There’s a new drinks industry show to gawk over, and it’s called Drink Masters. As one of the best food shows on Netflix, it’s very much worth your time. If you love elaborate cocktails made by some of the best bartenders in the nation, it’s even more your cup of (spiked) tea.
We got in touch with a contestant on the show, Lauren “LP” Paylor O’Brien. The NYC-raised bartender wowed judges on the show (we won’t give away the ending), showing the chops she earned while working the circuit for many years in D.C. The first season just wrapped, and we looked up O’Brien for some thoughts on starring in it. We also asked her to share some of her beloved cocktail recipes.
“I treated this experience very similarly to the way that I operate when I worked at the bar,” O’Brien says of her time on the show. “I kept my head down, stayed focused, and fell in love with the process of learning new techniques to integrate into the way that I curate and create my beverages.”
O’Brien says she learned a ton about herself being on Drink Masters. “I was built for this, and I hope the way that I performed and carried myself throughout the experience can serve as inspiration to someone else,” she adds.
She didn’t always think she’d be bartending. O’Brien started out going to school for a career in nursing. “I fell in love with the process of drink making. It felt theatrical to me,” she says. “Additionally, the storytelling and exchange with guests — it brings me joy.”
Now, rising in the ranks during the pandemic is anything but ordinary, and this era of bartending has taught her much. “It’s interesting because we have to be innovative as individuals who create recipes; it’s our art,” she says. “The amount of innovation I saw from a business perspective was pretty damn inspiring. We saw new businesses erupt, business plans change, and, unfortunately, some establishments close down. There were a lot of community-driven and centered things that came out of this difficult period of time.”
The scene continues to evolve and will only do so if we all do our part. That goes for being better consumers in addition to fostering an environment within the industry that’s far more welcoming to all. O’Brien has some wisdom in that regard.
“Be an informed consumer,” she says. “Learn more about the way the products you consume are being made. Are they environmentally friendly, are they ethically produced, do they take care of their team members etc. They depend on you. It’s important to understand the influence and power that you have.”
What about those considering bartending careers of their own? “Establish a good foundation and understanding of classic cocktails and deviate from that,” she suggests. “Start out by swapping one ingredient at a time. For instance, the syrup in an Old Fashioned, the base spirit, then the bitters, etc. See what you like, log it and go from there.”
What’s her favorite cocktail? Well, that would be an Old Fashioned, preferably with rum, rich simple syrup, and some chocolate bitters. Thirsty yet? Good — here are three cocktails to try out at home.
This drink dresses up tequila perfectly, fit with banana, the spice of Ancho Reyes, and the earthy goodness of mole bitters.
- 1.5 ounces tequila
- 3/4 ounce Banana de Bresil
- 1/2 ounce heavy cream
- 1/2 ounce Ancho Reyes
- 2 drops mole bitters
- Shake all ingredients and strain into a chilled Nick and Nora glass.
- Garnish with shaved chocolate.
Rancio and Tonic
Ah, the many ways vermouth can be utilized. Here, it’s hit with the oxidized and nutty magic of Rancio.
- 3/4 ounce Rancio
- 3/4 ounce Capitoline Rose Vermouth
- 1/2 ounce simple syrup
- 1/2 ounce lemon juice
- 3 ounces tonic water
- Build Rancio, vermouth, simple syrup, and lemon juice in tin and shake.
- Add ice to high-ball glass, pour tin in glass, and top off with tonic.
- Garnish with a dehydrated lemon
Hot Buttered PX Rum
This recipe comes courtesy of Chantel Tseng and is one of our absolute favorite sippers during the cold weather stretch.
- 1 ounce Chairman’s Reserve Silver Rum
- 3/4 ounce Gonzalez Byass “Nectar” PX
- 1 heaping spoon of spiced butter mix*
- 4-5 ounces boiling water
*Spiced Butter Mix: Thoroughly blend 2 sticks of butter, 1 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup vanilla ice cream, 1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon, 1 1/2 tablespoons nutmeg, 1 1/2 tablespoons clove, 1 1/2 tablespoons allspice, 1 teaspoon of cayenne, and 1 teaspoon of salt with a hand mixer. It will yield about 16-20 servings.
- Place ingredients into stemmed hot beverage glass and fill half way up with boiling water.
- Stir to combine, add remaining hot water, and garnish with a clove-studded orange peel.
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