Sarah Morrissey

Ernesto's
Lower East Side, NYC
If we’re talking word association, Ernesto’s = ham chips. This restaurant went viral after opening when pictures upon pictures of potato chips loaded with slivers of thinly sliced ham landed on our Instagram feeds, prompting us to try to make a reservation ASAP. Upon dining at Ernesto’s, what we soon realized is that the ham chips were only the hook, the people made you stay. One of our favorite people at Ernesto’s is Sarah Morrisey, Bar Director. Not only is she nonstop slinging the most delicious cocktails, but her love for it is palpable. We come back for her drinks and her smile that is mega-watt radiant, even behind her mask.
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Full name, age, where are you from?

Sarah Morrissey -33 - West Milford, New Jersey.

What was growing up like for you and did you have family meals growing up?

I grew up in a woodsy town surrounded by lakes in North Jersey with my older brother, mother and grandparents. It was great to live with grandparents because we never had a baby sitter and they really taught me a lot about hospitality and food from a young age. My grandpa would eat liver, pate and blue cheese ( which I was obsessed with at like 8 years old) and my grandmother taught me how to garden, fish and set a table properly. My mother would do most of the cooking when she got home from work, a lot of whole chickens, pot roasts, pasta and a very Italian version of taco night. I will say for a single working mom she never ordered take out and always cooked us a great meal every night.

What meal most reminds you of your childhood?

A pot of gravy on the stove with either meat balls or sweet sausage slowly cooking, Pot roast that has been in the crock pot since the morning or potato salad for summer cook outs.

How did you get into this industry?

I started off slinging slices at a jersey pizza place and as a host at a local chili’s. Eventually I moved to NYC for college and started working in better restaurants as a server and dive bars for extra cash. I realized I was “ in this industry” when I started to bar back at some really great establishments and fell in love with the bar business and my passion for spirits and cocktails really flourished. Once I was promoted to bartender I never saw myself doing anything else, food and beverage is my job, but serving up great experiences is my life.

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What is your current role and how has the pandemic affected you?

I am currently the bar manager of Ernestos in the lower east side. I mean how hasn’t the pandemic affected all of us! Honestly I have never had more than 9 days off (in a row) in probably 6 years, so having 2 months of literally nothing to do but hang was kind of nice. But getting back to work to figure out how we can serve people great drinks and food safely was stressful, but hey it’s just like a regular Friday night! You’re slammed and you don’t have a table for the 8:30 6 top and someone wants the tile fish to be vegan, table 7 wants a dirty martini but you don’t have a full liquor license ... you just figure it the fuck out.

What do you think working in this industry during this time has taught you?

I pinch myself every day at work because we are so incredibly blessed to have an entire quiet block to take all of our tables outside to serve people. We have amazing regulars and a big neighborhood following , seeing them after months was amazing, but learning how to run a bar and make drinks with no money was a great lesson. Do we really need 7 palo cortado’s or would 2 really great ones be better, do I have to have 15 cocktails on the menu or would 5 suffice, is more really better ? You have to kick any pride you have out the window and just go back to simple, seasonal and delicious.

What's your fave item on this menu? off menu?

My favorite item on the menu now is the hot buttered sherry, any excuse to drink butter I’m up for. Off menu is a boiler maker of mahou and a shot of Pasubio.

Once it is completely safe to eat out again and socialize, where is the first place you would go for dinner and what would you order?

Keens steakhouse, Gibson, shrimp cocktail, wedge salad, big bottle of red, creamed spinach and a prime rib baby!

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