Working for Two
You’ve seen it on menus and on signs in bathrooms: “Drinking wine, beer and other alcoholic beverages during pregnancy can cause birth defects.” Wendy Hodges, a mixologist at Fusion Mixology Bar in The Palazzo, found out she was pregnant with her third child in the summer of 2010. With her career-military husband, Mike, away for weeks at a time on training missions, Hodges had to continue working as long as possible and she could not consume any hard alcohol in the line of duty. So what’s a highly creative mixologist to do? If you’re Hodges, you just use your nose!
Without being able to taste, how did you create cocktail recipes while pregnant?
My sense of smell was actually enhanced, I don’t know why. Sweet smells such as vanilla and caramel—if I nose spirits now, I can barely pick those out. But when I was pregnant, I could pick out oak, leather and all those different notes. They were intensified.
Did you have to give up on the cocktail competition circuit?
No! I did the Whiskey for Women Cocktail Divas competition and created my Maker’s 46 cocktail, Gilded Hooch, strictly by nose. [I came in] fourth place.
Do you have to recreate that by-the-nose experience for your guests nightly at Fusion?
Our bar is known for creating drinks on the fly, and our guests expect that unique experience. Some will sit there all day, wanting something different every single round. … They will give me a parameter, and I have to throw all kinds of things together. If I did the mixer first [I tasted it], but once I added alcohol, it was strictly based on my nose.
What other challenges do pregnant bartenders face?
Well, mostly just having to squat down to get things on the lower shelves and being on your feet for eight hours. You’ve got all that extra weight from the baby, so your ankles and feet swell. My biggest issue was rude people blowing smoke in my face when they could obviously see that I was pregnant.
How did your male colleagues react?
My coworkers were awesome. As a matter of fact, whenever somebody was smoking, they’d be like, “Wendy, go sit down on the other side of the bar.” And they would serve them. I worked with some really awesome guys. Emilio Tiburcio and Greg Black were like, “Don’t you smoke around our baby!”
How long did you work into your pregnancy?
My due date was March 23. I took my maternity leave on March 12, and I had her on March 16. The last two weeks I was dilated about five centimeters. My bosses were freaking out every time I bent down to get something; they were like, “Are you OK?!” [Laughing]
What advice do you have for female bartenders who are thinking about starting a family?
Make sure you’ve got enough money set aside for when you take off work. That’s important, so you’re not stressed out. If you’re trying now, start saving now, because stress is the worst thing you can have when you’re pregnant. Also, they need to be in a bar environment where they feel safe, you know what I mean? I wouldn’t go bartending in a rough biker bar pregnant. Well, I won’t lie—I did work in a biker bar when I was pregnant with my second one. But it was a Mongols bar, and the owner of the bar hired bikers as the bouncers, so nobody messed with me.
How about your regulars?
All my guests were very, very kind; name-brand baby clothes were coming at me left and right. It was crazy. They all kind of took part. I had a lady there today telling [her friends], “Yes, Wendy’s been my bartender for so long! I’ve known her since she was pregnant. How is my Olivia, by the way?” She shows me pictures of my baby. They feel like I’m their family. It really endears me to a lot of my guests in ways I didn’t even expect.
Wendy and Mike’s daughter, Olivia Mackenzie, turned 6 in March.