Jessica Johnson knows a good drink when she sees it.

Image: Lauro Rojas

Jessica Johnson has been in the industry for just four years but has quickly risen to the ranks of general manager at Midtown staple Wooster’s Garden and a newly opened hot spot, Holman Draft Hall. She talked with Houstonia about plastic straws, Rick and Morty and margaritas.

What got you into the industry?

I was working in the fashion retail industry, and I picked up bartending as a second job and quickly realized that I liked it a lot more than anything else I had done before. From there it progressed and now I’m running two bars, and I cannot see myself doing anything else.

What would you say is your specialty cocktail and what goes into it?

At Wooster’s we have a rotating seasonal menu. Like clockwork, when we have a solstice we have a new menu out, so my specialties do vary. I do really love making “puckers” with citric acid, and currently my specialty is a watermelon, tarragon, and fennel pucker, but in terms of a day-to-day basis my specialty is making a lot of drinks at once.

Where do you stand on the great plastic straw debate?

I definitely would like to reduce waste. As much as I would like eliminate plastic straws altogether, our clients definitely do ask for them and they want them, which is something I can understand. However, I am looking for a better alternative to plastic, maybe hay or bamboo, something a little more resourceful. I’ve experimented with a few and so far none of them have been working with our drinks.

When you're off the clock, where are your favorite places to hang out?

I’m a company gal; I spend a lot of time here at Wooster’s, Heights Bier Garten, and any of our other bars. But apart from that, I really love when I can go to 13 Celsius and Public Services, both of which are favorites and have beautiful bars and decor.

What is an underrated cocktail?

The Cock and Bull special with bourbon, cognac, angostura, Benedictine, curacao. It’s stirred and boozy and a little bit sultry. Falling in line with a Vieux Carré or an Old Fashioned, with that sort of bitterness and booziness. I don’t see it out much but I would love to, because it’s delicious. Also, margaritas with real lime juice—you’d be surprised how many places you go that don’t actually use lime juice in a margarita.

Say you have an empty bar with three stools; who are you pouring for and why?

Definitely my dad would be there because my parents live far away and I’d take any chance to see them—my mom doesn’t drink so I’m going to have to default her out of this. I would want someone there that he would want to meet ... Albert Einstein. For me, Mozart—I think he’d be very fun to drink with, to be honest. Probably a good guest and I don’t think the conversation would be lacking. You know, I didn’t think about fictional characters—I would love to drink with Rick from Rick and Morty!

If you could have one last drink at the end of the world, what are you having?

I would prefer if my last drink were a margarita. I associate margaritas with happy times, and if I’m going out I would be very happy with a margarita.

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