/Bartender Shannon Mustipher Upgrades Instant Ramen

Bartender Shannon Mustipher Upgrades Instant Ramen

At Hunky Dory in Brooklyn.
Photo: Nina Westervelt

Earlier this year, the relentlessly energetic Shannon Mustipher released Tiki, a beautiful book of modern cocktails that’s the first by a working African-American bartender in over a century. A rum evangelist, Mustipher is also the beverage director at Glady’s, where you’ll find her excellent painkiller; works with spirit brands (currently Bertoux brandy); and is the founder of the Women Who Tiki events. In her daily life, she’s a snacker — but that’s more about time than preference. “I’m pretty busy in my life, but when I sit down to eat, I like to spend two hours at the table,” she says. This week, she dropped by her regular spots Hunky Dory and Lafayette, went to her local Korean deli for kimchi stew, and had Sunday dinner at Olmsted. Read all about it in this week’s Grub Street Diet.

Thursday, June 27
I woke up a little after 7 A.M. — 6:30 is my sweet spot, but a tad difficult lately.

I’m not much of a breakfast person and I don’t like spending the time on it until I’ve gotten at least one task done. I work days and evenings six days a week (and sometimes seven), if you don’t count travel, and I’m usually up until 1, 2, or sometimes 3 A.M. on a fairly consistent basis. So when I wake up I don’t have an appetite, and I usually start my day with hot water, sea salt, and lemon.

Over the weekend, I had a couple big events back to back so I skipped my morning walk to spend the extra minutes organizing myself, sort out some last minute logistics, and confirm my bartenders’ schedules. These morning walks are my preparation for retirement. I figure if I start the habit now, by the time I’m 60 I’ll be so good at it.

Meanwhile, it was kinda hot out, and I needed to get something inside of me or I’d wilt. So I gulped down a big glass of Siggi’s strawberry kefir. Love to start my day with protein and keep the flora and fauna healthy.

Around 9:30 A.M., I popped into Glady’s Carribbean to check in with the owner, William Garfield, and then grabbed a bubbly water for the road and headed over to Hunky Dory. I had the little yogurt (with berries, crispy quinoa, cocoa nibs, and thyme) and the side of sausage while I reviewed the last week’s activities for Bertoux, I design and lead their education seminars. I eat this 90 percent of the time I’m there, because I’m a creature of habit. I used to live in Bed-Stuy and when I went to Peaches Hothouse I would only order a side of the chicken breast, extra hot (like as hot they can make it) with a side of collard greens and an IPA. I ate that meal there for years. It’s a comfort thing. “I know I’m going to like this.” Meanwhile I don’t know if I’m going to like this commute or shift.

After a break to get a haircut at Crown Royal (Chad, a.k.a. the Gentleman Barber, has been my stylist for the past five years), I headed into the city to go to My Friend Duke, another one of my accounts. It’s a beautiful and low-key space from an Attaboy alum and an awesome addition to Murray Hill. And if you’re a chef, bartender, anyone into food for that matter, you’re in luck: Kaluystans is around the corner. I met with my colleague to catch up on emails between meetings, and had the lettuce wraps while getting ready for my next meeting. Still on the protein and green move. It was delicious, but a small portion.

At 5:30 p.m. I met a journalist, MacKenzie Fegan, for an interview over a Belgian Saison at Lafayette. I’m a Francophile, and therefore a sucker for this place. It’s beautiful, the wine director is super chill, and I love the vibe. It’s a lunch and coffee break situation for me when I’m crossing over from the West Village to the East Village.

Anyway, she’d interviewed me before, and we naturally veered off topic so it was super fun and a good breather before the jump back into work. After, I ordered an espresso and wrote emails while I waited to rejoin my colleague in our round of bar visits.

My next two stops were Ghost Donkey and then Banzarbar. I had a tropical-ish punch with brandy and pineapple — enough said.

Then it was off to see some accounts in Brooklyn, so I took the F to Dumbo and popped by Cecconi’s. The bar manager had left for the evening, so I hopped in a car and headed over to my last stop, Karasu. I was kinda talked out at this point, so I skipped saying hi and decided to let them approach me if they noticed that I was there.

It’s great — when I go there it’s like I get to disappear from Brooklyn for a few hours. The space is intimate and dimly lit — ideal for a date and conversation — in fact, I see an acquaintance from my neighborhood and her date in the corner. It’s where I like to do a nightcap. It’s a good way to end the night. And I was pleasantly surprised to discover that a bartender who used to serve me at a friend’s bar in my old neighborhood is now there.

