By Jenniffer Weigel
Bridget Albert approaches cocktails with the mind-set of a chef.
“You have to understand balance and flavor,” says Albert, regional director of mixology at Southern Wine & Spirits of Illinois, Minnesota and Kentucky. “If you talk to anyone who’s in my position, not only can they make great drinks, they’re all pretty darn good cooks, too.”
Albert creates beverage programs and cocktail menus for restaurants across the U.S. and is co-author of “Market Fresh Mixology: Cocktails for Every Season” (Agate Surrey). She also teaches her craft to aspiring bartenders, and is one of 10 finalists in the “Best Bar Mentors in the World” category at the 2015 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards, to be held July 18 in New Orleans.
Albert says she is still amazed she gets to make cocktails for a living.
“And believe it or not, I’m actually not a big drinker,” she says. “But this is what I do and know and love. In my family, we have a terrific history with Chicago and bartending and beverage.”
Raised in the Illinois farming town of Shorewood to parents she describes as “hard-working and loving,” Albert says her ties to the spirits industry go back generations, on both sides of the family.
“My 98-year-old grandmother (Rosella Pancurak) worked and lived in the family tavern in Coal City (Ill.) from the time she was a child until it closed down in the late 1940s,” she says. “And on my dad’s side of the family, my great-grandmother used to make bathtub gin during Prohibition.”
Albert and her husband, Jamie, returned to live in Shorewood after their daughter, Paige, was born. “I’d been on the opening team of the Bellagio in Las Vegas (working as a bartender), and we decided we wanted to raise our daughter closer to family, so we moved home in 2005,” she says.