Bridgett Tesmer, the lead bartender at the Ore House, has three favorite things: her dog Lucille, a good whiskey, and a nice crispy piece of bacon.

Tesmer’s interest in whiskey developed quickly, and is now put to good use at her job at the Ore House. “I don’t know where my love of whiskey came from, but one day I sniffed it, and I said, ‘I like this.’” Tesmer, who has lived in Durango since she was 11 years old said, “I’m a Colorado girl. I can get through anything. I drink whiskey and wear cowboy boots.”

Tesmer also works at a steakhouse, where she began as a server support in 2009. She moved to bartending when she wanted a bit more of a challenge and had proven her passion for it by studying and polishing her knowledge while working in the dining room. “All I do at work is get people excited about whiskey,” said Tesmer, who is happy to break stereotypes surrounding liquor and food. “Some people drink a nice Cab with their rib eye. I drink a nice whiskey with my steak. There’s something about the caramelization and oakiness that a good whiskey provides that goes well with steak.”

The attention to detail regarding drink and food pairings extends to the drink ingredients, which are local and all natural. “I can make a drink with five ingredients, with three of them being from local sources,” said Tesmer. “I don’t know any other restaurant that does that.”

Some of the ingredients go beyond locally made and sourced. Tesmer works closely with the chefs at the Ore House to carefully craft everything from house-made bitters to freshly made syrups, including grenadine and sweet and sour from scratch using the purest and freshest ingredients they can source.

Tesmer found that house-made bitters elevate liquor flavor profiles, and the fresh grenadine actually tastes like fruit. “It’s supposed to be fresh and not hurt your teeth,” said Tesmer. She uses the grenadine to make Shirley Temples that customers call the best they’ve ever had.

Tesmer has been greatly influenced by the culinary team at the Ore House and is constantly challenged to create new seasonal cocktails that will work with the ever-evolving dinner menu.

Avoiding preservatives and unnatural synthetic ingredients, the Ore House seeks to offer the best food and drinks possible accompanied by the most caring service. A chef will happily approach a table to talk about any of the menu offerings while the service staff and bartenders remember their customers’ favorite whiskey, table, wine preference and more. “People come to celebrate and want to feel special,” said Tesmer. “We try to make dining here an experience and treat people really well.”

One of Tesmer’s Favorite Drinks:

The Perfect Manhattan

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pint glass full of ice
  • 3 dashes of aromatic bitters
  • ¾ ounce sweet vermouth to ¼ ounce dry vermouth
  • 3 ounces rye whiskey*

METHOD

  • Mix ingredients together
  • Shake 4-5 times (stirred preferably)
  • Strain over the rocks
  • Garnish with a brandied cherry**

* A little-known fact is that George Washington preferred rye whiskey.

** Typically restaurants use a maraschino cherry, but the Ore House makes their own from wild hand-picked cherries by soaking them in brandy with star anise and cinnamon.

Originally published on the Ore House’s blog in September 2013.

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