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Distinguished Drinker : Allison Yoder of Gemma

When you have three-and-a-half-year-old twin boys and manage an upscale restaurant, it’s all about one thing: balance. Allison Yoder applies this mindset to more than just her personal and professional life. This mentality permeates the entire cocktail list at Gemma, a restaurant which opened in Dallas this past year. When I caught up with the busy mother/restaurant guru, I wanted to figure out just what goes in to designing an entire cocktail list from scratch.

As someone who struggles to make a decent tequila sour (the answer is more tequila, right?), I’m overwhelmed by the process and impressed with her success. Allison Yoder follows a pretty basic recipe – keep everything simple and fresh and don’t get too crazy. Although, I am hesitant to try “Beet the Heat,” which is made with a beet-infused gin (No Dwight Schrute jokes please!). She has a passion for coffee as well and shares her insight on one of the newest coffee shops in Dallas.

RH: So, did you craft the entire cocktail menu at Gemma?

AY: Yes.

RH: How do you begin doing that?

AY: The menu revolves around the four seasons. We only use ingredients that are fresh and in season. For instance, right now we’re using a lot of berries. Those ingredients affect the cocktail recipes at the time.

RH: What is a mixer that you consider to be the most versatile?

AY: I don’t try to get too crazy. I like a balance. I won’t use a new ingredient just because it is weird. Lemon and lime tend to be two versatile mixers, though.

RH: What is your favorite cocktail at Gemma?

AY: “Beet the Heat.” We use No. 209 Gin and infuse it with beets in-house. I like that, and I also really like “Texas Heat,” which is made with jalapeño-infused tequila. It is really spicy.

RH: I’m from Arizona, so I’m sure I’d be fine.

AY: (Laughs) It really does have quite the kick. Oh, and we also use fresh cilantro in that drink. I’m not a mixologist, but I enjoy making cocktails. It’s important to me to have a balance. I want people to be able to taste the main ingredients. I’m not trying to overwhelm them. I think it’s easy to drink here. We have a variety, whether it is spicy or fruity or made with bourbon.

RH: What is a drink you had recently that you really enjoyed?

AY: It was a drink from Driftwood called, “Emerald Bonnie.” It was made with gin, cucumber, mint, chervil, and lime – very refreshing and in-season.

RH: Is there any drink that you’ve come up with that uses ingredients that are seemingly weird together?

AY: I wouldn’t say our drinks are weird, but I think the beet drink is different. It was tough for me to make. It surprised me.

RH: Ok, so let’s switch gears.  Are you a coffee drinker?

AY: Yes.

RH: Where do you like to go?

AY: I really like Houndstooth, which is opening this week right near us. It’s amazing. They have great seasonal flavors, and you can really taste the beans. They aren’t burnt. The flavors really come through.

RH: Do you use their coffee at Gemma?

AY: Yes, we use those beans in our French Press. We also really like The Cultured Cup, which we use for our teas.