Bartender Chat: Kimberly Paul of Osteria Mazzantini gets Witchy
Welcome to Eating...Our Words' Bartender Chat, in which we sit down with local bartenders and get to know their style. Whether they're slinging beers or mixing complex cocktails, bartenders are our buddies and confidants, but we're turning the tables and the camera on them to find out what they're passionate about and what makes them some of Houston's best.
Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg Kimberly Paul of Osteria Mazzantini mixes up a mean brew.
Kimberly Paul has been bartending long enough that she no longer has any misconceptions about the job. She's chill and personable, with a bit of a rocker vibe. She's dressed in all black, and she has maroon-ish hair and a nose ring. She's seen it all in the crazy bars and clubs of her past.
Now she's content to serve quality cocktails and wine at Osteria Mazzantini, while still offering her unique brand of badass to customers who might not be expecting such creativity from an Italian restaurant.
In honor of Mazzantini's new spring menu, which features bright citrus and homemade vinegar-based shrubs of Paul's invention, she's teaching us how to make her new favorite cocktail, the Sun of a Witch. It's prepared with Liquore Strega, so named because the town in Italy where it's produced has long been thought of as a hub for witchcraft. To Paul, that just makes it even better.
How long have you been bartending?
(Cringes) Twenty-three years.
How did you get started?
In 1991, I decided I wanted to go to bartending school. At the time, I lived in Southern California. It was just kind of a whim. I was waitressing, and I realized that the bartenders were making way more money than me. So I went to bartending school and got a job at a place that was an Arabic club on the weekends. It was a lot of fun. I learned a lot.
What's bartending school like?
Back then, it was a lot different than it is now. Now it's all about the shots and the vulgar drinks. Back then, it was more about how to properly open a bottle of champagne, how to build a drink. Nowadays, the people who come out of bartending school know completely different things.
What would you be doing if you weren't bartending?
Oh, geez. I don't know. Working in a nursery?
For plants, or for children?
Definitely plants. Something like that. I like the whole herbalist kind of thing. I would love to do that.
How long have you been with Osteria Mazzantini?
Since we opened, so a little more than seven months.
If you aren't here, where do you do to drink?
I would love time to go and drink and hang out. I like to go to music venues. Prior to working here, my husband and I would go to House of Blues a lot. That's more my type of hangout.
What do you drink when you're out?
Either beer or whiskey. Or beer and whiskey. I'll make cocktails for myself at home, but when I'm out, I don't normally drink cocktails. Unless I'm going to a craft place. If I go to Anvil, of course I order a cocktail. I like to see what those craft cocktail places have going on.
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