Mixology Q&A with Ivy Mix, owner of Leyenda and Fiasco!, co-founder of Speed Rack, author of Spirits of Latin America - Boisson

Mixology Q&A with Ivy Mix, owner of Leyenda and Fiasco!, co-founder of Speed Rack, author of Spirits of Latin America

Posted by Boisson Staff on

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. 

American bartender of the year Ivy Mix

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?

If you didn't want to drink and you went out and you asked for a non-alc cocktail, what you'd get would be some sort of syrup and citrus, shaken up and topped with soda probably. Not that interesting! Now we have all of these non-alc spirits to work with that offer so much more flavor.
Tia Mia cocktail from Leyenda

Especially for those looking to have nonalcoholic adult beverages, what then makes a cocktail a "cocktail"?

A cocktail is a creative beverage. It's an exploration of flavor and taste. It's an art form, just as a food dish can be. You can drink water or you can drink a cocktail, and the cocktail is meant to be interesting and compelling on the palate. Cocktails are an experience.

What are the challenges when trying to translate traditionally alcoholic cocktail recipes into no- or low-alc variations?

I personally don't like when people try to do nonalcoholic versions of classic cocktails because at the end of the day, it's not going to taste like the alcoholic version. So these 'No-tinis' and 'No-gronis' are not really my thing. I prefer to use these ingredients to create new and unusual cocktails, just like the specialty drinks we serve on the Leyenda menu.

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?

Yep, I'm a drinker. And I still can be found to drink a non-alc cocktail. To be perfectly honest, I really drink more wine than I do cocktails at this point in my life, but I do love the opportunity to have different flavor experiences, alcoholic or not. I think having nonalcoholic cocktails on a menu offers people the option to have a drink and not consume something intoxicating. It's a method to pace yourself. I also like using NA spirits within my cocktails with booze for more unusual flavors.

What would be your advice to a drinker who's sober-curious as far as how to approach trying and experimenting with nonalcoholic alternatives?

First off, I will use this opportunity to say how much I hate the term "sober curious." If you actually are curious about what it means to be sober, you really shouldn't touch booze ever again. BUT saying that, if you're interested in mixing sans alcohol at home, I would start really educating your palate on what things taste like. Take notes! There are no wrong answers. Then build your cocktails based upon what you taste there.
Flyers canned hemp-infused cocktails

What's one of your favorite NA products out there and why?

I think Seedlip really changed the game years ago and they continue to lead the board. I am also interested in nonalcoholic, but also not 100% non-everything. I am involved with Flyers, that is a full spectrum CBD canned cocktail that is pretty delicious, if I do say so myself. I used the flavors of the CBD as an ingredient in the drinks themselves, rather than trying to cover it up l like so many other CBD drinks out there. I think it's delish!

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?

Well the glass is always half-full when you can keep on drinking! The wonderful thing about nonalcoholic cocktails is the opportunity for moderation. I think that's awesome.

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

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