In this week’s edition of Behind the Bar, we chat with Onion Creek bartender Rachel Hitteman. Hitteman was asked what her signature drink is and her submission is the White Oak War Horse. This is made with Yellow Rose rye whiskey, simple syrup, lemon juice, and finished with ginger beer.
Rachel Hitteman thinks women are some of the most influential leaders in the bartending industry today and says she’s adding her touch one whiskey drink at a time. Hitteman says her specialty is consistency and if she isn’t at school learning organic chemistry reactions, you can find her behind the bar at Onion Creek.
Born and raised on Houston’s west side, Hitteman first joined the industry at the age of 16, while working during the summer in her high school years. She gained her first bartending job just a few years later at the age of 19, working to put herself through college at the University of San Antonio. A love for the industry is what Hitteman said has kept her going from those early days in high school on into her late 20s now.
While in San Antonio, Hitteman studied political science and went on to take a job in the corporate world, leaving the industry scene behind. It wasn’t long after joining her new position that Hitteman said the corporate world shoe just didn’t fit.
“I actually missed bartending, so I started bartending again while I was still working in the corporate world,” Hitteman said. “Just one or two nights a week. Eventually I just decided that I didn’t like my job and I enjoyed bartending so much more that I decided to quit.”
Now back in school for her second degree, Hitteman is taking a more scientific approach to her studies and is currently studying petroleum engineering. Science is something Hitteman said she enjoys, specifically organic chemistry, and these studies help her in understanding mixology and how and why things work the way they do. Brewing her own beer is even a goal down the road and classes like organic chemistry will help her achieve that goal, she said.
Hitteman isn’t sure if petroleum engineering will be the degree she walks the stage for. She’s considered a degree in chemical engineering as well, reasoning that she doesn’t like the fact the petroleum industry won’t last forever.
Something that will last forever, is her love for the bartending industry and the gratification she receives from social interaction. That gratification is why Hitteman decided a year ago that she needed to get out of her corporate world cubicle and back behind the bar and back into her studies.
“I’m a very social person, I love to talk to people,” Hitteman said. “I love when someone comes up and is super friendly, asking questions and is interactive. I feel if I’m actually working in the field for engineering it’ll be more personal and not siting in a closed office all day.”
After Hitteman quit her job a year ago, she found a familiar face at Onion Creek who she had worked with previously and who was currently in search of a bartender.
All while hitting the books for her second degree, Hitteman is leaving her mark on the Onion Creek drink menu. Whiskey is her spirit of choice and on the drink menu you will find her signature drink: White Oak War Horse.
“For this cocktail we use a rye whiskey from Yellow Rose, which is distilled down the street from here,” Hitteman said. “Add lemon, simple syrup, shake it, strain it and pour it over ice and finish with ginger beer. It’s great for summer time and great for patio drinking.”
The White Oak War Horse is something Hitteman said she has been making for herself and for customers who would come in and ask for something whiskey based, but light and refreshing. This drink is Hitteman’s take on a lynchburg lemonade, which is usually made with Jack Daniels and lemonade.
In just a few weeks, Hitteman will be getting creative behind the bar with Yellow Rose distilling in their Thur Mix A Lot mixologist competition. Eight area bartenders are competing in the competition. One bartender competes once a week on Thursday (the first started on April 2) and Hitteman will be the final bartender competing on May 21. You can catch her competing from 4-7 p.m at Yellow Rose, located at 1224 N. Post Oak Dr. #100.
Whether she’s competing in mixologist competitions or testing out new concoctions at home, Hitteman said this will be a career for her. She just moved into the area and loves the small town feel here in the Heights and said she can’t wait for you to come sit out on the patio and try one of her White Oak War Horses.