After two years of teaching drama at a Montessori school, Abigail Gullo became interested in mixology when the cocktail revolution started happening in New York City. She soon noticed a disconnect between fine dining and fine drinking. “We’d spend hundreds of dollars on a meal, but the Manhattan I ordered would come shaken in a Martini glass with an electric maraschino cherry,” Gullo recalls. “I think food and cocktails aren’t exclusive. They absolutely go together.”
Gullo began entering cocktail contests and picking up bar shifts, with stints at Fort Defiance in Brooklyn and The Beagle in Manhattan. She found that bartending combines her skills as a teacher and a performer. “I love educating people about the history of the Sazerac or rye whiskey,” she says. “I love interacting with my guests and creating a warm well of hospitality.”
In 2012, Gullo relocated to New Orleans to open SoBou, a restaurant that highlights Caribbean-influenced small plates. “I work very closely with our chef, Juan Carlos Gonzalez, because I feel it’s important that the cocktails pair well with the food,” Gullo says. The whole menu gets overhauled a few times a year, with seasonal changes as different ingredients become available. Signature cocktails ($10 to $12) include the Heavy Metal Drummer, mixing Johnny Drum Bourbon, house-made ginger syrup and a spritz of Laphroaig Scotch, and the King Cake Old Fashioned, blending Rougaroux 13 Pennies Praline rum, El Guapo Chicory-Pecan bitters and cinnamon syrup, served with an ice cube that contains a plastic baby. “During Mardi Gras, people eat king cakes, and I love this tradition, so I created my own,” Gullo explains.
The cocktail list also features popular drinks like the Michael Collins, which comprises Powers Irish whiskey, house-made lavender syrup, fresh lemon juice and a sprig of rosemary. “It’s pretty warm in New Orleans, so refreshing drinks are always in style,” Gullo says. Another favorite is the Death or Glory, a Negroni variation that’s made with Del Maguey Vida mezcal, Aperol aperitif, Cinzano Rosso sweet vermouth and Bittermens Orange Cream Citrate bitters. But the overall top-seller is the Georgia O’Keeffe, which Gullo created with the help of “Mad Men” star and New Orleans native Bryan Batt. The cocktail incorporates Cathead Honeysuckle vodka, Bols Elderflower liqueur, house-made hibiscus syrup and fresh sage, topped with Torre Oria Brut Cava.
Gullo lived in New York City for most of her life, but she’s found a loyal community in the Crescent City. “I’ve become a true New Orleanian,” she says. “I’m starting to feel like this city is a special place to call home.”