Camille Austin: This Drink's on Her
Known for her Bettie Page-esque pin-up style and retro-inspired cocktails, Camille Austin is both an innovator and a connoisseur — a pioneer in a male-dominated field. After three years behind Hakkasan's bar at the Fontainebleau Hotel & Resort, the 26-year-old Cancun native has become one of the hospitality industry's most well-respected barkeeps.
Her dedication to the craft sets her apart from the city's flooded pool of bartenders.
"I love it here," she says, proudly looking around Hakkasan's dining room. "It's beautiful."
Adorned with gorgeous teak wall carvings and splashed with fine European marble, Hakkasan occupies the far north side of the famed Miami Beach property. When the posh, Michelin-starred West End restaurant opened its first American location in 2009, the Fontainebleau inherited a culinary work of art.
Famous for its modern, award-winning take on traditional Cantonese cuisine, the Hakkasan brand has been a staple among foodies for years. But incredible dishes such as charcoal-grilled silver cod with champagne and Chinese honey, Peking duck with golden osetra caviar, and stir-fry ostrich in yellow-bean spicy sauce need incredible cocktails to go with them. It's Austin's job to make that happen.
Pairing complex and creative libations for a discerning clientele paying upward of $14 a drink, though, isn't an easy gig. A patron once asked her to put squash in his drink. And that's something you don't learn serving two-for-one margaritas at Chili's.
As the head mixologist, Austin has spent several months training alongside a master mixologist who has taught her about Hakkasan creator Alan Yau's vision of beautifully prepared and presented food, paired with brilliantly crafted and executed cocktails.
Just like the kitchen staff, she relies heavily on fresh ingredients and often teams up with the head chef to discuss potential flavor pairings and new drink ideas.
At the 2011 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Austin's Bombay Sapphire Ling Ling was served alongside celebrity chef Angelo Sosa's food at the festival's welcome reception. She has been featured in numerous publications, praised for her creativity behind the bar, and has accumulated a loyal following of regulars. Without question, Austin is at the top of her game. And she's the absolute sweetest person you'll ever meet pouring overpriced drinks on the Beach.
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