Austin’s Kerstin Bellah, the pastry chef at Juniper, the former pastry chef at Uchiko and a winner on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, uses seasonal ingredients in her pastries, which tend to lean toward the lighter side of the dessert spectrum. We talked to her about what and where she drinks in Bat City. Turns out, she also likes a lighter touch when it comes to booze.
What do you like to drink when you get off work?
Depending on the day and how hard the day has been, it’s either a glass of rosé or a Negroni.
What would steer you to a Negroni?
Any number of things: If things went wrong or if it’s a long day, I’ll go with a Negroni, or several. Like, if I burn something—that kind of thing.
Do you usually drink at Juniper or head out when you’re off?
I usually have a shift drink. I at least start drinking at work. We have a really great bar program, and we have great rosé and Negronis. I’ll start there, then move on and go somewhere else.
What kind of rosé?
I like sweet rosé. If we get new cool rosés in, the bartenders will give me something sweet that they know I like.
Two of Kristen Bellah’s favorite drinks: Negronis and rosé. (image: X Drew)
And the Negroni?
I really like Jasper’s gin. If I’m making one at home, I’ll use that. We don’t have Jasper’s at Juniper, but we use a local one called Barr Hill, and that’s really good. I’m not too picky.
What are some local spots you like to hit for drinks when you’re off work?
For cocktails, I usually go to Fixe, and I have a lot of friends who work there. It’s downtown, and they have a great bar program with really nice bartenders. For cheap Gin & Tonics, I go to The Liberty; it’s a chill dive bar. It’s also good for a shot and a beer. Those are my go-tos.
Have you found any cocktails that inspire your desserts?
One hundred percent. I love the relationship between cocktails and desserts. Their principles are so similar. My desserts are citrusy and light and feminine, and I like to drink like that, like Chartreuse and Campari or Aperol and crème de violette because it’s springy and floral and delicious. And St-Germain. I like amaro in desserts.
What do you drink when traveling?
It depends on where I’m going. If I go to a cocktail bar, I trust the bartenders and I trust their house drinks, because they’ve taken the time to create the drinks. If I’m traveling and going to random bars, I’ll just get a Gin & Tonic. That’s easy. I love Margaritas and Caipirinhas.
Kristen Bellah’s two guilty pleasures: Bud Light and Yellow Tail cabernet sauvignon (image: Laurie Patterson)
What do you like to serve at a dinner party to kick things off?
I always get wine because it’s easy. Just get some rosé, red and white, and let people pick. Or beer, because I’m friends with a lot of chefs, and that’s what they like. Or Gin & Tonics.
What’s a go-to spring cocktail?
I really like Aviations, with maraschino and crème de violette. They’re super light and refreshing, and they get the job done. Or a Margarita because we’re in Texas, and they’re good in the summertime.
Is there a quintessential Austin drink you like?
Either a Margarita or these hard ciders called Austin Eastciders. Everyone has them. It’s probably one of the best ciders I’ve ever had. Those are really good in the summertime, too.
Any guilty pleasures you like to drink when no one is looking?
Yes. If I drink enough, I love Bud Light. That’s the hillbilly in me. If I tell people that, it’s generally pretty embarrassing. Or Yellow Tail cabernet. I always have a bottle of that. It’s only $5, and it’s so good.