Wo Hing Cocktail Creator Brooke Arthur on Balancing the New and the Familiar
Few in the bar industry have been on such a consistent and stellar climb as Brooke Arthur. With a rare combination of remarkable talent, humility, and good nature, it's no surprise Arthur has been tapped to lead such high profile bar programs such as Range, Prospect, and now Charles Phan's Wo Hing General Store. SFoodie caught up with the bar manager to chat about the new gig, with part two of the interview here, and a recipe for her new holiday cocktail at Wo Hing, "Napoleon's Vice" in part three.
SFoodie: How did you end up in the bar business?
Brooke Arthur: Getting through school working in this industry along with meeting some amazing people here caused me to just kind of fall into it. I am so lucky to have so many amazing mentors that are my best friends, I could have never done it without them...they know who they are.
What kinds of drinks do you most enjoy making-- the classics or innovating better?
I really like mixing those two things together ... Classics always being the fallback.
It's interesting that at Wo Hing the drinks don't necessarily feel Asian, like the cocktail menus at other Charles Phan properties. Is there a company style that Slanted Door bar manager Erik Adkins influenced with your program at Wo Hing?
Erik Adkins has influenced all of my programs; I've watched his menus at Heaven's Dog and Slanted Door since I started bartending. He has a classic style that is very admirable, as well as being complimentary with the food that he works with. The company style is exactly what I was drawn to: The cocktails on the menu at Wo Hing are all my recipes, but as the director of bars, he is very involved.
What's your favorite part about working behind the stick?
The team at Wo Hing is so damn much fun, that's the best part. We sing, dance, laugh, and make cocktails.... The vibe leaks into the whole restaurant. I love the idea that we are creating a private dinner party for everyone that sits ... or stands in front of us. That is the best part.
What approach did you take when putting the menu together? Did you see this as an opportunity to push yourself out of your comfort zone?
I really wanted to create a menu that was different than anything I had done before, and never working with Asian food gave me an instant platform to do that. I tried to push myself to not fall into my safe place by putting together recipes that made me nervous but were also fun and whimsical. The idea of working with new flavors was very exciting. I mean, who doesn't want spicy Asian food with rum and coconut? Piña Colada, anyone?
Wo Hing General Store, 584 Valencia (at 17th), 552-2510