Michelle Baldwin: I want people to feel like they're part of my party
In this week's Behind the Bar interview, Ghost Plate & Tap consulting bartender Michelle Baldwin -- who also goes by burlesque name Vivienne VaVoom -- weighs in on punch, a party that warped the floors and the ladies' organization that bonds over cocktails while doing good in its community.
courtesy of Michelle Baldwin
How long have you been a bartender? What made you get into the profession? I've been in LUPEC [Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails] since 2004, and that's where I started my love of cocktails and the bar industry. LUPEC was formed by a group in Pittsburgh with this idea that as we grow older, it's harder to connect with your friends. Originally, they got together once a month to drink cocktails and talk about cocktails. But eventually, they said, "Since we're getting together and organizing in this way, we should do good things for our community." Now, LUPEC has morphed from a fun little club that raises money and does good in town into something most bartenders have heard of. I go to a lot of national events - Tales of the Cocktail, the Manhattan Cocktail Classic - and people say, "This is that cool women's cocktail group!"
A couple of years ago, I started working with Montanya Rum as a rep, and I started doing events with them; I was bartending and creating cocktails. Then I collaborated with Erin Behrenhausen to start Hula Moon. We were going to open a tiki bar, but it ended up being a catering company focused on tiki. After that, I was hired by the Denver Film Center to run their VIP lounge, and I was serving volunteers and people from the Film Center. Those were crazy parties. I made a lot of cocktails.
I was brought in to consult on the Coupe bar at Ghost Plate & Tap because that bar was really aimed at the LUPEC members and COBG [Colorado Bartenders Guild] members. Since I'm the president of LUPEC, Ghost Plate wanted to see what would work for us. But I will be at Adrift when that opens, and I started picking up shifts at Ghost Plate, too. It's really cool being a part of that -- Ghost Plate wants to be known for more than just beer even though it's part of the Wynkoop group. It wants to be part of craft cocktails and craft spirits and that bartending scene that's taking off here.
Through all of those bar connections, I've also done burlesque at Portland Cocktail Week. Much of the community knows me as "Vivienne VaVoom."
Bartending rule to live by: Make everybody feel welcome. When someone walks up to the bar, I want them to feel like I love them. I want to give them a giant smile and make them feel like they're part of whatever party I'm creating in that space.
Five words to describe your drink list: Crafty, nerdy, vintage, eclectic, accessible.