Food

This Veteran Bartender Will Create Personalized Cocktail Recipes for $10 a Pop

Show Chantal Tseng what's in your liquor cabinet, and she'll give you detailed drink instructions

Cocktails from bartender Chantal Tseng.
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So you’ve got some bourbon, Green Chartreuse, a random liqueur your brother-in-law gifted you from Croatia, and not the slightest clue how to tackle your hodgepodge of a liquor cabinet. Veteran bartender Chantal Tseng is here to help with a “custom cocktails for the end times” service. Fill out a form describing your tastes and alcohol stash, and she’ll create cocktails for you, $10 per recipe.

In normal times, Tseng runs a literary cocktail series, making drinks based on book themes, at the Gibson (previously at the Reading Room bar at Petworth Citizen) and helps curate wines at Girl and the Vine in Takoma Park. But the former is now doing limited takeout and the latter would require her to take the Metro, “which didn’t seem like the best idea.” She’s still waiting for an unemployment check from DC. So with the encouragement of some regulars, Tseng is hoping to raise some rent money by putting her expertise to use.

“It really does put me in touch with more of my customers. It gives me insight into them and who they are at home and what they like to drink,” Tseng says. “This is kind of a way to stay connected. It’s easy to get off on a tangent in your own world when you’re making your own drinks and following your own menus. And then you kind of go, ‘Well, wait, what do people actually have in their cabinet?'”

Columbia Room owner Derek Brown had previously bestowed off-the-cuff cocktail suggestions to people on Twitter, but Tseng has a more thorough, personalized process in place. She starts by asking you to share a favorite book or quote. Next, you can upload a photo of your liquor selection (wines and sherries also welcome) or send a list. The form also asks you to check off fruits, herbs, juices, bitters, fizzy water, teas, spices, or other useful pantry items you have on hand, as well as what glassware is available and whether you have a cocktail shaker and ice. Looking for something light and refreshing? Sour? Bubbly? Tell Tseng about your likes and dislikes, and she’ll go from there. When the recipes are ready, she’ll send detailed, user-friendly instructions. You can pay via Venmo or PayPal.

In addition, Tseng is hoping to be a virtual drinks consultant, whether it’s wine suggestions, food and drink pairings, or sherry classes.

“Everyone’s life is changing. It’s not just my life. It’s not just the life of people who work in one industry. It’s a little bit of everyone in each their own way,” Tseng says. “There’s moments where it’s devastatingly tragic and there’s moments when it’s like maybe this is a good thing—and trying to wrap your head around both sides of that. This project, viscerally, is kind of me doing that. It really does let you see a new side to things and to people.”

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Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.