Corvino’s Hannah Jones believes in human mixology
Hannah Jones moves swiftly and unhurried behind the bar at Corvino Supper Club & Tasting Room. She laughs with her bartenders. The backlit shelves of caramel, green, and red bottles gleam as she turns to her guests, who are chewing and drinking and talking at the volume of celebration.
Jones commands the space with the smile of a new friend rather than the cliché brooding that looms large in the perception of the craft cocktail bar.
Her generous energy permeates as she leads an all-black-clad crew of bartenders who make hundreds of cocktails each night. Jones takes her drinks seriously. She’s currently studying for her Level 2 sommelier exam, on top of doing the research and trend-following required of a top-flight bar program. Above all else, she wants her guests and coworkers to be happy and have fun.
“I don’t feel like I’m in the game of guest education unless the guest is coming in search of that,” she told The Pitch over drinks at Harry’s Country Club.
Despite her experience, Jones still sees herself as a server first and foremost during service—though she has more responsibility since taking over Corvino’s bar two years ago.
“I just feel like a bartender who has a lot of answers to questions,” Jones says. “People used to have no questions for me unless I was fucking up. Now people come to me like, ‘Oh I fucked up, what do I do.’”
Her career started in Manhattan, Kansas, where she studied economics at Kansas State University and poured drinks at Kathouse, whose name rightly implies a more rambunctious scene than Corvino. One night, Jones made drinks from atop the door guy.
“I was bartending from his back, riding piggyback, pouring from on top of him. It was very fun. It felt illegal; it could have been,” says Jones. “He was like 6’6”. We all deserve those moments in our goofy little careers.”
Now, Jones wakes up to text messages about supply shortages, reservations, and how to perfect the finer details of great service. Next, she moves on to spreadsheets and sales data before answering emails. Then she’s prepping the syrups, infusions, and foams for the night.
“But once service starts, almost nothing else in the world exists,” she says with a grin.
Service, for Jones, is all-consuming.
A full bar of guests to water and feed. Tickets printing out two, three, four, seven drinks for tables. A guest asks for the nuances of Jamaican rum versus rhum agricole. A server rushes in to fix a mistake on a drink you’ve already half-built or explain a convoluted custom cocktail request. Friends arrive who you don’t have the time to chat with. You still find the time to chat with them about Cynar over Averna in the new Manhattan Riff. All this is immediate and all of it must be done with a laugh and a smile as if, like everyone seated, you are having the time of your life. Sometimes, you are.
This chaos is the best-case scenario. The building blocks are those hours Jones spends working before the doors open, but the foundation is an intentional and studied approach to food and beverage.
“It’s like a fun little obsession that makes me money. And sometimes the more I think about it, the more money I make,” she says.
Because customers are always eating and drinking, finding unadulterated downtime is a challenge.
“All my friends are in the service industry, and the industry is alive and moving and changing,” says Jones.
There’s the on-the-clock job, but there are also the long post-shift debates on which cognac is best and retellings of the night’s horror stories.
For Jones, this bleeds into home life. Her partner, Jeff Workman, is the Executive Sous Chef at Corvino—which is mostly a blessing.
“Having one of the best chefs in the city at my disposal is super useful,” she laughs.
But 2022 is Jones’ year of setting boundaries. She told me it’s too easy to let the industry fill their conversations, but they’re working to fight the urge.
“If one of us calls it on work talk for the day, we’re good about respecting that as a boundary,” Jones says.
Those 3 a.m. fights over the best overproof rum are in the spirit of collaboration. Shared ideas and synergy are the wirings of Jones’ ethos.
“I think all good cocktails come from collaboration,” she says. “I have the most talented bartenders behind my bar, and for every one thing I know, there’s 10 I don’t.”
For Jones, collaboration is a practice of openness and caring that extends across the bar. She embraces each customer as a unique palate and singular history. Her favorite moments in service come when she’s able to cater an experience tailored to that unique palate and singular history.
“Cocktails are personal. The martini is my favorite cocktail. But it’s personal. If you want a martini, I need to have a conversation with you. Like, okay, vodka? Gin? What’s your mother’s maiden name? Where’d you grow up? I need to know a little about you, you know?” Jones says. “When I can craft the experience, that’s my favorite, because I get to give somebody something special. They get to have something no one else has.”
That spirit of generosity and exploration shimmers through Jones in all her interactions and elevates Corvino from a place to get a great cocktail to a rejuvenating respite from a troubled world.