As sommelier and beverage director for the Standard Hotel’s two New York City locations, Ashley Santoro is responsible for one of the country’s most trendy wine and spirit lists. We talked to her about the work she does in the office, bar, and wine cellar—and what she’s been drinking lately.
Location: The Standard, High Line and East Village, New York Current gig: Regional Beverage Director, The Standard Hotels; regional brand ambassador for the Bordeaux Wine Council Current computer: MacBook Air Current mobile device: iPhone XS One word that best describes how you work: Responsive
First of all, tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.
There was a part of me that originally thought law school and then got hooked on the restaurant thing in my teens. I graduated with a hospitality degree, did a short stint in Italy and focused on wine when I returned to the U.S. I was incredibly fortunate to get a wine director position early in my career and made the transition to all things beverage a few years ago.
Take us through a recent workday.
I usually get to either the High Line or East Village location between 9-10am. I start the day touring the Food & Beverage spaces and check in with the teams. My day is pretty packed with meetings, both internal and external. With so many moving parts with the hotels, it’s necessary to stay on top of communication. There’s other days with winemaker visits and beverage tastings and testings.
Besides your phone, what apps, gadgets, or tools can’t you live without?
Wine key! I feel lost without one. I don’t go too fancy and usually settle on an old school double hinge classic, but my go-to is the Pulltap Extendo.
What’s your workspace setup like?
For the most part my day to day is shared between High Line and East Village. I pack light and try to be as mobile as possible. I have a dedicated office space at both, but often escape to the wine cellar when I need to power through.
What’s your best life hack?
Always pack black—I never know what (or who) might pop up and need to be ready for a quick outfit turnaround.
Take us through an interesting, unusual, or finicky process you have in place at work.
BEVERAGE INVENTORY! Each venue does monthly counting and with close to 10 outlets, it’s A LOT of numbers, bottles and kegs. We are a 24/7 business—it’s a lot of coordinating and potential errors.
Who are the people who help you get things done, and how do you rely on them?
I would be lost without my team. Both hotels are led by incredibly talented Food & Beverage Directors, supported by a stellar creative team. My main humans are Will and Simone who lead the creative development for the beverage programs. I rely on the controls and storeroom team to function and operate.
What wine are you drinking lately?
I’ve really fallen for Peybonhomme les Tours in Bordeaux. They are producing insanely delicious wines and have made huge strides in transitioning their vineyards to biodynamic farming. I’ve been obsessed with the 2015 release of the Energies. The texture, purity, and herbaceous notes make this a perfect match with grilled or roasted proteins and all things red sauce!
How do you keep track of what you have to do?
I write everything down! It’s the only way I can prioritise. If it’s not in my calendar or notes, it’s not real.
How do you recharge or take a break?
Travel whenever possible, even if it’s a train ride away. I try to run when my schedule allows and have been pretty dedicated to regular meditation.
What are you currently reading, or what do you recommend?
The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories has been my recent read. It was originally meant to hold me over until the new Murakami book was released, but I can’t stop going back!
Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Lara Croft, Tomb Raider.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Move out of your own way. It’s definitely easier said than done, but when a majority of decisions must be made in the moment, you can’t get stuck in your head.
What’s a problem you’re still trying to solve?
I’d say the question is always what’s next and how can I better translate the vision of our programs in a way that’s exciting and fresh. Not every guest is interested in the details involved in the distillation or fermentation process, but the goal is to connect with people in a way that they each have a unique and individual experience.