On this edition of Behind the Stick, Ashleigh Lebron, bartender at Cat Eye Club, chats about her journey leading up to bartending at Cat Eye Club, her story behind her tasty cocktail called Calypso's Curse and chats about her life outside of bartending.
2 oz Brugal 1888 Ron Gran Reserva Familiar .50 oz John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum .50 oz Red Passion Fruit Syrup 2 oz POM Pomegranate Juice .50 oz Lemon Juice .50 oz Lime Juice Dash of Bitters .50 oz Cruzan 151 Rum
What's the story behind the Calypso’s Curse?
Calypso's Curse came to life when I was given the opportunity to come up with a new Tiki-inspired cocktail using Brugal's 1888 Ron Gran Reserva Familiar Rum. The cocktail was going to be featured for Voodoo Night at Cat Eye Club, a new weekly Thursday Night event I curate with House and Disco music performed by live DJs. The naming of the cocktail was derived from the story of Odysseus & Calypso in Greek Mythology. In the story, Odysseus is seduced by Calypso's enchanting nature and lured away from his journey home to her island where he remains for seven years before growing weary and longing to return home to his wife Penelope. Calypso's Curse was created with the intention of concealing the amount of alcohol it contains in an attempt to lure you onto the dancefloor without inhibitions.
Describe the taste.
It takes you on a tour of three taste palates on the tongue - sweet, sour, and bitter. It pulls sweetness from the red passion fruit syrup, citrus notes from both Lemon & lime juices, a warm overtone from the rum, a bite from the bitters, and a touch of clove and almond from the velvet falernum.
What’s the key component of this drink?
The key component of this drink is balance. The 1888 Ron Gran Reserva Familiar Rum is the main ingredient in the cocktail, some of the tasting notes, which include citrus & red berries, were the inspiration for the juices & syrup I choose. The Rum itself is double-aged and has a powerful taste on its own. I found that using equal parts of all the other ingredients helps to soften the Intensity of the Rum but maintain the balance of sweet, sour, and bitter.
What reactions do you get from customers when they try this cocktail for the first time?
At first glance, everyone is more intrigued with the presentation than anything, ha ha. It comes in a clear, tall angry tiki man glass with fire on top and definitely stands out on the menu. Upon actually sipping the cocktail, I find guests are pleasantly surprised that it’s actually not as sweet as it’s maroonish color makes it seem. Most people note the overall balance of sweet, sour, and bitter and are surprised when I tell them there’s about 3oz of alcohol in the cocktail. At $13, it’s quite the steal.
If you had to pair this cocktail with a dish, what would you pair it with?
I think this cocktail would go best with the Al Pastor tacos on the menu. The savory marinade on the pork and sweet tang of the pineapple-habanero salsa compliment the warmth of the Rum and sweet and sour flavors.
Watch as Ashleigh crafts up this tasty libation called Calypso's Curse.
What kind of experience can guests get at Cat Eye Club?
Cat Eye Club features an intimate setting with a late '50s and early '60s tiki-inspired vibe. When you walk in, you get a feeling of warmth like you’re stepping into a living room from the wooden floors and wrap-around couch seating with comfy little throw pillows. There’s a glowing fireplace with a T.V. above the mantle featuring anything from classic Elvis flicks to good ‘ol Gilligan’s Island. If you take a look at the candle-lit back bar, you’ll find a multitude of tasty rums, scotches, & whiskeys, glance at the menu and tiki-inspired Craft cocktails are at your fingertips. Cat Eye’s unique ambiance is perfect for sipping cocktails & enjoying a bite to eat early in the evening, then switches to a low-lit speakeasy vibe with live music each night performed by bands or DJs. You’ll leave feeling like you’re in on the best kept secret in the East Village.
What's unique about the cocktails here at Cat Eye Club?
Craft tiki cocktails are what make Cat Eye Club unique. Not very many bars in San Diego specialize in tiki, so I think it helps to set us apart from other bars.
About Ashleigh Lebron
Are you from San Diego?
No, although I’ve lived in San Diego a few times in my life. I was a Navy Brat and moved around quite a bit throughout my childhood. I’ve lived in Florida, California, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Mississippi and Puerto Rico which is where my family is from.
How has your journey been leading up to your role at Cat Eye Club?
My journey has taken me all over the place, but things really settled down for me when I moved back here to San Diego in 2010. I always knew I’d end up in California if I stayed in the U.S. and solidified my roots when I had my son Jacob in 2014. I’ve worked in restaurants, bars, and nightclubs down here over the years but Cat Eye has definitely become its own unique experience for me. It fits perfectly somewhere between bar and nightclub. Calypso’s Curse was my first attempt at exploring my creative side behind the bar and It’s overall success gives me the confidence to keep on exploring.
What's your mission for the cocktail program?
My mission is to continue to open people up to tiki cocktails by becoming as knowledgeable as I can and using that knowledge in new and creative ways.
What's your favorite cocktail on the menu?
Is it bad if I say mine? Ha ha. My favorite cocktail to have at Cat Eye is actually off the menu. It was created by my Bar Manager, Dan Holland, and is an 1888 Negroni. Equal parts 1888 Ron Gran Reserva Familiar, Sweet Vermouth and Campari.
Define the perfect cocktail.
The perfect cocktail in my eyes is a cocktail with balance, where no one ingredient is over powering another.
What are some cocktail trends you are noticing in San Diego?
As most people notice, there’s definitely been a push in craft cocktails over the past five to six years or so, but I’m also noticing more tiki cocktails popping up all over the place - not just specific to tiki bars.
What's your favorite drink to make behind the bar?
Vodka Soda... just kidding. I actually really enjoy making Old Fashioneds. I love whiskey!
What's your favorite spirit?
Right now, it is the 1888 Ron Gran Reserva Familiar Rum that I use in my cocktail. I either sip it over a coconut ice ball or in the Negroni I mentioned earlier. It’s from the Dominican Republic and is double-aged, first in American Bourbon barrels then in European Sherry Casks. It warms on the back of your throat like a good whiskey and has become my new obsession.
What do you do in your spare time when you're not creating cocktails?
I’m a Mom first and foremost to my little man Jake, but I’m also a business owner as of this year! I launched Inner Light, where I book talent, promote events, and also provide glitter face & body art. Cat Eye Club is the first venue I’ve been able to work with and I’m really happy to say it’s been going really well! It’s not easy to take on a weekly running party, Voodoo Night is my first stab at it and I‘m really lucky to have my partners Oscar Ceballos and Patrick Murray behind me that help make it all happen.
What's next for you?
I hope to continue to grow my business and take on some more venues and throw some outdoor events of my own. I’m also very passionate about playing music and hope to grow in that aspect as well. I want to continue to showcase my creativity in all my passions - mixology, art, music, and being a great role model for my son and any other single moms out there.