Foxy Friends: Eataly New York’s Beverage Director, Emily Hand

For the second installment in our Foxy Friends series, we are featuring another Jersey girl! Emily Hand is the Beverage Director for Eataly New York, the 50,000 square foot food and drink mecca devoted to all things Italian.

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Emily Hand started working at Eataly as a sommelier in early August 2010, just before the store opened. Although she had been studying wine on her own for a couple of years, it was her first foray into the wine world. In April 2013, Emily was appointed to her current role as Beverage Director for Eataly New York.”

Emily Hand has a big job – a dream job for anyone into wine and food and Italy and LIFE, but a very big job, to be sure. She oversees all 7 (SEVEN!) wine and beer lists for each of Eataly New York’s restaurants (which change-up every week!), she leads a knowledgeable team of sommeliers, keeps track of inventory, year over year sales, and even teaches food and wine classes at La Scuola…in her spare time. That’s actually one of her favorite parts of the job. Sharing her vast knowledge of Italian wines in a casual and approachable style is already Emily’s trademark. And she’s done this all in just a few short years. She must be doing something right! Here’s an inside look at Emily and her job as Beverage Director at Eataly.

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Prairie Rose: What is an aspect of the job that would be the most surprising to people who don’t know what you do?

Emily Hand: The most surprising part of the job is probably the least glamorous parts such as organizing cases upon cases of product, and crunching lots of numbers as part of being a responsible buyer.  I can certainly be spotted tasting wine with various sales reps and with my team throughout the week, but I am a spittin’ fool. Cant be slowed down by drinking!

What was it that initially drew you to wine? Have you always been interested in Italian wine, in particular? What’s your favorite region?

I love the way wine incited such passion in people as they spoke about it…maybe it was the Italians, they are a passionate people. I became very interested in Italian wine when I went to Italy during college for a week-long wine trip/scholarship. There is much to offer from opening up a bottle alone, but to backtrack through the import/export process and back into the vineyards and wineries, to meet the people behind the wine, that is what sealed the deal for me. I’ve studied (and tasted!) wines from around the world, and enjoy other old world wine regions as well, but I’ll always come back to Italy.  My favorite region is Toscana because that is where I fell in love with Italian wine.

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What would you consider a (perhaps, lowbrow) guilty pleasure?

I truly don’t consider it lowbrow, but if I’m out at a bar after work, you’ll almost never catch me drinking wine (dinner, yes, bar, no). I love tequila…not frozen margaritas per se but a nice aged tequila on the rocks with lots of lime…that’s my jam.

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People are always looking for a deal but still want quality. What is your go-to, bang for your buck pick right now?

My bang for the buck will typically come from the lesser known regions of Italy, and usually fall geographically on the outskirts, the far north such as Trentino Alto Adige and Valle d’Aosta  or far south such as Calabria, Sicila, Sardegna. You can pick up the Odoardi Terra Damia (Gaglioppo) on the shelf at the wine store for $20.80, it’s a crowd-pleaser.

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With the seasons changing, what do you foresee being in everyone’s glasses in the next couple of months?

Whisky, Whiskey and more WHISKEY– tis the season for the beverage that warms you from the inside out.  There are a lot of local distilleries breaking onto the scene right now, just as local food is all the rage (and hopefully a permanent ideology), the movement of handcrafted, small-batch spirits is making waves. I like the whiskey lineup from Hudson distilleries. Also cider, I am a big cider fan so that’s what will be in my glass. I’d like to add some cider influenced cocktails to the lineup. I experimented with that last weekend. Research is exhausting 🙂

Do you have a favorite cocktail to make? To drink?

My favorite cocktail to make is a Bloody Mary because I feel like a chef with all of the ingredients and variations, it’s a challenge to create the perfect balance. I’m a savory cocktail nut, always have been. My favorite cocktail to drink is a dirty vodka martini, the more olives the better. So dirty I want the bartender to blush.

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What are you most excited about right now at Eataly?

That’s a tough question because so much is going on…I get excited as the seasons change and we delve deeper into the fresh and local bounty of the tri-state area. We integrate seasonal changes into the cocktails and beer/wine selections just as the chefs do on the food menus. Right now I am excited about two huge wine events we are hosting, a walk-around Brunello tasting with Jancis Robinson and Walter Speller (exclusive 2010 vintage!) and a seminar with Angelo Gaja, that man is a legend!

What has been your biggest learning at Eataly to date?

My biggest revelation here at Eataly has been my ability to roll with the punches, and that managing people-not just managing them but investing in them, caring about their development as much as your own, is the key to success.

I'd love to hear what YOU think! Scratch a few thoughts down there, why dontcha?