Style & Substance
You expect The Populist to be cool–how could it not be? The bar’s dark exterior and vintage industrial vibes are stylish–without trying too hard. The menu is creative and eclectic. Not to mention The Populist is home to one of the most rad outdoor patios in town, complete with an Instagram-worthy wall draped in vines and string lights. Cool–clearly. What you’re not expecting is to be utterly charmed by intimate atmosphere of neighborhood locals chatting at the bar, by the food that is both comforting and indulgent, and most of all, by the passionate and genius staff.
Take Chelsea Mahoney, the lead bartender at the Populist, who has an almost dizzying knowledge of the bottles that line the shelves behind her and creativity to match. On any given night, order the Bartender’s Choice–you’ll be getting a drink that perhaps no one has ever gotten before. Chelsea creates it on the spot, often naming it after the patron who ordered it. From her confidence and expertise, you’d never guess that she was a server when The Populist opened five years ago. Within a month she was behind the bar and has been there ever since.
You can’t help but wonder where Mahoney gets the inspiration for such creativity behind the bar. Pulling out a copy of David Embury’s “The Fine Art of Mixing Cocktails,” she explains, “This is my go-to. I get a lot of inspiration from this book, which was written in the 40’s. I love how creative you can be behind the bar, and how everyone has their own style. Everyone can put their stamp on it.”
Chelsea describes her style as southern, feminine and weird, and compares mixing a drink to creating the varied notes of a perfume.
We sample a Snow White, a frothy cocktail of rum, lime, pineapple and egg white that immediately has us longing for warmer weather. We also try a variation of a Jack Rose, garnished with lemon and flower petals. Close your eyes as you savor its citrus and herbal flavors, and it might almost trick you into thinking that it’s spring. Both drinks are delicate and delicious, and both are part of The Populist’s spring cocktail lineup.
This season, if you’re looking for charm, come in and ask to see Chelsea’s famous bar trick. Then order a cocktail–you might just leave with a drink named after you.