I don’t cook meat at home — don’t like touching it and the places I frequent know how to source and prepare it better than I do — so I indulged in a late-night snack of fried chicken paired with a Toki highball pulled from one of the handful of draft systems installed in the city.

I left the restaurant VERY satisfied and ready for bed. My friends saw me outside while I was waiting for my cab and we chit-chatted briefly. But I’m an introvert and as much as I love conversing with people, I was spent and relieved when my car pulled up to spirit me away. At home, I organized and packed my tools and equipment for my two gigs this weekend: Cheers, Queers! at the James Beard House on Friday and a Tiki festival in Lake George on Saturday.

This is a typical 15-hour day for me. I have a fast metabolism and it’s not even so much “go, go, go” as “next, next, next.” Don’t sleep. Not really, but the opportunities are everywhere.

Around midnight, I passed out on the couch because a) I was too lazy to climb into my bed and b) it would be less tempting to sleep in.

Friday, June 28
Woke up at 6:30 A.M., started my day with hot water with lemon and a pinch of pink Himalayan salt, chased by two liters of (room temperature) water. I am religious about this, to prime my digestive tract, get (most) of my water consumption done for the day, and to avoid getting dehydrated — it was forecasted to be in the 90s.

I took a shower, followed by coffee (I drink it black) and some journaling. I drink Bustelo! It’s my favorite coffee — it’s already ground and tastes really good. I’ve been disappointed by so many quote-unquote gourmet coffees. Okay, $16 for this shit? Fuck that, man. $6 for enough coffee to last me for two weeks? In.

Here’s my thing: When it comes to nice coffee I’d rather go to the shop, because they have the equipment and they can make it better than I can at home. So that’s what that’s about.

Then, at 8 A.M., I started batching cocktails for the events. Both were from my book and involve tea-based syrups; I added a twist to one of my recipes by using a green tea that has coconut added to it. It’s delicious and adds a subtle nutty aroma to the cocktail, a welcome surprise.

After finishing those, I did some admin work, sent out a proposal and bid for a cocktail consulting project, and checked in with the organizers of Saturday’s event. I drank Siggy’s kefir and ate a handful of dates. When I prep, I tend to keep the eating to a minimum and save it for later, when I can relax and take my time.

I grew up in the South in a big extended family, and spent a lot of summers in Charleston at my grandparents’ house, and am not a fan of grab and go. My grandparents would host cookouts virtually every weekend, marching out the food and drink. So for me that’s what it’s about, first and foremost. Food for me is less a matter of eating to satiate my hunger, but to experience new flavors. My sister teases me about it all the time — “You don’t eat, you just spend all day tasting things.” She’s kinda right. I hate the sensation of being stuffed or overly full.

At 11 A.M., I ran a few quick errands, picked up more spirits, and then got a lunch of kimchi stew from Blueberry Farm, the deli around the corner from my house. I’ll probably eat some kind of Korean stew once a month. It’s a Korean deli, I do most of my shopping there. I’ve been going at least once a week since they opened three years ago. I love instant ramen, and they’ve got, like, 15 kinds. They also have a little corner with togarashi and fish sauce and sesame oil and all that stuff. Even rice cakes in the freezer section.

Ate my kimchi stew during a conference call with the brandy brand; I flubbed and dialed into our normal number and missed the first half of it. Then I wrapped up prep and packed my cocktails.

I wanted to leave at 2 P.M., but my Misfits delivery was due. I didn’t want to miss it and come home a few days later to a box of rotten produce. When the box arrived I ate one of the plums, took a shower, and got dressed.

Took a car to the James Beard House, and introduced myself to the guest chefs and touched base with the GM before I set up. It’s my fourth event here, so the process was smooth. My assistant on the gig (also named Shannon) arrived shortly after and prepped garnishes while I set up the bar’s mise en place. We finished with time to sample the food, including a delicious rock crab appetizer, before the doors opened.

Thankfully the event was a breeze, and my cocktail (which has Cachaca infused with banana, Jamaican rum, the tea syrup, and a few other “secret” ingredients) was a hit. Pamela Witzner showed up, which was a pleasant surprise as we’d been looking to connect in person. With Shannon (Bandur) on the bar, I was free to chat and roam for a little bit.

As the event winded down, we celebrated with a glass of bubbly, my summer beverage of choice. When my book came out, I decided to adopt a bubbly policy. The joke is like, “I’m in a bubbly mode.” It’s gotten to the point where I walk into a place where a friend works and they just hand me a glass of bubbly.

