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Monday, October 26, 2015

Abigail Gullo: Leading Lady of Libation

by Blair Loup

Abigail Gullo, bartender at Compère Lapin in New Orleans
Abigail Gullo, bartender at Compère Lapin in New Orleans
Photo courtesy of Compère Lapin

It seems everyone who winds up in Louisiana has a story, and the story of bartender Abigail Gullo’s journey to Nina Compton’s Compère Lapin is one of a New Yorker born to live in Louisiana.

Daughter to a pair of writers, Abigail always felt like an old soul. Growing up around movies like "The Thin Man," where martinis and cocktail hours were a main component of society at the time, turned Abigail into a “girl with moxy.”

“My parents are big drinkers, and like the good New Yorkers they are, they didn’t take me seriously until I had a cocktail published in the New York Times," Abigail said.

Having grown up in a time when as a child she made Manhattans for her grandfather, she felt like she grew up in a bubble.

“When I turned 21, I realized that time had passed. No one made those drinks anymore. You were hard-pressed to find anything other than Angostura bitters," she said.

While studying theater at George Mason University in Virginia, she and her friends took road trips to New Orleans, where she quenched her thirst for rye whiskey.

After she graduated, she moved to New York, where she became "one of those very strange New York actors who didn't work in a restaurant."

She taught early childhood development in the mornings, worked as a nanny in the afternoons, and took to the off-Broadway stage at night.

In her off hours, Abigail still made time to chase the cocktail culture of the city around in places like the Rainbow Room and Windows of the World. It wasn’t until she learned about Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans that she got serious about her craft.

Fascinated with the cocktail culture of New Orleans since her late teens/early twenties, Abigail found herself intoxicated by spirits in New Orleans. She moved to New Orleans and began a true bartending career. Older than her most of her counterparts, Abigail explained she took her job very seriously.

“When you dedicate your life to service and hospitality, you want to go to a city and a culture that supports that,” she said.

To her, New Orleans was the obvious choice.

While there is more support for craft cocktails in the industry, she also sees room for support for female bartenders saying.

“It’s never-ending," she said. "Women may be known as bartenders, but men are 'mixologists.' I feel like I’ve missed out on a few jobs because I don’t have a mustache.”

Bartending requires thick skin and a sunny disposition, both qualities Abigail attributes to her theater background.

She looks forward to clocking in every shift, and she thrives on the challenges of the job.

As someone who spends much of her time working in the Compère Lapin bar (the restaurant was built around the bar), Abigail has nothing but kind words for Nina Compton and the bar's stellar cocktail program.

"I am just blown away by the professionalism, determination, and how much fun it is," she said. "A lot of hours of our lives are spent here, and I believe that translates to the guests."

She may be a New Orleans transplant, but Abigail Gullo embodies all the qualities of a true Louisiana native. Cheers!

Bite and Booze Bonus: Abigail started a blog when she lived in New York City that logged all of her cocktail adventures and it contains countless tasty recipes: RyeGirlinNYC

This post is part of a monthly series spotlighting Louisiana women in the business of booze. Previous features include: