When Tiffany Short applied for a job at the Black Cat, she wasn’t even old enough to drink. The Texas transplant was a few weeks shy of her 21st birthday. The owners made her wait until she was officially legal before hiring her to flip burgers at the 14th Street NW club.
Over the course of the next decade, Short would pick up a host of other skills, from waiting tables to building wine lists to managing a bar, until she finally found her niche at PS 7’s in Chinatown: She became one of the city’s premier mixologists, known by sight for her platinum blond hair and colorful Harley-chick tats and by reputation for her cocktails like the beet-infused Bolshevik.
The Tiffany Short era in D.C. officially comes to a close on May 19, when she leaves to head back to Austin, her hometown. Her last day at the Gibson was April 21. “I’ve been in D.C. for a long time now,” Short says. “I was ready for a change.”
Austin also has one other selling point for Short: her family. “After a while, you kind of miss your family,” she says.
As you might expect, Short plans to go out in style. Jackie Greenbaum has lured Short to her new Sidebar project for one final blowout. Short will be mixing drinks at the Silver Spring lounge on Wednesday through Saturday before leaving for Austin next week. She plans to create some special cocktails for the occasion and promises to leave her stamp on Sidebar with a few drinks to put on the bar’s permanent menu.
She’s also helping Greenbaum to train her new team at Sidebar.
“Having just opened, being a little overextended staff-wise…and wanting to train our staff in modern cocktail sensibilities, Tiffany’s really going to help. She’s not only bartending,” Greenbaum says, “but she’s bringing a lot of the cocktail history and training materials she’s developed over the years and going to consult a little as we finish some design and equipment touches to the bar so that it is easier to work behind, given the labor intensive cocktails.”
It seems only fitting that Short should work at one more joint before she leaves D.C. for good. Her resume is filled with stints at some of the best bars, clubs, and restaurants in the area. After the Black Cat, Short waited tables at Cafe Saint-Ex before moving to Restaurant Nora. Her big break came when she was hired to work at the esteemed Inn at Little Washington, where she performed every task imaginable. It was at the Inn where Short learned how to put together a wine list and make cocktails.
Her next job at PS 7’s put her on the map. When chef/owner Peter Smith hired Short, she thought she’d be known mostly for her wine list. Instead, she became the latest darling on the mixologist scene. “I fell into it a little bit by accident,” Short confesses.
Her skills behind the bar, however, made her a takeover target, and in November 2008, Short left PS 7’s to be part of the opening team at the trendy U Street speakeasy, the Gibson. She was part of a talented group of bartenders at the Gibson, including Derek Brown, who created labor-intensive, hand-made cocktails using top-shelf and house-infused liquors. Together, the Gibson team carefully balanced a respect for classic cocktails with a desire to stretch the limits of the drinking experience.
Still, when I asked Short what legacy she would be leaving in D.C., she didn’t hesitate. “The Bolshevik,” Short says. “I’ll forever be known for the beet cocktail.”