I got back home around 10 P.M. and went up the street to get my ZipCar. After I parked it, I was tempted to stop in at my local, King Tai, as is my custom after an event, but decided to do myself a favor and go to bed instead. I needed as much sleep as I could get for Saturday.

Saturday, June 29
Woke up at 4:30 A.M., did the hot water with lemon and salt thing, got dressed, grabbed a coffee from my deli, and got the car from around the corner.

My assistant, Orlando Franklin, and I were on the road at 6 A.M., and once we got on the highway the conversation inevitably turned to bars. What’s trending, what’s up ahead. We’re both bored with cocktails and Orlando predicts that bars (and consumers) will start focusing more on classics, and eventually spirits, beer, and wine. That it will become more about products and producers, less about mixology. A good observation. Should this take place, it would mean bartenders would need to seriously up their product-knowledge game.

We drove nonstop to Lake George, and stopped at a grocery store to pick up a few last-minute items including a few local beers. Also, Harpoon’s Dunkin’ pale ale — yes, an ale flavored with Dunkin’. We didn’t expect to like it but grabbed a few for shits and giggles.

The event started at 11 A.M., so once we arrived we hit the ground running. When we were set up, we tried the Dunkin’ beer. Orlando hated it, but I was down so I had dibs while he opted for a saison.

A few hours in, I ate turkey on a croissant with some kind of cheese — real basic — and toward the end of the event, some French fries. I don’t eat fast food at home, but save it for traveling under the pretense that it’s the easiest and safest bet in a town where I am not familiar with the dining options. We sold out of my cocktail at 6 P.M., packed up, and headed to the hotel for a nap and shower.

At 8 P.M., we went back to the event for the pig roast, “Hawaiian” rice, cole slaw, and a Polynesian show. Yes, there was fire involved. Then met up with friends for a few Navy Grogs, which turned into more than a few. Stayed out until 1 A.M., when we went back to the hotel where another conversation about cocktails and spirits ensued. I snacked on potato chips and looked up to see that it was 3:30 A.M. — whoops! I hit the hay, as I had to be up at 7 A.M. to work on some writing before we left for Brooklyn.

Sunday, June 30
Didn’t set my alarm, and slept in until 8:30 a.m.

Went down to the lobby for coffee at 10 A.M., but it was all gone. After I recovered from my dismay, I went back to my room and made a pot with the pod system and took the next hour to write.

We checked out, and went to lunch at this place called Gaslight. We saw it when we were driving around and it looked a little newer and hipper. Also, Orlando is not into breakfast, and we drove up the strip with the hotels and all the restaurants were doing “breakfast! Breakfast! Breakfast!”

There was a decent beer selection. I ordered a stout, a rarity for me, to go with my pomme frites. The fries, I don’t know what was going on with those things. It was alright.

Hit the road at 12:30 P.M., and an hour in I realized I’d had a little under 10 hours of sleep this weekend and took a nap. Got back to New York at 5 P.M., dropped Orlando off, and went back to my place to unload the gear. Got the ZipCar back with ten minutes to spare!

Went to Olmsted for dinner. I don’t get here often enough, but tonight’s the night. Zwann Greys, the wine director, is an old friend from the neighborhood and it’s always a treat to see her. She poured me a glass of bubbly, and we caught up. I snacked on a small plate of fluke and cucumber then hit the road to see a friend who’d been away for the past month. We drank this Danish-style Aquavit called Svöl with a few other friends. I was done for the day at 1 A.M., then went home for a few dates and water before I turned in.

Monday, July 1
Did my usual thing in the morning. Around 11 A.M., I made instant ramen and a cilantro-and-mango salad for breakfast. I love instant ramen, I hooked it up with mint and basil and fresh scallions.

I was supposed to head over to Long Island for work, but that got cancelled. So I went to Hunky Dory instead, where I had a little side salad and some sausage and then just pounded out a bunch of admin work. Had a glass of cider and an Austrian wine, too. I spent the whole afternoon there. It’s great. It’s beautiful. They have a really nice skylight in the back. I usually pick at the food, I order a couple of small plates and just snack while I work

Afterward, I went to Glady’s to check in. Had another glass of wine and a nip of some Haitian rum.

The thing about me is that I’m a snacker. I usually eat like four small meals a day. I think it has a lot to do with my work. I’ll be in eight different places in a day, and, you know, sitting and having a two-hour dinner doesn’t really work with my schedule.


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