Beyond the ambiance and the beverages of any bar, are the personalities that make the experience memorable. Come in. Take a seat. Get comfortable. Let The Ice Plant’s Jessie Lane pour you a drink.
Bartending since: I’ve slung a lot of beer and wine, but this is my first time tending bar on this level.
Bartending at Ice Plant since: I was one of the first employees. Started out serving tables, then a month later started my apprenticeship behind the bar.
Number of nights you spend bartending weekly? 4 – 5 nights
Favorite drink on the menu: I really like the Daytripper if I just want something herbal and refreshing, a Caipirinha or the Wet Hot American Summer after the beach, and an Old Fashioned after my shift…I’ve got too many favorites.
What distinguishes the Ice Plant from other bars?
At first glance the atmosphere is very unique with the high ceilings and all of the long windows. The bar is in an old industrial ice factory, and to turn that into a warm, welcoming bar and restaurant was a challenge that Tricia and Ryan really nailed. The staff gets to put their own spin on the vintage dress code, so I always enjoy the creativity and personality that comes through in the work wardrobes. But on deeper inspection, our bar has an incredible ice program. We freeze 300 lb. blocks of crystal clear ice that are cut down into various sizes for your cocktail. We get to take pride in proper dilution and the appearance of a cocktail. Finally, the ingredients, every juice is fresh squeezed, all the syrups (from tonic to cola) are house made, and the spirit list.
What other bar gets to make cocktails with spirits made right next door? Not many. The St. Augustine Distillery makes great booze. They share the same philosophy we do. A love for Florida agriculture, a passion for history, and pride in what we produce. Having confidence in product I sell makes the job that much better.
Part of your job that keeps you coming back night after night:
Well if you can’t tell… I’m very proud of this bar. It is more than just a job. I’ve learned a craft here that has, over past years, returned to a dignified profession. I make something with my hands and get to watch people enjoy and appreciate it. The Ice Plant supplies me with all the ingredients, tools and freedoms to be creative and educated in this field. The bartenders create the menu, so there is a part of each of us on every menu. The cocktails change seasonally, so I never get bored with the recipes. Not to mention I love everyone I work with, so that’s a plus.
Skill that makes you a top-notch mixologist/bartender: I’m tall, so I can reach the top shelf easily. I also enjoy the feat of finding the perfect drink for someone who doesn’t know what to order. The menu is sprinkled with unfamiliar ingredients to some, so taking an order isn’t always simple. We have to get to know our customers’ palates and find that perfect drink or two. This is a skill I hope to really master.
What are you best known for behind the bar? I really enjoy using seasonal fruits in my cocktails, so I’d say I’m best known for summery farm stand sippers.
What do you enjoy most about The Ice Plant’s clientele?
What I enjoy most is to be part of a customer’s cocktail journey. Their first time in, they might be hesitant…but each return visit they expand and dig around, and fall in love. Next thing you know they have a home bar and are schooling me on infusions and making their own bitters. I love that! Or that moment when the customer finds their drink. That day when Meg, after drinking a hundred gin cocktails, realized she loves AVIATIONS. Or when Jim Jolly put down the PBR and said “Hey, that gimlet was pretty good!” That moment the customer becomes a regular and I know to start making that Negroni with that certain botanical gin, or that Singapore sling in that certain glass. That’s what I enjoy.
Most challenging part of your job: The hours. I work when everyone else has off, so I miss out on some fun here and there. The long hours and late nights aren’t for everyone…sometimes I feel like I don’t really “wake up” until the sun goes down.
Are you usually manning the bar solo or is it a team effort? Which do you prefer?
Sometimes it’s just me. Sometimes there are three! I prefer team effort. I work with a bunch of bad asses! Everyone has their strengths, so when a customer wants to nerd out on fancy scotch or whiskey I can call over Zach or Anthony. Rum or tequila, Cesar! Tiki talk, I give you Bryan. You want a crazy Manhattan variation? I put Kelly on it. The list goes on. The more the merrier! Conversations are richer and I can bounce ideas off of them for drinks. Yes, I prefer having my family around.
JESSIE’S SIGNATURE COCKTAIL
THE BRIAR ROSE: a twist on a classic cobbler
1 oz. dry sherry
1 oz. Florida peach and blackberry jam
3/4 oz. Bonal
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
Build in a julep cup, add crushed ice, swizzle until blended, top with more ice, mint sprig and fresh berries
The Ice Plant Bar is located at 110 Riberia Street, www.iceplantbar.com
“Behind the Bar with Jessie Lane” featured in the August/September issue of St. Augustine Social Magazine
Photography by Brian Miller