Cocktail Club

What a South End bartender wants you to know about reopening

"I see the light at the end of the tunnel, but patience during this time of transition is appreciated," Black Lamb's Tersillia Valentini said.

Black Lamb in the South End.

At the South End neighborhood restaurant Black Lamb, you’ll find Tersillia Valentini behind the bar shaking up cocktails for a crowd on the precipice of nearly all COVID-19 restrictions being lifted.

For the bartender and front of house manger, a full reopening will begin a return to the kind of hospitality she’s always loved. “I have always been passionate about food and hosting family and friends in our home,” Valentini said.

Valentini has spent years working across Boston’s restaurants and bars in myriad roles. Prior to working at Black Lamb, Valentini spent the past five years as bartender at Darryl’s Corner Bar and Kitchen, “until the pandemic turned our world upside down.” But it was her early years at Ashmont Grill that Valentini credits for nurturing a passion for hospitality.

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“I was in my element, and I just wanted to learn more,” she said of the Dorchester spot.

Her desire to grow in the industry took her to work at bars across New York City and its surrounding areas before eventually returning home to Boston to manage the catering and food truck for Fresh Food Generation.

She told Boston.com, “Now, I’m so happy to be a part of the team at a lovely neighborhood restaurant in the South End.”

On Thursday, Valentini joined the Cocktail Club for gin cocktails, mixing a Bohemian and a class martini. Ahead of the class, we spoke with the Black Lamb bartender about her passion projects, the best advice for at-home cocktail enthusiasts, and why a daiquiri best describes her personality.

Can you tell us about your role at Black Lamb, and your other passion projects?

My current roles at Black Lamb are bartender and FOH [front of house] manager.

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In my free time, I work on a few different passion projects with some close friends and family. In 2018, Culture Kravings was born in Brooklyn, New York, with sporadic pop-ups offering food, craft cocktails, and good vibes that are reflective of our culture as children of West Indian families. We love to showcase our Afro-Caribbean heritage through our recipes and love to teach people who may not be familiar with what we offer.

In 2020, my “big brother” Siedric White, a local chef and farmer, and I created Roots and Libations. We met so many new people during this time by offering virtual bartending on Zoom, providing groups with craft cocktail kits that they could make along with everyone from the safety of their homes. This kept our creativity flowing and gave us something fun to do in the mean-time until we can all gather together again — special thank you to District 7 Tavern in Roxbury.

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This really helped us throughout the pandemic, with 1.) being able to pivot during that time and find another way to generate some income, and 2.) being able to stay connected to people.

Without the opportunity to connect in those ways, I don’t know what we would have done. This is what we know, this is what we do, and without it life is ultimately so much more bleek. It was a way to keep hope alive and look forward to being able to gather together around a table again. 

If you were a cocktail, what would you be?

If I were a cocktail, I would probably be a classic daiquiri, with a few twists. Starting with an aged rum, preferably El Dorado 12, add a few dashes of Angostura Bitters, fresh lime juice, and Demerara syrup. I feel like this rendition of a classic daiquiri encompasses not only my personality but is also representative of my cultural background — with a sultry Guyanese rum and raw brown sugar vs. plain white simple syrup. 

What do you hope to see improve in the restaurant and bar scene in Boston?

My hope for the restaurant/bar scene in Boston is that it continues to grow into a more diverse and inclusive space for all walks of life, especially for Black and Brown and LGBTQIA people.

What do you already see changing as Mass. reopens and relaxes mask mandates? 

I hope that everyone is understanding of all perspectives — not just their own. It would make me feel more comfortable if patrons are understanding and respectful of each establishment’s rules regarding their comfort level with mask mandates and continued social distancing.

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I see the light at the end of the tunnel, but patience during this time of transition is appreciated.

What do you enjoy most about gin cocktails?

What I enjoy most about the martini and classic gin cocktails is the opportunity to let the spirit shine. In my humble opinion, sometimes simpler is better. My experience has been that many guests have had an aversion to gin-based cocktails, and perhaps they just haven’t had the pleasure of having one made correctly. My hope is that people will be open to trying again!

What’s the best tip for at-home cocktail enthusiasts?

The best tips I can give to at-home cocktail enthusiasts: 1.) Juice and double strain your own fruits; fresher is always better! 2.) Invest in one really good cocktail kit — shaker, jigger, strainer, and bar spoon. 3.) Ice is so very important to a well-made cocktail. If you can, get nice ice molds that produce larger cubes. They melt slowly and keep your drink colder, longer.

Tell us you’re from Boston without telling us you’re from Boston. 

How can I tell you I’m from Boston without telling you that I’m from Bahston? We don’t pahk our cah in Hahvahd Yahd…we take the T! (IYKYK). Also, Nubian Square is still affectionately referred to as Dudley and you can’t convince us otherwise.

How can people support you and your colleagues in the service industry right now?

The service industry is still and always will be in need of your support — it’s how we make our living doing what we love and providing you with great dining/drinking experiences. The best way to continue to show your support is by being as patient, respectful, and understanding as possible, especially during this time.

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For those that would like to contribute a little extra, my Venmo is @Tersillia-Valentini, CashApp is $tersillia, and PayPal is @tersillia.


Join our next virtual cocktail class

Join us Thursday, May 27,  at 7 p.m. for Boston.com’s Cocktail Club with host Jackson Cannon and his special guest Palmer Matthews, managing partner at Pearl and Lime in Quincy. This week they’ll be making cocktails with Santa Teresa rum, catching up about the Boston restaurant and bar scene, and sharing tips the pros use to make great drinks at home. They’ll be mixing a classic Mai Tai and a rum Old Fashioned. Everything you’ll need is listed here with a link to purchase your Boston.com cocktail kit through Gordon’s Fine Wine and Spirits.

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The virtual cocktail class event on May 27 has been updated to reflect a change in the Cocktail Club’s special guest.

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