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It's been eight years since Lauren Lowe made the move from the wilds of Michigan to Washington, D.C. A part of her is still getting used to the transition. "I lived in Michigan until I was 22," she stated. "Needless to say, there is a thriving city life here in comparison to where I'm from."
Lowe has been part of that thriving city life for eight years now, specifically its bar scene. Her first job behind the taps was at Chef Jeff's on 13th and F Streets. She left there after about a year and a half to take a job at DC Coast. She's been head bartender there for nearly six years now.
"I love it!" she declared. "I love bartending, and I especially love working in downtown D.C. DC Coast is the first restaurant opened by Passion Food Hospitality. We are on 14th and K downtown. What we serve is 'tri-coastal cuisine' with our chef-owner Jeff Tunks and our executive chef Miles Vaden. Tri-coastal cuisine means we offer specialties from the Mid-Atlantic region to the Gulf Coast and a little bit of West Coast-style cooking."
Lowe described herself as a people person. You have to be, she says, to be a success in her line of work. "I love pleasing customers and doing what I can to make their experience better. Delivering the best guest experience comes before trying to be the best bartender I can be. You can't be the best unless you know you are treating the customer properly."
She continued, "The hours can be difficult. Sometimes you are there really late. And being a bar manager means you are also there very early. It's very time consuming anytime you're in charge of a bar or wine program. So, you can get a little cranky. It's not always easy to smile, but you have to."
DC Coast has become known for its extensive vodka and gin lists. "We have one of the largest selections in the city," Lowe proudly stated. "I personally lean towards the classic cocktails, especially the gin-based ones. I've branched out into rye and bourbons, but I am certainly more gin-centered."
She especially likes mixing with FEW Spirits. "Shannon Crisp came by when he first started his company, and he did staff training for us," she recalled. "Ever since then, we as a staff have been supportive in selling their products. Behind the bar right now, I have a couple of cocktails with FEW gin as the base. For example, we do a specialty drink we call the Potomac Sunrise. It's been on our menu for years. It's very simple -- Svedka, St. Germain, Aperol, and fresh grapefruit juice -- but very popular. It's nice that FEW has three different gins -- their standard issue, which is the higher proof; the American style; and the Barrel-aged. It's very fun to work with the three separate products."
Looking around the city at her competition, Lowe has noticed that it has become extremely popular to have a cocktail program, in general. " In the last year or so, I've also noticed our customers have gotten a lot more drink-savvy, which is good for us as bartenders. We're not just guiding the blind now. It's because everyone everywhere is doing all of these amazing things with drinks. They're really educating our consumers."
She credits Scott Clime, DC Coast's wine and beverage director, as one of the major influences in her career thus far. She also gives credit to herself for her willingness to stay ahead of the curve in terms of drink trends. "You have to study for success," she said. "You have to be prepared going into each shift. Whether you are anticipating a busy or slow night, you just never know. Being prepared is what makes the night go smooth, keeps you happy, and keeps the guests happy."
And to any young bartenders reading this, does Lowe have any sage advice? "Just stick with it," she stated. "It definitely takes experience. With the competition that's out there today, you just can't go behind the bar and sling Long Islands and pour shots anymore. You have to put your mind into and read up on it. There are plenty of good books out there, and there are plenty of people who can come and talk to you who are more than happy to give words of wisdom. The bar business is actually a very open community, and we're out to help each other. Sometimes, the best thing to do is ask for help and take it."
FAVORITE MOVIE: "True Romance"
LOOKING FORWARD TO: "Rolling out our spring cocktails come mid-March!"
HER DOGS: A Boston terrier named Dudley and a Shepherd mix rescue dog named Castro.
SPECIAL INTERESTS: Outdoor activities, everything from hiking to skiing to playing with Dudley and Castro at the park.