Barkeep and Healer of Ails, Amber West at Central 214
Amber West started slinging drinks at Central 214 in February. Before then she worked at a few bars around town, but really for all her life West had a mind towards spirits, though not always the alcoholic kind.
Her approach to tending bar leans more toward balancing the good with the bad. Sure, she'll pour you a drink that will certainly take the edge off, but if you mention to her a sinus problem or an upset tummy, she'll buzz around the back of the bar, with a furrowed brow, and find something to fix you. Primarily for West, it's about creating cocktails using some natural ingredients, even if that means she to make them herself.
How did you get started making your own infusions and juices?
I grew up with a very holistic, hippie mother, so I've always been exposed to the importance of natural ingredients. I incorporate a lot of these things at home in juices and in things I cook. My brother was a chef at Hotel Zaza a while back, and he really helped me a lot with pulling things together. And since I've been here [Central 214], chef Graham Dodds has really helped me take it to another level.
Where did you work before you were here?
My first bartending job was at Champs, and we actually used some natural ingredients there, nothing like I do now, of course. Then, I did some other things for a while. Before I was here I was at Backyard Beach Bar down the road. There were lots of volleyball courts. Customers from there come in here now with their parents. But, when you're constantly four deep at a bar, like I was there, it's almost impossible to do some of these things.
How was the transition from Backyard Beach Bar to here?
It was a huge transformation and something I really had to study for. What's great about being here now is I can go talk to Graham and ask him questions about what's coming in fresh from the farm, what are we looking at for next month or season. I get to play with all these different variables that I couldn't before.
The farm-to-bar movement?
Yep. Building relationships with these farmers has been one of the most amazing things ever. It's also been great to get my team in on it. They get excited about trying new things now. They're playing with fruits from each season and incorporating them into different cocktails.