It was just over 18 months ago that I first heard the Bit By A Fox Podcast. Long time supporter of Bartender Atlas, and bartenders in general, Christine Sismondo was a guest and had drawn my attention to it. Throughout that episode I realized that the host, Prairie Rose, was not just doing this as a hobby. She truly cared about her guest and had done the research to make this podcast truly engaging.
So I listened to another episode and then another and another. I am still hooked and thought that Bit By A Fox and Prairie Rose in general deserves your ear. If you don’t believe me, just check out the interview below.
Bartender Atlas: How did you get into the alcohol industry and what were some of your first jobs in it?
Prairie Rose: My very first jobs were in restaurants and cafes, as a barista and server, then cocktail waitress, and bar manager. I learned a ton about wine and spirits in the service industry but I didn’t get serious about the alcohol industry until I studied at WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) in New York with the intention of getting my diploma in wine. I got sidetracked with spirits and cocktails, and that started my journey to Bit by a Fox.
BA: You are from New York and now reside in Los Angeles. How did the move come about and did your career in alcohol figure into the decision?
PR: I’m originally from the Pacific Northwest but I was in NYC for 19 years. I was deeply, madly in love with living there until I wasn’t anymore. That city held many lifetimes for me, so it was naturally a little painful to extricate myself from it. Especially since so many dear friends who are my family are also there. But once I did, even in my head before I left, there was a sense of relief. It was similar to how I felt when I made the decision not to pursue acting anymore – years prior. This thing, that I so closely related to my identity, wasn’t the case anymore. It opened up a whole new world for me, and it made room for me to fall in love with Los Angeles. Since so much of my work with alcohol happens online, I could live anywhere. But a huge draw to LA, besides the weather and quality of life issues, WAS the exciting food and drink scene here. To tell you the truth, I had no idea how amazing the food culture was here. It’s just been one delicious surprise after the next!
BA: At present you organise events, consult with bars and judge cocktail competitions. What drew to the organisational side of the industry?
PR: I love having my hands in a lot of pots. Working on the service side for so long informed me of so much, and it only makes me a better event planner, interviewer, consultant and consumer. I’m a bit type A and enjoy the hustle, and I love working with the people in this industry in a lot of different capacities. Whether I’m hiring a cocktail photog for an event, speaking on a panel with my peers, interviewing a master distiller, or sitting at a bar as a patron, I genuinely like and admire the folks drawn to this business.
BA: When did you decide that a podcast was the next step in your career? Was there an “a-ha” moment or did it come about gradually?
PR: It was a bit of a fluke, really! I knew I wanted to take Bit by a Fox to the next level when I got out to LA, and I knew it would morph a bit, just by the nature of moving and being in a different headspace. I had entertained a podcast but didn’t really know where to start. Then, I had a friend, who is a veteran in international media, ask me to come on board with a podcast production company he was starting. He introduced me to who would eventually be my producer/editor for the first 8 months. She really helped me kick it off, and I wouldn’t have been able to get it going without her. I just realized it’s been over a year since I’ve been doing this solo! In the beginning, we had a studio and fancy sound system and I didn’t edit my own interviews. Now I do everything. And I’m completely mobile. It’s a TON of work but it’s also given me a lot of freedom with all the traveling that I do. I had the chance to record at the Libsyn studios in midtown Manhattan a few months back and THAT was a dream. Someday I’ll have a studio again…
BA: For anyone unfamiliar, what does the phrase Bit By A Fox mean?
PR: When I was looking for a name for my cocktail blog six years ago, I dug up a bunch of weird obscure phrases that refer to getting drunk. So many of them were from the UK! Bit by a fox is old tavern slang that dates back to the 16th century, apparently, and it means that you had a wee too many. “Hair of the dog that bit you” is somehow connected – the dog being a fox – but the phrase to be bit by a fox was lost along the way.
BA: On your podcast, Bit By A Fox, you speak with people from all aspects of the industry. Equal time is given to people in wine, beer, spirits, cocktails, restaurant groups, writers etc…. How do you choose your guests?
PR: I try to balance out my guest flow to include a variety of people in the industry. There are so many people behind the scenes who impact how we drink around the world, and their stories are fascinating to me. Because I’ve been working in this business for a while now, I’ve developed some great relationships. When writer friends have a new drinks focused book out, I want to feature them, if there’s a new expression or product launch, I want to interview the masters behind it, if someone is in town and I haven’t gotten them on the show, I’ll arrange to make that happen. It seems to come organically. The drinks industry is so rich and ever changing, I feel like I’ll never run out of content or subjects!
BA: Has there been anyone you invited onto the show that was a more difficult interview than you had expected? Alternately, anyone that was surprisingly fun?
PR: Absolutely. It’s always a risk when you invite someone on who you don’t know. Some of my first conversations with guests have literally been the interview! That can end up very stiff and not very personable, but for the most part, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how warm and affable some “strangers” are. For instance, a recent guest, Michelle DeFeo, President of Laurent Perrier Champagne, came on the show after a very fancy lunch in NYC. We hadn’t met until that point. That interview could have easily been filled with a lot of brand speak and corporate talk but instead, it was a peek into her journey from Jersey girl to Francophile to president of one of the most storied champagne houses in France. It was surprisingly empowering, and I came away from it madly in love with her and Laurent Perrier!
BA: If yes, would you say that it is a similar experience to serving a difficult/great guest at a bar?
PR: Sure. I mean, in service you have to be adaptable and know how to deal with a bunch of different personalities. The point is to make them feel comfortable and make sure they’re enjoying themselves. If it feels like they don’t want to be there, it comes across on air. My hostess instincts kick in hard when I’m interviewing!
BA: Is there a mission statement, or a specific goal with the Bit By A Fox podcast?
PR: That’s a good question! I think it’s probably in that first thing that I say at the start of every episode: To…discuss the art of imbibing, drinking culture and the stories behind the glass.
BA: You end each of your shows by asking your guests three questions, so we’re gonna turn that around:
BA: What do you always have in your home bar?
PR: I always have some sort of bubbles – soda water, sparkling wine. I also have a very impressive brandy collection!
BA: If you could get Bit By A Fox with anyone living or dead, who would it be?
PR: I’m obsessed with Lizzo right now and she’d be a ton of fun to get a little bit by a fox with.
BA: Why do you drink?
PR: I drink for connection – to those around me, to the makers behind what I’m drinking, and to culture and our ancestry, to a degree. I also drink to be transported to another place, an elevated, joyful place!
Thank you, Prairie for taking the time to speak with us!