Provision Coffee Bar is a local coffee roaster and up-and-coming cocktail bar. A chief reason why: rock star bar professionals like Erika Middleton-Sharpe. We recently had the chance to sit down with Middleton-Sharpe and get both her backstory and all the “spirited” reasons Provision’s two locations are quickly becoming the go-to options for happy hours, work outings and date nights.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR OWN ENTRÉE INTO THE FOOD AND BEVERAGE WORLD?
I grew up in Washington state, always fascinated by food. My father loved to cook, and I loved watching him man the grill. My interest would only grow when I moved to New York in 2014. I actually moved to study music at a local conservatory, but took on a hosting job at the famed Momofuku Ssam Bar. The host stand was directly next to a breezeway that led to Dave Arnold’s iconic Booker and Dax. If Arnold’s name is familiar, it’s because he wrote the best-selling “bar bible” “Liquid Intelligence:
The Art and Science of the Perfect Cocktail.” I spent many a night studying their cocktails, not to mention the book. My passion ignited in such a major way after that. By the time I moved back to Phoenix in 2017, I was ready to show the Valley what I could do with my new-found bartending skills. I took a position at Taco Chelo, then when I heard what Provision wanted to do with its coffee and cocktail program, I had to sign on as part of the team. We opened our Arcadia location in summer 2018.
TELL US ABOUT THE ODDEST DRINK REQUEST YOU’VE HAD.
Generally speaking, I am open to most seemingly strange requests because there is almost always a way to make even the oddest of ingredients taste good. However, I recently got a request to make an Irish coffee latte with almond milk. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, almond milk happens to be one of the most visually unappealing ingredients to mix with alcohol. It looks separated and curdled almost instantly. I am sure the flavor was there, but looking at that drink was anything but pleasant.
WHAT IS YOUR NO. 1 PET PEEVE WHEN WORKING?
We take great pride in paying attention to the little details at the bar. So, I detest
smudged glassware. I go nuts when the cover of the ice wall gets stuck when I am trying to open or close it. Loud noises like glassware slamming to the ground when I am making a cocktail is pretty bad. I also hate seeing sad, wilted garnishes – especially mint sprigs.
WHAT IS YOUR GO-TO DRINK WHEN YOU’RE AT A BAR OTHER THAN YOUR OWN?
I love ordering a twist on a classic cocktail – something spirit forward like an interpretation of an old fashioned. A high-end cocktail bar that knows its stuff will make twists or slight changes that seem small to some, but are often deeply refined and clever beyond measure. My personal favorite, outside of the options at Provision, of course, is the Soldier Boy at Pobrecito in Downtown Phoenix. It is delicious, spicy, with a well-balanced sweetness.
WHAT DOES ORDERING A VODKA TONIC SAY ABOUT A PERSON?
It means you’ve never had a professionally made cocktail done right. You don’t know what you are missing. But I can show you!
TELL US ABOUT THE BEVERAGE PROGRAM AT PROVISION COFFEE?
We take as much pride in our massive cocktail menu as we do in our coffee cocktail offerings. First, we have a classic cocktail menu featuring nine of our favorite cocktail mainstays from negronis to mai tais. Then, we offer an amaro menu, which are aperitifs and digestifs. Guests can order one by itself or choose to do an Amaro flight. We also have a killer lineup of signature cocktails that includes a variety of imaginative recipes we’ve developed to blow your mind, plus brunch cocktails. For those who want something more straightforward, we have straight spirits, wine and beers as well. One thing we are especially proud of with our menu: many of our cocktails and beer feature some amazing local purveyors including Iconic Cocktail, AZ Bitter Labs, Mother Road Brewery, Grand Canyon Distillery and Thumb Butte Distillery. At Provision, we call ourselves your classy neighborhood bar – you can bring work friends here, or a date. You can bring your parents here, or even grandma. I should also note these are specific to our Arcadia location. At our Chandler locale, we are working on next steps to add cocktails this year.
WHAT IS ONE COCKTAIL YOU WOULD LOVE FOR US TO FEATURE IN THE MAGAZINE THIS MONTH?
The Bergamot ($12)
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT THIS DRINK?
It’s a twist on the classic Southside Cocktail. It’s traditionally made with gin, lime juice, simple syrup and mint, and tastes quite lime-forward. Ours features Leopold’s Summer Gin, which
has bright citrus and rich botanicals. Then, we add a combination of Yellow Chartreuse, which is milder and sweeter than Green Chartreuse, along with Earl Grey simple syrup and special edition Bergamot bitters from one of our favorites, Scrappy’s Bitters. When it all comes together, it is refreshing with botanical elements balancing the lime. Plus, it looks amazing. We garnish it with edible wild flowers.
Chosen cocktail recipe:
1 3/4 ounces Leopold’s Summer Gin
1/4 ounce Yellow Chartreuse
1 ounce lime juice
1 ounce Earl Grey simple syrup
We combine all elements in shaker. Before straining into a coupe glass and garnishing with the edible flowers, we spray the glass with the Bergamot bitters. Once we strain into the glass, we spray it again with the Bergamot bitters and garnish.
Provision Coffee Bar, 4501 N. 32nd Street, Phoenix, 602.626.3866; 2100 S. Gilbert Road, Suite 22, Chandler, 480.999.3715, provisioncoffee.com.