Working

The “How Does a Bartender Work?” Edition

Slate’s Jacob Brogan talks to a bartender who designs a new menu of literary cocktails every week.

Chantal Tseng
Chantal Tseng prepares a poetry-inspired cocktail at Petworth Citizen’s Reading Room.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Mickey Capper.

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Chantal Tseng has been working as a bartender for 16 years and has been designing her own cocktails for almost as long. She now operates out of the Reading Room at Petworth Citizen, a small book-lined bar within a larger Washington restaurant. Each week, she develops a new menu of drinks inspired by her recent reading, building experiences around the work of authors such as Graham Greene, Italo Calvino, and Ryunosuke Akutagawa.

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We spoke with Tseng as she was preparing to debut her Lewis Carroll–inspired menu. She led us through the process of designing a new cocktail, the work of setting up the bar, the complications of service, and much more.

And in a Slate Plus extra, Tseng reads Lewis Carroll’s poem “The Jabberwocky” before explaining how she makes a sherry cocktail that it inspired. If you’re a member, enjoy bonus segments and interview transcripts from Working, plus other great podcast exclusives. Start your two-week free trial at slate.com/workingplus.

Email: working@slate.com
Twitter: @Jacob_Brogan

Podcast production by Mickey Capper.