Welcome to Eating...Our Words' Bartender Chat, in which we sit down with local bartenders and get to know their style. Whether they're slinging beers or mixing complex cocktails, bartenders are our buddies and confidants, but we're turning the tables and the camera on them to find out what they're passionate about and what makes them some of Houston's best.
"Oh my God, no!"
I'd just sat down at the dark wooden bar at Goro & Gun and explained to the bartender, Eileen Aguirre, that I was going to take a video for the Houston Press.
"I thought it was just going to be a photo! Oh my God. OK. Hang on, I'm nervous."
It's funny how cool and collected bartenders are when talking to customers about their loves over a shot of tequila, but ask a bartender to tell you about herself, and she's suddenly shy.
"Let's just talk first," I said, as if easing into a weird first date.
Aguirre fussed with her bangs and giggled uncomfortably. Then she took a deep breath.
"OK," she said. "I'm ready."
How long have you been with Goro & Gun? Since August. So about six months.
What were you doing before that? I was bartending at an Irish pub not making amazing cocktails. I was pouring Guinness and Powers. Josh (Martinez, owner of Goro & Gun) stole me from Shay McElroy's right down the street. We've been friends for a while, and I hosted the first day that they opened. I'd always wanted to get behind the bar, but I didn't have the experience. But they had a little faith in me.
If you weren't bartending, what would you be doing? I guess writing. Or, if money was no object, taming wild horses. I like nature and mountains and stuff like that.
When you're not here, where do you go to drink? I like Poison Girl a lot. I like to kick it and have a beer there. My other go-to is Bad News Bar.
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What do you drink? I really like a Last Word. I'm a big gin fan. Or an IPA beer, or if I'm drinking wine, I love Malbec.
A person walks into a bar and orders _______. He/she has your instant respect. Hmm ... I could tell you what wouldn't impress me ....
Okay, what's your least favorite thing to make? Just, things without imagination. Since working here, I've learned a lot of history and where things come from and how they are meant to be prepared, so if someone comes in and orders a vodka soda with two limes, I'm like, why even add the extra lime?
If you could teach everyone something about bartending, what would it be? Don't assume a drink is girly just because it comes in a stem glass. Like when people say, "Dude, you're so weak for ordering that!" I'm like, you don't understand. Some drinks are supposed to be served in stem glasses. And they're delicious.
If you could share a drink with anyone -- living, dead or fictional -- who would it be, and why? Bukowski. I'd love to have a drink with Bukowski. I think I'd have to have a drink to talk to him. He and I would share a bottle of port.
Tell me about Goro & Gun's new Syrup Division. We have the lemongrass syrup and the aromatic syrup. The aromatic syrup is extremely versatile. You can use it in tea, coffee, baking, cocktails. The shelf life is six months unopened because the ingredients are all natural. After you open it, you should use it in about a month. It really never goes bad, but it loses its potency.
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SHOW ME HOW
The aromatic syrup is made with cloves, star anise, allspice, cinnamon, lemon peel, sugar and water. The lemongrass syrup is made with lemongrass, sugar, water and lemon peel. Alex [Gregg, the bar manager] developed both recipes, and he did a really good job.
Goro & Gun Aromatic Toddy 1.5 oz El Dorado 5 year rum .5 oz aromatic syrup .5 oz lemon juice 2 bar spoons of salted caramel sauce (made in house) 2 oz hot water fresh lemon peel grated cinnamon
Mix rum, syrup, lemon juice and caramel sauce in a glass. Stir. Add hot water. Peel a lemon and twist the peel so the oil squeezes into the glass. Top with some grated cinnamon, and serve.