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Behind the Bar: Jenee Craver of ITV

by Drink Philly on Jun 14, 2017 in Culture

 
For this installment of Behind the Bar, we spoke to up-and-coming bartender Jenee Craver of ITV, Nick Elmi's more casual, Laurel-adjacent outpost. Craver, who grew up in Allentown and moved to Philly in 2013, put in some time at World Cafe Live before joining Elmi as the bar manager and head bartender, and she talked to us about her favorite spirits, what every drinker should have on their home bar, and her dream of opening an animal sanctuary.
 
Drink Philly (DP): Tell me a little bit about the place.
Jenee Craver (JC): ITV is Nick Elmi’s second concept - he wants a more refined neighborhood bar, but a place where you can definitely feel welcome, great food, great cocktails and a wine list that you can pair with that food. The concept was originally for a wine bar, but as I joined, they started to shift away from that, realizing that guests wanted cocktails. We went to some of the best craft cocktail bars in New York to get some inspiration, and wanted to see how we could implement some of their techniques here.
 
DP: How long have you been here?
JC: Since February.
 
DP: Total years behind the bar?
JC: About five to six years right now.
 
DP: Have you tended elsewhere?
JC: World Cafe Live, and growing up, I was always in the hospitality industry in some form. When I was 18, I worked in banquet serving, and after that and in college, I served at some chains and learned some life lessons.
 
DP: What’s trendy right now?
JC: It’s interesting, because there’s still a big push for classics, but there’s a lot of variety in the classics - I have a lot of people asking for Penicillins, for example. I also think bartenders are creating their own “twists” on classics to the point where they’re unrecognizable, but in a really great and inspired way. I also personally love working with our kitchen and the ingredients they’re playing with - recently, a chef and I used fermented strawberries instead of olive juice to make a really cool and unexpected “dirty martini.”
 
DP: What are some trends you wish would die?
JC: When someone sees your well-curated cocktail list and wants to substitute the main spirit for vodka, which really just messes with the entire composition of the drink.
 
DP: Any predictions about where the industry might go next?
JC: I feel like in Philly, chef-driven bars are going to be popping up a bit more. Philly’s definitely getting a lot of recognition, and I hope and think that’ll continue to grow as we expand.
 
DP: One unexpected fact about you?
JC: I used to ride horses — my grandmother worked on a farm that ran therapeutic horse rides, and I still want a horse one of these days. I’d also like to open an animal sanctuary someday.
 
DP: Favorite beer?
JC: Any kind of pale ales, right now.
 
DP: Favorite liquor?
JC: To drink, definitely scotches and whiskey; to work with, I love tequila, because it challenges me. It’s not the easiest thing to throw in a cocktail.
 
DP: Favorite cocktail?
JC: A Greenpoint.
 
DP: What’s your favorite kind of customer?
JC: Willingness to learn, unafraid to ask questions if they don’t understand something - a person where you can really make a connection and they really listen to what I have to say about a drink or spirit. I love a positive energy and when someone’s really intrigued by what you’re doing.
 
DP: Favorite joke?
JC: A string walks into a bar with a few friends and orders a beer. The bartender says, "I'm sorry, but we don't serve strings here." The string goes back to his table. He ties himself in a loop and messes up the top of his hair. He walks back up to the bar and orders a beer. The bartender squints at him and says, "Hey, aren't you a string?" The string says, "Nope, I'm a frayed knot."
 
DP: What do you think the essentials are for a good home bar?
JC: Your basic base spirits, one from each category, of course (whiskey, gin, tequila, vodka). Some good sweet and dry vermouth. Chartreuse, both green and yellow; Luxardo or some other kind of maraschino liqueur. Campari doesn’t hurt either. Some amaro - I like Averna.
 
DP: Where do you go for a drink when you’re not working?
JC: Two of my favorites are Townsend (Brandon and Bo), and Charlie was a sinner. with Matthias.
 
DP: What’s the secret to being a great bartender?
JC: I think a lot of it is being very aware of your surroundings - making sure everything is taken care of, making sure guests are getting their drinks on time, being in tune with what guests want. I love doing bartender’s choices, because it feels like you can learn a lot about a person from what they drink.
 
DP: If you could have a drink with any person alive or dead, who would it be and what would you have?
JC: Teresita Fernandez, an installation artist. She has this way of creating installation exhibits that both evoke memories and manipulate psychologies, and her mediums are really unorthodox. She has such a way of manipulating your perceptions. I discovered her while I was in school taking a class on installation art. I would drink a whole bottle of wine — a good Portuguese red, more leather and tobacco notes — and just get an idea of how she creates her work and her art.
 
Photo via Drink Philly

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