Hallie Schieding, Assistant general manager, started her bartending career at the hip El Dorado Cocktail Lounge, located in downtown San Diego. El Dorado has been serving up some of our favorite cocktails for almost eight years. Hallie chas about her journey with El Dorado and shares her Harry Potter-themed cocktail, Unicorn Blood, with 'Behind the Stick.'
$9 ($6 on happy hour menu)
1.5 oz Cimarron tequila
.5 oz fresh lime juice
1 oz fresh grapefruit juice
.75 oz house-made syrup (equal parts grenadine and elderflower)
What's the story behind the Unicorn Blood?
I'm a huge fan of Harry Potter, so I wanted to get at least one drink on the menu that made a reference to it. We added in the grenadine last minute so it gives it this really beautiful pink color which fits with the "blood" reference, even though unicorn blood is silvery in color per the books.
Describe the taste?
There are a lot of layers to the cocktail. On the nose, you immediately smell the grapefruit and the initial taste is very tart. The drink then mellows out to the sweet elderflower flavor at the end. The flavors don't linger too long so it's a very easy cocktail to sip on.
What's the key component of this drink?
The elderflower is subtle but it's that "mystery" flavor most people can't place initially. That is the ingredient people are most intrigued by in my experience.
What reactions do you get from customers when they try this cocktail for the first time?
This is one of our most popular cocktails on the current summer signature menu. I think some people try the drink just for the name alone and then realizes that the cocktail is dangerously easy to drink. I recently started swapping in a half ounce of mezcal to change it up a bit since mezcal is so popular here in San Diego and it's delicious with the added smokiness.
What's a good dish to pair with this cocktail?
First time I made this cocktail at home to try it out, without the grenadine, I was eating fish tacos and it was a perfect combination.
Watch as Hallie makes the perfect tequila-based libation called Unicorn Blood.
What kind of experience can guests get at El Dorado?
During the week, it's definitely a locals bar. We get a few newcomers based on referrals but the weekdays are for chatting and drink experiments. Mondays there is live music from Shane Hall. Tuesdays are mostly industry nights since most bartenders and chefs know we will let them in for a couple drinks at 1:30 p.m. with no complaint. From Wednesday on, we have DJs on and the nights get busier as we get closer to Saturday. We all pride ourselves on not having an ego so you can come in and relax. If you want something fancy, we can do it but we don't mind pouring a Jack and coke either. We're a newer group of bartenders, so we love to learn from our patrons and we just want everyone to have a good time without feeling like they have to be something they're not. About Hallie Schieding
Are you from San Diego?
I'm originally from Monterey but I moved here about four years ago and I don't think I'll be making the trek back north anytime soon.
How did you get into bartending?
Bartending was something I wanted to get into since college, but I was always so hesitant because I had no idea how to start. One night when I was here (El Dorado) drinking with my best friend, I happened to mention to Reese Honse, our current GM, that I had always wanted to try it and he offered to show me the basics. After about a month of studying, someone called out of work, so they threw me into the lion's den on a busy Saturday and I've been going ever since. I am still learning new things every shift and I always welcome criticism since I am only about a year and a half in. Currently I'm the assistant GM here at El Dorado and I love it. I still get to bartend my shifts but I'm also learning what it takes to keep a place like El Dorado running.
What's your favorite thing about bartending?
The people, hands down. Every shift is different and there's always a little sense of "who will I meet next?" every time that door opens. I've met people from all walks of life. My creativity gets challenged with every bartender's choice and I'm schooled any time an old school bartender comes in asking me for obscure drinks I've never heard of. It's the best job in the world even with the physical strain and I'm very lucky to be doing it at a place like El Dorado. It's a constant juggling act, especially when I'm managing, so it keeps me on my toes like no other job ever has.
What's your favorite spirit?
I'm a whiskey girl for sure. The other spirits have their place but I will always defer to bourbon. There's just something so timeless about sipping on a warm bourbon, whether it's on the rocks or dressed up a bit as an Old Fashioned.
Define the perfect cocktail.
To me, a perfect cocktail evokes a memory or experience, but I also think a perfect cocktail is completely subjective. What you find delicious may be completely unappetizing to someone else, which is why making a cocktail for someone can be particularly rewarding when you get it just right.
Who is your mentor in the bartending industry?
As a new bartender, I continue to learn from every bartender I meet but my good friend and GM, Reese Honse, has been the most influential. He taught me the basics and gave me a chance at this bar when I had no experience. I definitely would not be where I am today without Reese. He is still learning too, so oftentimes running this place and making new drinks is a collaborative effort.
What trends are you currently seeing in San Diego?
Definitely tiki at the moment. With the arrival of False Idol and a renewed interest in the classic recipes, tiki is definitely on the forefront here in San Diego.
What are your favorite spots for a cocktail?
I'm really intrigued by what the bartenders at Kindred are able to do with their drinks and still maintain the vegan credibility. When I lived closer, Polite Provisions was a frequent stop as well as Urban Solace. There are so many great spots here in San Diego. I feel like I am always being impressed by what this industry is able to create.
What do you do in your spare time when you're not creating cocktails?
If I'm not making cocktails, I am usually out drinking at new spots. San Diego has incredible food and drinks, so I love exploring new spots and meeting other people in the industry. Its either that or relaxing at home watching episodes of Shameless, Peaky Blinders, or whatever else Netflix gets me hooked on.
What's next for you?
Having quit my day job recently, I am trying to learn as much as possible about how to run El Dorado while improving my skills as a bartender. I would like to be more involved in the community and make El D as successful as possible. It feels like the sky is the limit right now, so I'm just trying to take it all in and learn everything I can.