People have to do a double take when Samantha Supinger starts talking bourbon like a pro from behind the bar at Mirabelle Tavern in Stony Brook, where she serves as bar manager.
“People are like, ‘Wow, you drink bourbon?’” Supinger laughs.
But they quickly warm up to the Sunshine State transplant, who got her start when she went from hostess to bartender at an Italian American bistro in Florida. She took to the craft in a New York minute, even in laid-back Florida.
“My first day I made more money than any other bartender,” Supinger recalls.
Supinger’s life took a variety of twists and turns. She moved to Long Island to become a cosmetologist. She had a son, who is now 5, but it didn’t work out with his father and Supinger became a single mom about four years ago. Hoping to make more money and create a better life for her child, she applied for a job at Mirabelle. She got it and hasn’t looked back.
“I became this girl who didn’t know anyone in New York and began becoming myself, making drinks and having fun,” Supinger says.
So who is she? Other than a bourbon-aficionado, hard-working mom, Supinger is known for her personality and smile that can get even the chilliest of New Yorkers to thaw.
“Even if I don’t know [someone], when [they’re] at a bar and I say, ‘What can I make you?’ and walk them through a drink option, they love it. That’s what I try to give people the most of, a great experience,” Supinger says.
Though Supinger bucks stereotypes with her knowledge of spirits, she still has plenty of staunch women who want a traditional Cosmo. But she can even get them to try something at least a little different.
“Some people are so set in their drinks and that’s unfortunate,” she says. “But I may be like, ‘Have you ever tried a kettle orange vodka Cosmo?’”
Other than the shock that she prefers a good bourbon to a Cosmo, Supinger said she hasn’t experienced the same types of stereotypes or discrimination that other women have experienced in the restaurant industry. (A 2014 report by Restaurant Opportunity Centers United found that nearly 37 percent of all sexual harassment charges filed by women with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission come from the hospitality industry which is more than five times the rate for the general female workforce.) Nor has she faced any judgment for being a working single mother, though she admitted that can be difficult at times.
“There are days when I’m tired but I can’t just lay down and forget about my son,” she says. “I’ve thought, ‘I’m 28. I’m still bartending.’ But no, I’m doing what I like to do. I’m bartending, providing for my son. Could I do something else? Yeah, but I wouldn’t be happy.”
And Supinger hopes her son learns from her work ethic.
“Life isn’t easy so you make of it what it is,” she says. “If you give it your all, you’ll get the most out of it. “