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Behind the Bar with Saydee Hopkins, Bar Manager of Williams & Graham

Meet Saydee and learn how to make her signature cocktail: Melon Boi

It’s no secret that Denver is bursting at the seams with culinary talent. But too often in the shadows are equally talented mixologists—spirit sages who are redefining the cocktail and reimagining our bar experience. And while other cities showcase esoteric craft bitters, artisan ice, and reincarnations of spirits from bygone eras, Colorado is busy infusing beverage programs with two Mile High passions: simple comforts and delectable creativity. On this stage of performative mixology the spotlight shines on many talents, blending dashes of whimsy with jiggers of mind-swirling flavor.

Saydee Hopkins of Williams and Graham

DiningOut: Describe your process for designing the perfect cocktail.
My design process differs from cocktail to cocktail. I tend to lean more toward shaken cocktails because I absolutely love using fresh juices. With this format, I tend to pull inspiration from my surroundings or specific events. One of my favorite cocktails I have made was based on the cherry blossoms in the spring—light, airy, and floral, with a pink tinge. Other times, I am just furiously throwing spirits into a Yarai glass and hoping it pans out!

What do you love most about bartending?
The people. Whether it is the people I have met via the industry or the guests I get to interact with at my bar. My goal is to make people feel like they are hanging out with a friend, rather than sitting in front of a stranger. Our industry is not just to serve people, but to create a connection with them; whether a regular or a coworker, these connections mean so much to me. I’ve grown so much by being in this industry and couldn’t imagine being in any other line of work.

What’s the inspiration behind this cocktail?
I was lucky to take a recent trip down to Hacienda Patrón in Jalisco, Mexico, and it was lavish! The people were so friendly, and learning more about the Patrón line was just humbling. When you first walk into the Hacienda, they present you with a refreshing spritz of sorts to liven you up after a hot trip from the airport. This spritzer really had an impact on me—it was a watermelon-basil, little piece of heaven. This is where my inspiration for Melon Boi came from. I wanted to highlight the refreshing flavor of watermelon and brighten it up with a bit of mint. The tequila plays so well with both of these flavors, I was very pleased with how it turned out.

The Cocktail: Melon Boi

In a tin shaker, combine 1-1/2 ounces Roca Patrón Silver tequila, 2 ounces watermelon syrup*, 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice, 1/4 ounce of Fernet-Branca, and about 4 mint leaves. Add ice, and shake. Strain into a collins glass once with a Hawthorne strainer, and then again with a tea strainer, so no mint chunks get into the drink. Add 2 ounces Vichy Catalan sparkling mineral water, then top off with ice. Garnish with a watermelon spear and a bouquet of mint.

*Watermelon syrup: A 3:1 watermelon juice to sugar ratio. Juice watermelon, combine, and mix.

Photos and video by Brent Andeck

For a full look at the DiningOut Denver summer 2019 issue, click here.