Liana Oster is the Head Bartender at Dante in New York. She makes us two cocktails, one with Campari and Orange Juice and the second with Tequila and Italicus.
Liana introduce yourself
My name is Liana Oster, I moved to New York City two years ago after living in Melbourne, Australia. My road to hospitality was a little bit out of the ordinary, but also very relatable. I’d worked hospitality jobs as a teenager and picked up bar work when I was studying. I was completing my Masters in Clinical Exercise Physiology and working at Bar Americano in Melbourne and when I graduated I decided to do hospitality full time. I needed a challenge and moved to New York with another job offer, but it fell through. I tried to get another job and then Dante asked me to come in. I’ve been working here for the last two years, now as head bartender.
The classic you want to show us
45ml of Campari
1 fresh Orange Juice
The bar you dream of
My dream bar would be something that immediately makes you feel comfortable and familiar and would be in my hometown of Melbourne. It would have big windows for a lot of light. Aesthetic is important to me – everything about it should be enticing! Regarding music more the ’50s and 60’s but with something a bit more contemporary towards the end of the night would be great, like FKJ. The best of the Bee Gee’s should be a mandatory pack down playlist at least once a week. The menu would feature fresh, seasonal products, for both food and drinks. It needs to be sustainable and environmentally friendly. Australia is pretty lucky with the amazing quality of produce, so I’d definitely highlight that. And most importantly, it must have an abundance of awesome staff, they’re what keep you coming back.
What do you do in your time off
Time is so valuable in New York City and once I have a day off and do all the daily chores, I like to spend my time with my loved ones: cooking and eating. I love to read and also I enjoy exploring New York state – I’ll head on a train ride and check out a small town whenever I can. Hudson and Beacon are two of my favourites.
The spirit you like the most
I actually love using vermouth – I think it’s incredibly versatile. All vermouths have different flavour profiles as well, so your brain can go into overdrive creating something with it. My favourite vermouths are Noilly Prat, Cocchi Torino and Dolin or Alessio.
What makes a good cocktail
It’s about balance and precision. Drinks can sound okay on paper but any mishap or overpour of one element can skew a drink in the wrong direction. You have to always taste it and check if the dilution is okay. Anyone can make you a martini, for example, not everyone can make you a great one.
What ingredient do you enjoy using in cocktails
I like anything fresh and seasonal, that’s always fun to play around with. You can use berries in summer and make shrubs, syrups and cool garnishes. Anything that makes you think too. I put yoghurt in a drink recently, the Rosolio Spritz, I’ll make for you – it was definitely a talking point for customers and engaged them that little bit more with what they were drinking.
The signature cocktail you want to show us
45ml of Italicus
15ml of Tequila
15ml of Simple Syrup
22.5 ml of Lemon Juice
1 barspoon of Vanilla Yoghurt
Top with Prosecco
Where do you think we need to go to interview another bartender
I very recently went to Spain and went into an amazing bar in Valencia, called Acuarium and it blew my mind. The bartender had been there for over thirty years. His hospitality was amazing, he wouldn’t give me my glass of martini until he was positive. I’d eaten dinner and plied us with almonds and tapas until he was satisfied we were well fed and being looked after. I think it’s amazing and so interesting finding these guys who’ve been at it for decades. It’s a different style of bartending, hospitality, that’s so hard to come by these days.