Pamela S. Busch on What the Sommeliers Drink



Pamela S. Busch of CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen started drinking wine at a Passover Seder when she was ten years old. By the time of her Bat Mitzhah, her first truly drunken experience, she graduated to hard alcohol, becoming a fan of apricot sours and tequila sunrises. During the 1980s, she could be found drinking the more sophisticated white wine spritzers at bars on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It wasn't until she spent six months in Israel in 1990 and was hit in the head with a shell that it dawned on her that it was time to stop drinking crap and get serious about her career if she wanted to become the most accomplished white zinfandel producer in the world. This dream took her to San Francisco where her career got a smashing start. She has never looked back.

What Do the Sommeliers Drink?

A while ago, no more than a while ago, Marcia asked me to write a piece for her. I suggested a story on what the sommeliers drink. She loved it. I wish I could say it has taken so long to write because I was at a dive bar somewhere drinking Wild Turkey but alas, I cannot because in truth, I don't drink Wild Turkey. Trying to nail down my compadres is a bit like herding feral cats. Nonetheless, lasso in hand, I managed to get the skinny on what some of the finest palates in San Francisco drink when they are not drinking wine.

First, let me get Fernet out of the way. We're all pretty much addicted to the stuff so I'm not going to mention it again during this piece even if I might be sipping as I write.

The first person I asked was Shelley Lindgren, partner/wine director/general manager and all-around babe of A16. I managed to track her down via email when she was in Italy and since she was a few months pregnant, lemonade was her drink of choice at that time. Fair enough, though I have seen her knock back more than a few shots of F…, no, I'm not going to say it. When not pregnant, and not drinking wine, our dear Shelley has a penchant for gin drinks, especially Basil Gimlets and Negronis.

She is not the only gin drinker out there. Shana Dilworth, former Wine Director at Campton Place, Master Sommelier candidate and one of the my Fe… buddies, is a fan of the 'snarl juice.' Her favorites are Hendricks, Citadel and Old Raj, shaken cold and served straight up. For Shana, gin is all about the aromatics. She also has a thing for Chartreuse and, to quote, "the best thing is when you mix Chartreuse and gin together." However, she stressed that when she goes out, her drink of choice is usually Campari and soda, or a Negroni.

The delightful Eugenio Jardim, Wine Director at Jardinière, fancies a drink called 'Jasmin,' made from you guessed it, gin, Campari, limejuice and Cointreau. After a long day of work, when he is fully enmeshed in wine talk with his customers and might have palate fatigue from a day of tasting, he finds a Jasmin gives him a refreshing lift.

Do we have a theme going there? Do all sommeliers drink gin and Campari? No, I hate gin. Tonic water too. Gin and tonics… shoot me first.

Like Shana, Paul Einbund, the Wine Director and partner at Coi, loves Chartreuse but also puts Spanish Brandies up there as a favorite. He is also more than partial to lambic bourbons and Mescal. Ah, sensible choices.

Joanna Breslin, the Wine Director at Ana Mandara is up for trying "intriguing cocktails as long as it does not involve whiskey or gin," with the exception of Pimm's Cup. She is also happy to have a margarita on the rocks, no salt, and made with a reposado tequila.

I also posed the question to the Tablehopper herself. When not tablehopping with a glass of Champagne in hand, Marcia can be found perched over a whiskey in one incarnation or another.

And, just in case what you're wondering, I'm not much of a cocktail drinker, but I actually crave The Algonquin, a rye, dry vermouth and pineapple juice drink served at Bourbon and Branch. I also love Armagnac and good whiskeys, but in truth, in moderate quantities, I can drink anything, with the exception of gin. Yuck!