Art Institute of Portland - Interior Design
The University of Montana - French + Native American Studies
Do you ever wonder what it would be like to create your own cocktails and infusions … for a living? That’s exactly what Tahra Cerutti, the bar program manager at Millennium Restaurant in San Francisco, gets to do every day. In her picture she’s seen carrying a bucket of anise hyssop and lemon basil, which she later infused into gin. As a super inspired chick, Tahra’s love of making something out of nothing even prompted her to create of her own jewelry line, Rue Savoir Faire. The collection features trinkets made of recycled materials, which doesn’t seem much different than the approach Tahra takes when it comes to developing her drinks. This down-to-earth girl always is in search of inspiration found in the very items other people would throw away. But don’t get me wrong, Tahra believes in the new as well, especially when it comes to shopping. She has a soft spot for buying the newest Tory Burch Flats. Who can blame her? Read on to become inspired.
Don’t be afraid to bring ideas to the table.
How did you end up in the job you are in now?
I brought rose geranium leaves to my interview! I’ve always loved bringing my own style to drinks, and in a city that loves to eat and drink, you have to be able to distinguish yourself from the average cocktail.
I worked through college as a bartender and discovered it was something I was really passionate about. I raided the restaurant’s kitchen for weird ingredients and thought about how to put them into drinks. Then, it seemed odd, but coming to San Francisco made me realize it’s OK to do things totally different!
What is it like to develop new drinks?
It’s fun and almost always a collaborative effort! Working with five other skilled bartenders, and an amazing kitchen crew, drinks get fine-tuned, tweaked and perfected before they are published on the menu. I’m fortunate to have the kind of flexibility that allows me to play at work and always be striving for the next special concoction.
Where do you find inspiration?
Clement Street in San Francisco’s Outer Richmond offers fruits, spices and herbs I’ve never seen anywhere else. It’s the first place I smelled durian, ate edamame off a sushi boat and discovered pau d’arco (a bark that adds a complex note when muddled into a drink). It doubles as inspiration for my jewelry line. Clement is a sneaky-chic area of town that is constantly overlooked by San Francisco fashionistas. Like Prince is his own genre of music, Clement Street has its own funny flair that makes me dream big in the design department.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Calling the shots, in every sense of the word! Being in charge of your immediate environment and contributing good things to it evokes a sense of freedom that lots of people in other jobs don’t get to experience. It’s also really nice to see that peaceful, satisfied grin spread across someone’s face when they are enjoying your drink for the first time. Instant gratification for a job well done ... I love that.
What is one thing people might not realize about your job?
That this IS what I’m doing when I grow up! The service industry, particularly the mixology side of it, has always beckoned for my presence. It is much harder than it looks to maintain grace and poise when you’re creating 200+ drinks a night ... while explaining a full-on gourmet vegan menu to someone who has never tried vegetarian food before. I am a virtual dictionary of cuisine terminology, drink recipes, biodynamic viticulture, farming practices, spirit and liqueur percentages, naughty jokes, organic vineyards, late-night hot spots, and let’s not forget, gossip. While I apply my college knowledge on the regular, I am ALWAYS learning.
What is a lesson you’ve learned on your career path so far that you would like to share with other girls?
Invest in thank you cards. I’m not kidding. Make them by hand, make them genuine and make sure they go to anyone who goes out of their way to make things easier for you. If you have ever received something like this, you know how wonderful and recognized it makes you feel. Acknowledgement is never forgotten. Some of my high-school thank-you cards to teachers are still hanging on fridges and bulletin boards to this day. I know this because they still remember me by first and last name. Why? Because I thanked them.
What motivates you?
A trip to the farmer’s market always spurs my motivation. Not only is the whole environment vibrant, but it’s also a chance to meet the people who have decided to devote their lives to growing things the hard way so we can enjoy healthy, organic produce. They are so dedicated to what they do. Talking with the bakers, growers and independent artisans reminds me that highlighting their craft and values through my work is very important.
