Aisling (Ash-leen) Gammill of Boise can now add a new line to her resume: Netflix star.
Netflix’s “Drink Masters” featured Gammill and 11 other contestants in a competition to determine the best mixologist around.
“We had to find the intersection between what is bartending and what is high-level craft,” she said. “People can't smell your drinks. People can't taste your drinks. You have to make a drink that someone who is watching on a screen can get the vibe of, without having any other help with the sensory inputs. It was like this weird alternate universe of where bartending meets TV.”
Aisling’s cocktail, “When the Smoke Clears,” won her the show’s very first challenge, which was to reinvent the margarita.
“Every challenge, I really tried to do something that I had never done before,” Gammill said. “I really tried to push myself outside of my comfort zone.”
She also pointed out the difficulty in executing the different tests under a ticking clock.
“High-level cocktails take a whole lot of prep on the backend,” she said. “It can take weeks, sometimes months, to get all of the different elements in place and execute them at the highest level. And so when they give you 40 minutes to do that, it's like a lot to figure out how to do it.”
For instance, in episode 2, Gammill used liquid nitrogen for the first time to make one of her specialties: bespoke ice.
“I figured out how to execute apple glitter ice in under 40 minutes, which is awesome.”
Filmed in Toronto, Canada, Gammill earned her spot on the show through Zoom auditions after a fellow bartender posted an application link.
“I'm very grateful for the experience and for having the opportunity to show people what I do and what high-level craft bartending is,” she said. “Because this is the first time I think most people have seen that and I think that's really important. And it's so cool to have been a part of it.”
Now that she’s done filming the show (you’ll have to watch to see where she placed), Gammill is back home in Boise as the owner of Jellyfish Drinks Consulting and the taproom manager for Meriwether Cider Company. With a degree in culinary arts and beverage management from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Gammill said she’s worked at just about every type of bar concept there is.
“I really felt like my superpower was going to be in drinks,” she said.
Gammill’s superpower has taken her all over. She’s kept up her education through things like the Cocktail Apprentice Program, competed across North America, and poured drinks at events like Portland (Oregon) Cocktail Week, New Orlean’s Tale of the Cocktail, Texas’ South by Southwest, and Boise’s own Treefort.
Part of the appeal of bartending, Gammill said, is the conversations she gets to have.
“I really like talking to people and pairing,” she said. “I feel like that's what a good bartender does, is you talk to someone, you figure out what they're into. And you make something and it clicks, and it's like the perfect drink for them. I also like getting people to step out of their reality and just take a minute and hang out with me and give me their trust to make something awesome. Because a lot of times I feel like my job is to have all this education and all this nerdy stuff so that you don't have to. And when I can have the trust of someone for them to let me show them this new cool thing, that's really awesome.”
When not showing off her skills to big crowds, you can find her at Meriwether Cider Company.
“Pretty much everybody helps do everything,” she said. “And being the taproom manager means that I try to focus on maintaining that space and helping with the programming. I bartend. I get to help in production. Sometimes I get to help dial in the flavors of ciders or brainstorm methods of how we're going to prepare certain ciders. And I get to help bottle and package.”
And while asking a bartender what their favorite spirit is maybe like asking a parent to pick a favorite child, Gammill had no trouble.
“My all-time favorite spirit is mezcal because it is super diverse. Every single bottle is different. The process of making mezcal means that even every distillation is different. So to me, that's like the multiverse spirit, because there are infinite possibilities within mezcal. And it also has really, really distinct terroir. Terroir is basically everything that happens to a plant as it’s growing as it's connected to the earth, and that has the impact on how it tastes. For mezcal, you're tasting years of terroir at a time, which is really cool.”
Want to get better at bartending?
“Expensive is not always better, especially with cocktails,” Aisling Gammill said. “You want something that tastes good to you, but is reasonably priced.”
1. Get one bottle of something that excites you.
2. Make one classic shaken and one classic stirred drink.
3. Expand your repertoire.
4. Repeat with a new liquor as desired.
Gammill also offered this tip: “For anybody, your brain's only going to process about four flavors at a time. Think whatever spirit it is that you want to work with. Taste it like you would if you were tasting wine and pick out the first four things you taste. Build your drink around those four flavors and you'll have a perfect, awesome drink every time.