Welcome to Girl Walks into a Bar, a weekly Gut Check feature that spotlights local bars and bartenders. This week Katie Moulton profiles Oceano's Mary Stowell. Below is a Q&A with Stowell, followed by the recipe for her Deconstructed Espresso Martini.
Mary Stowell has worked at Oceano (44 North Brentwood Boulevard, Clayton; 314-721-9400) since the place opened five years ago. But before she was ensuring cocktail service is aboveboard at the elegant seafood bistro, she was handling a rowdier crowd at Houlihan's. She started there as a server, "thrown behind the bar" as soon as she turned 21. That was seven years ago, and in the interim she has moved on to more sophisticated endeavors -- such as designing her own cocktails and experimenting with molecular gastronomy, as she did in preparing the Deconstructed Espresso Martini for Girl Walks Into a Bar.
This next-level martini, soon to be added to Oceano's cocktail menu, is composed of decadent layers of liquor -- and topped with caviar! RumChata caviar, that is. Stowell created the alcohol-laced spherules with chef Jose Galvan, through an emulsion process that combines the horchata beverage-in-a-bottle with sodium alginate powder (a jelling agent), then dropping the beads into a calcium bath and rinsing off the chemicals. Floating at the top of your martini glass, the tiny globes look like Dippin' Dots and taste like smooth rum.
Chemistry class was never this much fun.
Describe your bartending style in a few words. Fast & funny. Tiny & mighty.
My bar is the only bar in St. Louis where... We make some pretty awesome martinis and everyone behind the bar's having a good time. We also have an amazing happy hour from 4 to 6:30 p.m. every weekday, when our appetizers [like pan-roasted freshwater prawns and amber-glazed salmon flatbread] are half price.
Girl walks into a bar, orders a ____. She just earned my undying admiration. What I drink: Pearl pomegranate vodka, and Jameson, neat. One to sip on and one to get the job done. [laughs]
Most dumb-ass or strange drink anyone has ever asked for. There's so many. One man ordered Captain Morgan and tonic in a martini glass with lime.
Tell us one thing most people don't know about bartending. The amount of knowledge you have to have in order to make everyone in the restaurant's drinks and keep up with it.
What's the most exciting or memorable event you've witnessed while tending bar? When the Cardinals won the 2006 World Series, I was at Houlihan's. People were everywhere -- I couldn't see past the bar. People were jumping on seat cushions, I had shots lined up for everyone. I don't think I've ever given so many high-fives. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.
Deconstructed Espresso Martini
1-1/4 oz. house-infused vanilla vodka 3/4 oz. Kahlúa Shot of espresso
Chill ingredients and layer. The order doesn't matter, because the Kahlúa will always sink.
Top with RumChata caviar beads.
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