When you have a chance to talk about nonalcoholic cocktails with the woman named both "American Bartender of the Year" at Tales of the Cocktail's Spirited Awards and "Mixologist of the Year" by Wine Enthusiast, it's both exciting and humbling. Luckily, Ivy Mix is a neighborhood friend to our Cobble Hill store—her cocktail bar & restaurant Leyenda only a few blocks away—which made picking her brain slightly less intimidating. Read on for what one of the best bartenders in the country has to say about alcohol-free drinking.
First off, can you introduce a little bit about yourself and your accomplishments in the mixology world.
I have been in the booze world for quite some time. I started bartending in 2005, and in 2009, I started bartending in cocktail bars once I discovered the awesomeness and creativity of cocktails. I opened up my own bar, Leyenda, in 2015 and my own bottle shop, Fiasco!, in 2021. I also have written a book, Spirits of Latin America, that came out in 2020. I have been lucky enough to have been awarded some awards along the way and that's always a great feeling!
Ok, we have to ask—is Mix actually your last name?
Yep, just like my dad and my sister!
What originally brought you into the mixology business and what made you stay to achieve your level of expertise? Was your journey more or less what you had envisioned from the beginning, or were there pivots or surprises along the way?
I decided to dedicate myself to the world of "mixology" (still a buzzword in our business... I like to consider myself a bartender) when I realized I could bartend and be creative by making cocktails. I had a degree in Fine Art and Philosophy, and graduated in 2008 when the economy crashed. I was working free internships in galleries and hating it as I worked crappy diner jobs to make money. When I finally got a job in a cocktail bar, I realized I could bartend and be creative... and make money being creative, I was like... let's do this.
I always liked bartending anyway (I started in 2005). The journey was long and hard. I was told at first that I wasn't going to be a bartender because I was a cocktail waitress, and there were hurdles to jump in a male dominated industry. But years later, I think I made the right choice. I very much enjoy being creative and altruistic in my career.
You've said that in the past, "mocktails" on menus were mostly amped-up lemonade. What do you mean by that?
Especially for those looking to have nonalcoholic adult beverages, what then makes a cocktail a "cocktail"?
What are the challenges when trying to translate traditionally alcoholic cocktail recipes into no- or low-alc variations?
As a person who creates and enjoys alcoholic beverages, what excites you about nonalcoholic drinks? When or how often do you see yourself drinking NA cocktails in your day-to-day?
What would be your advice to a drinker who's sober-curious as far as how to approach trying and experimenting with nonalcoholic alternatives?
What's one of your favorite NA products out there and why?
Our motto at Boisson is seeing the Glass Half-Full. How do you think alcohol-free alternatives allow people to see the glass half-full?
Watch Ivy Mix and Boisson co-founder Nick Bodkins talk more about NA while Ivy mixes up a delicious cocktail featuring Wilderton in this Instagram Live video!
Portrait photo of Ivy Mix by Eric Medsker
Cocktail photo from Spirits of Latin America by Shannon Sturgis