Interview with Misty Kalkofen, Harvard Divinity School Grad Turned Bartender

by Caren on June 20, 2012

Misty KalkofenEach week, we post short interviews with interesting people about their thoughts and feelings on women and drinking. There is such a wide array of perspectives about this topic, and we are excited to gain insight into as many as possible and to share them with you. 

Misty Kalkofen first stepped behind the bar while studying theology at Harvard Divinity School. Shortly thereafter, she joined the opening staff of the B-Side Lounge, the first bar in the city to focus on classic cocktails and vintage spirits. Kalkofen teamed up with a few fellow enthusiasts to create Boston’s first modern day cocktail club, the Jack Rose Society. In 2007, Kalkofen founded the Boston chapter of Ladies United for the Preservation of the Endangered Cocktail (LUPEC), fulfilling her desire to make a “cocktail for a cause.”  Rooted in the belief that everyone loves a good drink, people like to do good things, and broads can accomplish anything, the ladies of LUPEC have raised over $40,000 for local Boston women’s charities by throwing the best parties in town.

Kalkofen has been featured in Bon Appetit, Imbibe, Food & Wine Cocktail editions, Wine Enthusiast, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, Tasting Panel, Wine & Spirits, and more. Cultivating a spirit of camaraderie among cocktail lovers (while showing everyone a really good time in the process) is Misty’s mission across the many communities she touches.

Drinking Diaries: How did/does your family treat drinking?

Misty Kalkofen: Growing up, alcohol was openly appreciated in our home.  It was never treated as something off-limits.  Don’t get me wrong.  My parents weren’t dishing out gin and tonics, but if I asked for a sip as a child I could have one.  My parents knew that I most likely wouldn’t enjoy it and I would move along.  And as I got older (high school and early college) I would be offered a bit of wine when my parents and older sisters were having some with dinner.  I think this has a lot to do with why I never felt the need to go behind my parents’ backs and binge with friends in high school or college.  I knew what it was and I knew I could have it in a controlled way that was acceptable to my parents.LUPEC logo

How do you approach alcohol in your every day life?/Have you ever had a phase in your life when you drank more or less?

I’m going to answer these together. As someone working in the bar industry it’s a careful balance.  Work always involves the presence of alcohol.  Nights off frequently involve events sponsored by brands where spirits are plentiful.  Moderation and balance is important but at times can be very difficult to attain and maintain.  I’m forty and I’m still figuring it out.  What I’m learning is that it’s important to take times to leave the alcohol behind for a period.  Obviously my job will continue to involve tasting and working on cocktails but sometimes it’s important to have social drinking be minimized to come back to equilibrium.  I’m currently on a self-imposed ride on the wagon to allow my body to breathe and reset.

What’s your drink of choice? Why?

I love agave distillates.  Tequila, mezcal, bacanora.  I love the connection of agave and the history and people of Mexico.  Some of the producers of mezcal are using the same methods that their families have been using for nine or more generations.  It’s culture in a glass.

Can you tell us about the best time you ever had drinking?

Every time I’m drinking mezcal in Oaxaca it’s perfect, but I would say my favorite trip thus far was for dia de los muertos in 2010. I was surrounded by old friends while meeting new friends.   From building an altar to visiting the families of mezcal producers it was an amazing experience.

Has drinking ever affected—either negatively or positively—a relationship of yours?

I’ve definitely had relationships where rules had to be in place.  For example, I once had a boyfriend who was only allowed one gin martini.  Two gin martinis always led to fights and tears.  But I think there are a lot of things one needs to learn when starting a new relationship.  One’s ability to imbibe is one of them especially when you work in this industry.

What do you like most about drinking?

I love the social aspect of drinking.  I love sharing a bottle of wine with my girlfriends.  I love being able to serve my friends a drink when I’m working.  In my life it brings people together for good times and good reasons.  The best example of this is LUPEC.  LUPEC stands for Ladies United for the Preservation of the Endangered Cocktail and I am the president of the Boston chapter.   We are a women’s cocktail organization that throws great parties to raise money for women’s charities in the Boston area.  We have supported Jane Doe Inc (the MA coalition against domestic violence and sexual assault), the Friends Boutique at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and the women’s wing of the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans.  Most recently, we have been supporting an organization called On the Rise based in Cambridge.  On the Rise, a day program for homeless women, takes a long term relational approach to help women find long term solutions based upon a whole life context.

How has alcoholism affected your life?

My oldest sister’s husband is a recovering alcoholic.  I’ve watched as she’s been an absolute rock through the whole experience – being supportive of him when appropriate, the hard ass when it was necessary and a loving mother to three kids through the whole experience.  Between watching her and talking with her about her experiences in contrast to the amazing experiences I’ve had as a result of the spirits industry, I’ve seen the spectrum of how alcohol can be good or evil.  It’s a constant reminder of the importance of balance and moderation.

If you could be any drink, what would it be? Why?

An old fashioned.  When you see the ingredients written on paper it seems very simple.  Spirits, sugar, water and bitters.  But when prepared with care it has layers of complexity that unfold over the course of experiencing it.  There is a reason that even though it has been around since 1806, it is still one of the most frequently called for cocktails.

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