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Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley on Why There’s Nothing Basic About Ketel & Soda

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Marjorie Meek-Bradley (image: Elizabeth Parker)

Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley keeps pretty busy. She’s a James Beard–nominated executive chef at Ripple—one of Wine Enthusiast‘s America’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants of 2014—the multilevel Roofers Union and the soon-to-open Smoked and Stacked for smoked meats and vegetables, as well as the third runner-up on the 13th season of Top Chef, which traveled the coast of California. We talked to her about what she drinks when off the clock or traveling and what cocktails inspire her cooking.

What do you like to drink when you get off work?

My go-to is a Ketel & Soda, even though that sounds super basic. When you get out of the kitchen after a long night and it’s hot and you’ve been yelling, it’s refreshing.

What are some local spots you like to hit for drinks when you’re off work?

My two favorites are Lost & Found, a cool neighborhood spot. It’s a little divey but not too dirty. It’s a fun atmosphere. The other is in my neighborhood where I live called The Pub & The People. It opened about a year ago. The bartenders are great, and the owners work behind the bar. It has food, like sandwiches and bar food, but it doesn’t come out of a frozen bag. And not necessarily after work, but a new restaurant I’ve been to a few times is called Espita. It’s Mexican and a mezcaleria.

Do you like mezcal?

Honestly, it’s not my go-to, but I like the food, and Espita has good Margaritas. It uses tequila and mezcal in the Margarita in the one I like. And it has a Paloma with mezcal.

Marjorie Meek-Bradley is into Boulevardiers right now.

What’s your go-to drink outside of work?

I am on a Boulevardier kick. I used to drink Negronis, but I don’t like gin, so when I found out I could have that without gin? I like Maker’s [Mark] in that because it goes well with the Campari flavors. I like bourbon over rye. I’m pretty simplistic. I usually know the bartenders, so I trust them to make the decisions for me, but then I don’t necessarily know what’s in it. [Laughs]

Have you found any cocktails that inspire your cooking?

Margaritas make me want to make tacos, but that’s more at home on my rooftop. But more with wine—that will make me think about making a new pasta dish.

Any spring ingredients that inspire your cocktailing?

I definitely am obsessed with rhubarb in cocktails. It is a nice tart flavor and beautiful in color and can impart so much and carry so many kinds of alcohol and flavor.

What do you drink when traveling?

I like to try new things. I was in Denver, and if I go to dinner somewhere I’ve never been, I’ll start with a cocktail that jumps out at me, and then I’ll move on to wine. If I’m at a place known for cocktails, I’ll try one off the list, and I tend to focus on bourbon. I don’t like gin or tequila as much, but bourbon flavors are what I like.

What do you like to serve at a dinner party to kick things off?

I’m a big fan of something I can mix ahead of time. In summer, I’ll make drinks with tea in them like green tea with citrus and simple syrup. I have a friend who works for Chartreuse, so I add that with iced tea, citrus and gin even though I don’t like gin. It’s pretty boozy, so it’s a good way to start off and then move into beer or wine.

What’s a go-to spring cocktail?

I probably drink more rosé than anything in the spring.

Is there a quintessential D.C. drink you like?

I definitely feel like Negronis, and Boulevardiers are big around here these days, and there are different versions on menus. The Gin Rickey is a D.C. cocktail. There’s a contest every year in which people do their take on it.

Any guilty pleasures you like to drink when no one is looking?

In some ways, I’d say Ketel & Soda is my guilty pleasure because people laugh, but a lot of chefs drink that. I have no shame in drinking. Give me a shot and a beer, and I’m good to go.

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