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Q & A WITH P.F. CHANG'S BEVERAGE DIRECTOR

First drinks, how to find inspiration, and what's next behind the bar

BY: MACKENZIE GOODMAN | APRIL 2019


Is Mary Melton ready for a drink? Always.

Meet Mary, P.F. Chang’s Beverage Director. She’s been with us since 2005 and has dreamed up dozens upon dozens of cocktails, wine pairings, craft beer menus, and award-winning wine lists. This April we’re introducing two new, handcrafted non-alcoholic Refreshers, along with spiked counterparts for those looking for something a little harder. To celebrate these fresh, perfect-for-spring creations, we sat down for a quick interview to get to know the woman behind the bar.


Mary Melton

Moment of truth: What was the first alcoholic drink you ever had? Be honest.

Riunite Lambrusco. Cheap and sweet. It’s what we drank in the 70s! My parentswere big cocktailers, but that never appealed to me. I never bothered trying to raid their stash.


What’s your all-time favorite drink?

Hands down, champagne. If I were on a desert island, I’d bring vintage champagne with me. Ideally, this island would also have ice to keep the champagne cold.


What’s the most high-brow drink you’ve ever had?

I recently traveled to Tequila, MX where I got to try Casa Noble Seleccion Del Funador Extra Anejo, aged eight years. It’s $1,500 a bottle, and it’s delicious.


And what’s a low-brow classic you can’t live without?

On a hot summer day, I love Coors Light over ice with a couple of lime squeezes – so refreshing! It feels really good after working outside or being at the pool.


When did you fall in love with beverage innovation?

It started with my first job in college at 21, that’s when I fell in love with wine.I was working at a high-end restaurant as a day bartender in Kansas City, MO. My responsibility was to take care of the wine cellar, and I got totally hooked. I cameback and told my dad I didn’t want to go to grad school; I wanted to be a beverage professional. And look at me now!


You’ve had just about every job in the service industry. Which was your favorite?

Being a wine steward. I loved that my sole responsibility for the evening was to go up to tables and talk to them about wine and turn them onto something new and hopefully create an experience enhanced by their wine choices.


Mary Melton Beverage Director

Which job was your least favorite?

For a very short time, I managed the airport bars in Kansas City. That was awful.It was a very tough job.


You’ve been with P.F. Chang’s for almost 15 years. What’s the wildest drink to ever be added to our menus?

We did this really fun martini made with green tea. It didn’t stay on our menus for very long, but it was a good, strong drink!


Speaking of P.F. Chang’s, we're about to launch a new SPIKE IT option for non-alcoholic Refreshers. How did you come up with this idea?

We currently have three refreshers on the menu, and every time we turn around, we hear about what people spike them with and what ideas they have for the next time they visit. So really, it’s something our customers came up with and we’re just makingit easier to order!


Refreshers

How do you discover new bars and restaurants?

Just from reading and trying to keep up with our favorite influencers, whether that’s here (in Arizona) or out traveling. In New York, I’ll just start Googling and seeingwhat’s hot and happening. Wine Spectator is also a great tool for discovery!


What advice do you have for anyone wanting to pursue a career in the beverage innovation industry?

My advice is that it’s a great industry to be in! It’s ever-changing, and you will never know it all, so it's a great space to be in if you like to learn. To get into it,start in the bar or restaurant world so that you understand everything from theground up; how service, atmosphere, the right product, all that stuff, really affectsthe ultimate consumer.


What’s a memory from the past 15 years that stands out?

Michael Mondavi (of Michael Mondavi Family Estate) once gave me a kiss on the cheek. I told him I was a big fan and he said, “Well, come here!” That was a big deal for me.


At the end of a rough day, what’s your go-to drink?

I’m a wino, through and through. White wine when I get home is refreshing, takes the day away, it’s not too heavy. It’s perfect.


What will you do for your 15th anniversary at Chang’s?

Open a bottle of 2005 Dom Perignon – that’s the year I started. Maybe Dom Perignon will send me a bottle when they read this interview? That would be fun. If you’re reading this, I’m open to it, Dom!

Come meet us at the bar and taste one of Mary's selections or expert creations. New non-alcoholic Refreshers and Refresher cocktails now available at restaurants across the U.S.!

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