Movers and Shakers: Hawaii's Up and Coming Bartenders
Meet Honolulu's new crop of bartenders who approach drinks like chefs craft dishes.
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Illustration: Dana Paresa
It’s Tuesday at Safehouse at the Republik near Ala Moana. You could reach for a cocktail menu, but you’re just as likely to get a personal recommendation from Roxanne Siebert. Her feminine, lip-glossed and straightened-hair look is given an edge by the tattoos peeking out of a pink shirt and running down her arms. She’ll point out to anyone who’s interested (and no-big-deal-and-a-shrug if you aren’t) that she’s got a new drink tonight. What it is will depend on her mood, but it’s guaranteed to be anything but ordinary. A past Siebert concoction: a daiquiri-style mix of rum, raisin-soaked cognac, lime juice and Angostura bitters, garnished with a zest-wrapped sugar cane stick.
There have always been bartenders in Hawaii, but when it comes to craft cocktails, the Hawaii scene is a work in progress. Over the past decade, a handful of bartenders have been stepping away from the vodka-dominated wells of club bars and the blended coconut drinks of Waikiki beach spots. They’re willing to take a cue from cocktail cities—San Francisco and New York—but are determined to make their own contributions. Siebert is part of this newer group of bartenders who thirst for something new, innovative and complex.
Siebert works full-time at Safehouse at The Republik and does occasional gigs at V Lounge. Wherever she tends bar, if you ask her to, she’ll toss a little off-the-cuff creativity into your glass. “I can make anything I want for anybody and just see if they like it,” she says.
Her love of everything natural, organic, local and fresh (“I’m sometimes dubbed a hippie,” she says) translates into a style heavy with fruits, vegetables, herbs—blackberry and Frangelico, lavender and yuzu with gin. For a Bombay Sapphire competition, she mixed the gin with Velvet Falernum and dragon-fruit puree and crowned it with a cardamom and ginger foam, a drink she named the Khaleesi, for Game of Thrones’ “Mother of Dragons.”
Past studies in food and nutrition and love of cooking have taught Siebert the layering and balancing of flavors, helping her snag first place in last year’s Don Q cocktail competition, and going on to compete in Manhattan. More recently, she took second place at this past February’s Hawaii Cocktail Week Bacardi Pro/Am Cocktail competition. She has 10 years of behind-the-bar experience, but it’s only recently that she’s become regular on the competition circuit, consistently placing in the top three.
“I was more into cooking than bartending, but that was a really good influence for when I started doing mixology and craft cocktails,” Siebert says. “One and the other work together—you can use things from cooking for bartending, and things bartending with cooking. That’s my main focus.”