New York is the quintessential “happy hour” city where people find themselves drinking for any and every occasion, even if it’s not quite 5 o’clock. From your local pub, to the hundreds of dive bars, to the swankiest of cocktail spots, there is certainly no shortage of watering holes to call your own. And while I’m normally the one ordering my favorite crafty cocktail of choice from any one of my top mixology maisons, recently, I was the one behind the scenes.
On a Saturday night in Soho, I pulled up to the newly established Liquor Lab, a personalized, interactive craft cocktail experience, ready to see what the “buzz” was all about.
Perched on the 4th floor of a seemingly nondescript building on Wooster, sits a libation “lab” ready to turn you into a mixology master. As you pull into the space, you’re greeted with friendly faces, a small spread of snacks (that match the cocktail experience of the day, of course), and your own cocktail making ingredients and utensils to make that perfect “party in a cup”.
For about two hours, Freddy Sarkis, the Chief Cocktail Officer at LL, teaches you (and your fellow wanna-be bartenders), just what it takes. With the ingredients already measured out to make things flow smoothly, Freddy walks you through the order, tells you how to shake (or stir) it, and then talks to you about the flavor profiles you’re experiencing. Multiply that by three cocktails, and I can tell you, it’s one heck of a bargain (and buzz), if you ask me.
Naturally, as I pretended to be a master mixologist, I got to thinking – What would make someone think of such a cool concept? So, of course, I had to ask LL’s founder, Owen Meyer, what inspired his love for all things liquor. Here’s what he had to say:
I was working for Beam Suntory and saw the way consumer events were done. I felt there was a need for something more that was educational but also had a fun, social element.
I was living in Chicago and working for Beam there, so I knew the market. Also, it is less expensive to test something in Chicago than in NYC. NYC is not a test, it’s our home base!
It depends on the time of day and who I’m with. Generally, it’s a mezcal bloody to warm the engines, a shot of mezcal and a loaded Tecate to buckle up, and an extra Añejo Old Fashioned to roll the top down.
I’m a creature of habit. For cocktails, you’ll find me at Mothers Ruin. For everything else, I can’t say, but for those of you who know me: it is my living room.
Get out there and take a chance. The Vodka Soda thing is not going to help you educate your palate. Look up some recipes for some classic cocktails (e.g. twists on margaritas, punches, or even large batch party drinks to entertain friends). There’s a world of flavor out there, and you’re still in the water aisle.
Now that’s a tough one because it has definitely changed. I’d say I started as a Boiler Maker (shot and a beer): simple and to the point, and have morphed into an Extra Añejo Old Fashioned: complex and interesting. But, that’s just my opinion. I’m probably more like a Bud Lite: consistent and collected, but marketed as complex. Ha.
We are consumer focused 100% of the time. We are the buffer between a lot of noise, and enabler of a lot of fun that should be had more frequently.
Yes, many. But, for the next few months it’s NYC that gets the first drink.
Before last week I would have said Robert Plante, Jimmy Page and a bottle of Jack. But after last week, that title goes to Drew Barrymore and her wines. What an amazing group that was!
It depends which side of the glass you are. Bartenders don’t like the term mixologist; consumers love it, but the military man inside of me prefers Cocktail Officer, like our Chief Cocktail Officer, Freddy Sarkis.