with a half-sour pickle wrapped in provolone cheese, because I loved eating pickles and provolone. Other people liked it, too! I did a pistachio milk cocktail with brandy, served warm with dehydrated strawberries, which was inspired by being awake because I had indigestion and all I was craving was warm milk.

“Customers were different. For two years, I did Valentine’s tasting menus super-pregnant. Customers would be like, ‘You don’t drink these, do you?’ I don’t wear a wedding band, so guys probably thought I was knocked up. I have a husband [Neil Dundee, general manager at Toki Underground]—I was just never public about it. When you become pregnant and you’re a bartender, your life becomes personal. Otherwise, you’re a blank slate—people look at bartenders like they’re therapists serving them drinks. That’s the reason I never wore a wedding band, because I didn’t want that conversation. You can’t hide a giant pregnant belly, so now all your cards are on the table.”

This article appears in the April 2016 issue of Washingtonian.

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Anna Spiegel
Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.