Madelyn is a firecracker and you know it right off the bat when you meet her.
She’s friendly but will call you out when she deems appropriate, which I love about her, like those pesky bottle rockets that light, fizzle, and go off at the least expected time - but they still bring a smile to your face when they do. I actually waited on her the first time we met, at VOX Table. A couple weeks later, to my delight, she was our new bartender! The start of a new woman crush (on my end) was born.
Hailing from Nome, Texas, this good ol’ gal graduated valedictorian from Hardin Jefferson High School with the intentions of attending law school. After her freshman year at the University of Texas, she left the dorms for her own apartment, thus leading to bills that needed to be paid. Her easy fix was a bartending gig on Dirty Sixth, complete with rough, long hours. A two year hiatus from the profession soon followed.
After a summer abroad, she found herself in the profession again. Her concern for her lack of experience almost drove her to walk out of Peché as soon as she entered to apply. “I am not qualified to work here but I’d like to be”, she wrote on her application. They gave her a chance since her determination was obvious.
Kay immediately dove headfirst into craft cocktail bartending, reading Dale Degroff’s The Craft of the Cocktail. Her study habits from college resurfaced with her collection of classic cocktail flashcards, amounting to 108 cocktails she familiarized herself with. Peché was a great stepping stone for her as well as Haddington’s before leaving for Australia in 2013.
Her time spent in Australia, specifically Melbourne, was spent exploring and further honing her skills at bars such as Madame Brussels and Ra Cigar Bar. “I never picked more mint in my life”, Kay recalls, while explaining the concept of batched cocktails at Madame Brussels. The batched cocktail method is an easy way to streamline serving consistent drinks but can be a tedious process in preparation. Melbourne treated her well, though she worked all but one day of the week with late nights at work followed by even later nights of partying (as bartenders and industry folk tend to do). She took some time to backpack through Asia for the latter part of 2014, then found herself back in Australia in 2015, before heading back to Austin.
We love a lot of the same things about Austin and its service industry: the culture and camaraderie being at the top of the list. “The people are amazing in this industry”, Madelyn muses as she mentions her inspirations, most notably her mentor, JR Mocanu, VOX Table’s beverage director.
Upon her return, she settled into the VOX Table family, and readied herself for her third attempt at Speed Rack, which is a national competition for women bartenders. The flashcards made their way back into her studying methods as she explains the competition is less about practicing but more about studying the plethora of Speed Rack classic cocktails. Madelyn won the Texas competition in San Antonio and is competing at the nationals held in Brooklyn, representing Texas along with Elyse Blechman of Houston as wild card.
Madelyn had me over to show me some of the tricks of the trade at VOX Table. This restaurant was home for me for the greater part of last year and I fell in love with every single one of my coworkers, so I keep coming back for more. Kay showed me the ins and outs of a bar: what a jigger is (that fancy looking contraption that measures out ounces), shaker tins, measuring, and especially taste. At 26, she’s well versed in her cocktails, explaining one of her signature drinks.
The Sprung cocktail is complex, refreshing, and showcases her ability to put together a damn good cocktail. Bols Genever, a Dutch gin, is complimented with bonal, citrus juices, lavender-lemongrass syrup, and bitters. It starts with a tart bite and ends with a sweetness that’s not too overwhelming, much like Madelyn herself.