Local mixologist on spirits, concocting drink menus and the perfect margarita
Krystal Seymour began her bartending career more than six years ago at a small dive bar in Beverly Hills. Later, the Sacramento native did a stint at a brewery and other bars before being promoted to manager at a restaurant in Manhattan Beach, Calif. Eventually, she helped open another beachside restaurant, designing and launching its cocktail menu. Now, Seymour’s back in Sac, tending bar at The Park Ultra Lounge and Mix Downtown, which both draw huge crowds—and clients that want smartly crafted cocktails. Here’s this mixologist’s take on the spirits scene.
What do you consider when creating a cocktail menu?
I just have a really strong knack for flavor. I know what tastes good. I wanted to make it so that men and women both enjoy cocktails—that nothing is too sweet and has a lot of unique flavors.
Do you think men and women do both equally enjoy cocktails?
I was pleasantly surprised that, in the Mexican restaurant industry, people tended to want to try margaritas. In fact, they base how good your restaurant is off of your margarita. How fresh it tastes. How sweet it is. And my concept was to make it as fresh as possible, get away from the processed ingredients. … And I tried everything, but in the end we decided to make our own: squeeze our own fresh juices, order an agave nectar from Hawaii.
It’s all about keeping drinks fresh and natural, but at the same time tasting good.
How do you make a margarita?
I think the best way is just tequila and Cointreau with fresh-squeezed lime juice and a little bit of an agave nectar. And that’s it.
And what kind of tequila?
My personal favorite is Herradura Silver. You never want to use an anejo in a margarita because it’s overpowering and extremely oaky, so it kind of takes the whole balance of the margarita in the wrong direction.
Notice any differences between Los Angelinos and Sacramentan club scenes?
Honestly, I like the clientele here. People here are a bit friendlier. They’re not so wrapped up in themselves. I think people genuinely love going out here; they love the bar, that’s their life. They love to try new places and they love to be a part of that scene. In L.A., people just like to go out to be seen. To meet someone that can help them do something.
What do Sacramentans drink?
People drink a lot of sweet drinks here. A lot of Long Island iced teas and a lot of random recipes. “I want a Jolly Rancher” or “I want an AMF.” And I think that’s kind of a younger drink, something you do when you’re 21. But people love to drink mixed drinks here. … And then the Red Bull-vodka thing is still really popular around here.
How can you put a spin on that?
I think Red Bull-vodka tastes better with a fruit-infused vodka, like a cherry. That’s probably the better combination.
What would you like to introduce to Sacramentan’s palates?
I think Sacramento would be pleasantly surprised by introducing fresher ingredients to drinks. Not as much of the processed, simple sugars. I personally like fresh-fruit infused martinis.
How would you prepare that?
I had a raspberry martini that was fabulous. So we would muddle fresh raspberry with agave nectar—just a dash—and Stoli Raspberry and a dash of Sprite, and that was the martini. I really think that fresh is always better. But it takes time to prepare that.
How about some other vodka-based cocktails. What would you make me?
Ah, vodka’s my favorite. I’m a big fan of a pear martini: Grey Goose pear [flavored vodka], and there’s a fabulous syrup called Monin. It’s not extremely well known around here; it’s kind of a gourmet, boutique syrup. But they make great syrups, and they’re all natural. So, Grey Goose pear with a little bit of the Monin pear syrup, a dash of Sprite and garnished with a thin pear slice in a martini glass served up.
Not too sweet?
No, not at all. You only use a quarter-ounce of the syrup, plus 3 ounces of Grey Goose and a dash of Sprite.
So what do you drink when you’re out?
I’m a whiskey person. (Laughs.) I am all about Crown [Royal] on the rocks. Or Jameson.
What do you like most on the Mix cocktail menu?
My favorite? Um … I really like the Sweet Heat, and that’s anejo tequila with Grand Marnier—which I’m a huge fan of—jalapeño and lime juice. It has this sweet, hot mixture.
What’s the ideal summertime drink?
Bartenders will hate me for saying this, but a mojito—if it’s done right.
How’s “done right"?
Sometimes people make them too sweet; they put too much sugar in them. It’s all about a large portion of lime, almost a half of a lime. With about a tablespoon and a half of fresh mint. All you really need is a half-ounce of sugar. Obviously, I recommend an agave or an amber cane. And then you muddle that up really good so all the flavors come out, then pour the ice, your rum and your soda water. And I think it’s really important to shake it a little bit; dump it into a mixer, shake it, throw it back into the glass. Mojitos can be fabulous if they’re done right.
Why do you enjoy mixology?
I enjoy it because I need to keep my mind active. I like creating something or when I have to interact with people. I know most people think “I’ll have this, I’ll have that” when it comes to cocktails, but you have to think about every drop that goes into a drink and how it’s going to taste. Even with a Long Island iced tea, if you put too much gin, it’s going to be overpowering. When I’m making a drink—even when it’s busy—I make it how I would want and expect it to be made. I want people to say, “Wow, this is really good!”