Is there a particular quote or mantra you live by?
When I was 4 years old, my mom taught me the Golden Rule, and made me promise that I would try to obey that rule for the rest of my life. I’m still rockin’ it.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Play Nice. You never know who you may come full-circle with in your travels, and this world only gets smaller when you’ve burned a bridge or two. Maintain your spine, but it’s so much better in the long run to just suck it up and smile when you’re aching to be mean.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
My mom. She never told me I couldn’t do it, even when I revealed I wanted to be the first kid to learn how to fly. She never had a bad word to say about anyone, and she was always graceful. I try to be like her every day.
Tell me about Rue Savoir Faire. Why did you choose to make jewelry out of recycled materials?
I started to make jewelry when I was 9 years old. I got a Caboodle full of materials for my birthday, and after I burned through all that, I had no choice but to turn to my own collection of necklaces and bracelets for deconstruction. I ended up making way cooler stuff than I thought I could and thus began my style. I became the first natural candidate for any old jewelry stash going to the garbage, or the pile of hopelessly tangled chains. My search for good materials graduated into estate sales and thrift stores, where I have found amazing things that were headed for the dump. I’m a recycler by nature, so it just makes sense to me to reuse and re-pretty!
Where can girls buy your jewelry?
Right now, while ruesavoirfaire.com is under construction, my work is available at my Etsy store, Rue Savoir Faire.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to hang out with my friends who have babies. I recently coached my eighth birth (the lovely Sophia Scarlett!), and can’t get enough of this little wonder. Other things topping my spare time list include San Francisco street fairs, casual gardening, Golden Gate Park, any Cab Franc and karaoke!
What are five words that describe you?
Bubbly. Loving. Loyal. Real. Casual.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be a mixology-master like yourself?
Be willing to start small. If you can get behind a bar in any capacity, therein lies an ability to shine! Don’t be afraid to bring ideas to the table. Also, infusions and house-made agave-based syrups can change your whole bar. A gimlet becomes a whole new friend when you have cardamom syrup in the mix!
What would you tell someone who has a dream of creating their own jewelry line?
Jump in! There aren’t limits or rules when it comes to art, and creating for yourself is a good first step. Skim through Vogue or Elle for colors and patterns you like, then recreate them your own way. Spend an afternoon at Goodwill. Be willing to buy a necklace just because you want the center bead for something else, and then get out a needle and thread and involve other textiles. I like to spread a white tablecloth out, put my finds on it, and just piece things together before they’re taken apart. And when you are in love with what you’ve created, you’re doing it! YOU are designing your own line!
Since you’re so good at creating signature drinks, would you create one for I Want Her Job readers?
YES! I’d like to throw out my signature drink recipe! Any girl can get this going. (Any girl 21-years-old and over, of course!)
The Golden Girl
Start with an inexpensive bottle of vodka, or two if you’re feeling a party coming on … but nothing terribly cheap. I prefer an organic vodka for flavor.
You also will need:
- Dry, culinary-grade lavender (or fresh from your backyard if you’re lucky enough to have it)
- Simple syrup or agave syrup (cane syrup also will work)
- Coconut nectar (usually in one quart glass jars at room temperature in the organic juices section)
- A muddling stick
- Metal martini shaker
You also will need martini and pint glasses, but I’m sure you already have those!
Start with a generous pinch of lavender and put it into the pint glass. Add most of the bottom chopped section of the lemongrass (inner white stalks have the most flavor; remove any dry or crispy stalks).
Break out the muddling stick and get to it! The lemongrass will need serious poundage to release the flavor. (The pint glass will be strong enough to withstand this. Don’t worry.) When everything is sufficiently smooshed, add 2 ounces vodka, juices of ½ the lemon and ½ the lime, 1 ounce of simple syrup and 1 ounce of the coconut nectar. Fill the pint glass with ice, put the metal martini shaker with the bottom over the top of the pint glass, shake and strain into a martini glass. Prepare for bliss!