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My New Orleans: 20 Questions with Abigail Gullo

Abigail Gullo is not a bartender. Or even a mixologist. She’s a bar chef and a true artist, in my humble opinion. Before starting her current career, Abigail was an off-broadway actress and theater teacher. “Now, I’m a bar chef,” she said with a grin. “I’ve finally found my nightly stage.”

Abigail Gullo at SoBou

Abigail Gullo at SoBou (Photo provided by SoBou)

Abigail moved from Brooklyn to New Orleans about one year ago to take a position at SoBou, a hot new foodie restaurant in the French Quarter. After a nearly lifelong love affair with New Orleans, Abigail was thrilled when she was asked to join the SoBou team. “I just feel so confident, alive and free in New Orleans,” she said. “It’s like I’ve finally moved to the coolest neighborhood in Brooklyn.”

I asked Abigail about her favorite cocktail on the SoBou menu. “That would have to be the Faubourg Tall Boy,” she said. “It’s my favorite way to convert people to gin.”

Abigail’s interest in mixology started early in life. “My grandpa taught me to make a Manhattan when I was six years old. So I literally have 30 years of experience,” she said. Growing up, Abigail always enjoyed fine dining but was disappointed when the drinks didn’t match the quality of the food. “I started experimenting at home to see if I could make something better,” she said. “I got really into the stories behind each spirit.”

Eventually, Abigail started working nights as a bartender so that she could spend more time with her boyfriend, who worked as a chef.  She was soon noticed by St. John Frizell, who hired her for his new craft cocktail project, Fort Defiance. While working at Fort Defiance, Abigail discovered that bartending helped her fulfill some of her care-giver instincts.

“I think women are uniquely positioned to be great bartenders, bar chefs, or mixologists. We are cornerstones of our communities,” she said. “I feel that I have a responsibility to help my guests enjoy themselves. I love it when people make friends while they are sitting at my bar.”

Come sit at Abigail’s bar! Visit SoBou at 301 Rue Chartres.

Twenty Questions with Abigail Gullo

Abigail made me a Faubourg Tall Boy during our chat!

Abigail made me a Faubourg Tall Boy during our chat! (Photo by Anna-Marie Babington)

1. Who is your favorite New Orleanian, dead or alive, real or imagined?

Probably St. John Frizell, my former boss in New York City. He went to Tulane and really loves this city. He kept telling me, “there’s something special about the service industry in New Orleans.” He’s the reason I moved here!

2. What first brought you to New Orleans?

My dad is a journalist. He was covering the Republican National Convention in 1988 and I tagged along. I remember completely falling in love with the city.

3. In your opinion – what’s the best neighborhood in New Orleans? 

I live on Esplanade Avenue in the Treme. I’m not sure if Esplanade counts as a neighborhood, but I think it’s the most beautiful street in this city. It touches Bayou St. John, the Marigny and the French Quarter.

4. City Park or Audubon Park?

City Park. There is just something special about the architecture of that park. I just instinctively support anything that was a WPA project.

Abigail also had some delicious eats sent out! What a hostess!

Abigail also had some delicious eats sent out! What a hostess! (Photo by Anna-Marie Babington)

5. Describe the best meal you’ve eaten in New Orleans.

I went on an extremely romantic date to Bayona. I was so in love! And I was falling in love with New Orleans at exactly the same time. It was like Susan Spicer was concocting delicious love potions just for me!

6. Where’s your favorite brunch spot?

Commander’s Palace! I love getting dressed up to the nines – glove, feathers, sequins – and listening to jazz while I enjoy the turtle soup and the absinthe and oyster puff pastry.

7. What’s your favorite po-boy? Where do you go to get it?

I love Killer Po-Boys. The grilled shrimp is great for a day when I want something light, but the pork belly is truly killer!

8. You’ve got friends visiting and it’s their first time in New Orleans – where are you taking them?

I always take friends to Bacchanal – I like to let them sit outside, sip wine and listen to jazz as they recover from their flight! The new upstairs bar has one of my favorite cocktails in the city – The Holy Cross.

9. What’s your favorite neighborhood bar?

Boondock Saint. The bartender, or the lovely Miss Jenny Kay, feeds cocktail cherries to the horses of the NOPD mounted police – and they know it!  So every time they are walking by, they just walk right up into the bar!  You turn around and there is a big beautiful horse in the window looking for cherries!  Its the sweetest thing!  NOLA Magic for sure.

10. What is your favorite New Orleans cocktail and where do you go to get it?

Abigail hard at work!

Abigail hard at work! (Photo provided by SoBou)

I’m a rye whiskey girl, so I love a Sazerac. Personally, I think my own is the best in the city! I do it the old fashioned way – half rye, half cognac, and lots of bitters. But if I had to trust someone else to make my Sazerac, it’d be the guys at Sylvain.

11. Snowball or Daiquiri? Where from and what flavor?

Snowball. I’m a real convert – the way the ice is crushed, the homemade syrups! My very first snowball was from Hansen’s Sno-Bliz. I waited in line for a half hour, but boy was it worth it! I ordered half cream of nectar and half brown pelican, with condensed milk. Can you tell I’m a mixologist?!

12. Best spot to see live music?

I like to switch back and forth between d.b.a. and The Spotted Cat on Frenchmen Street. But I also love Tipitina’s. I’ve been so close to so many great acts.

13. Favorite New Orleans musician or band?

Man, I love Louis Armstrong! I know that’s old school, but I really admire the way he brought a little piece of New Orleans to Queens.

Abigail the bar chef.

Abigail the bar chef. (Photo provided by SoBou)

14. Favorite New Orleans Festival?

I like French Quarter Fest. Jazz fest is for visitors. French Quarter Fest is for New Orleanians.

15. Favorite Mardi Gras parade?

I’m a member of the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus! It’s a very DIY parade. I’ve really enjoyed making my own costumes and throws. This year our parade featured Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca in the Star Wars movies!

16. Where do you shop in New Orleans?

Mardi Gras Zone. It’s such a great place to go when I want a sandwich, but I also need to buy groceries. For clothes I always hit Trashy Diva and Diva Dolls. I buy fun glassware at Pelican Thrift. And I love all the little boutiques on Chartres Street, especially NOLA Kids. And I don’t even have kids!

17. What is your favorite New Orleans Museum?

Arnaud’s Germaine Wells Museum and the Museum of the American Cocktail.

18. Where do you go to watch the Saints Play?

I usually watch the games here SoBou – we always have great house specials. But I do also try to score tickets to home games when I can!

19. Describe New Orleans in one word.

Magical. Well, possibly more like magical realism.

20. When was the last time you fell in love with New Orleans?

Some friends of mine were getting married on a Monday. We went to Bacchanal, BJ’s Lounge, then Vaughan’s. I was with people from all different walks of life and I invited them back to swim in my pool until dawn. I thought, “most people would say this is an epic night. For me, it’s just another Monday.”