Who wouldn’t want to have drinks with these two?
Bartending tour de force Julie Reiner made a name for herself after her signature use of fresh fruit and spices caught the eye of the “King of Cocktails,” Dale DeGroff. Since then, she’s mixed and muddled her way into opening a couple of highly acclaimed watering holes, including the Jazz Age–style Flatiron Lounge and 2009’s Best American Cocktail Bar winner, Clover Club, the Smith Street stunner she owns with her wife, Sue Fedroff.
In 2015, she solidified Boerum Hill’s reputation as the cocktail capital of the city by opening Leyenda, a Latin American–inspired cocktail bar and restaurant, across the street. Her secret ingredient? Co-owner Ivy Mix, Reiner’s former employee-turned-protégée, whose passion for Guatemala’s culture and cocktails was the driving force behind Leyenda. As her name suggests, Mix has some badass credentials herself, having been named Tales of the Cocktail’s Best American Bartender.
What Should We Do?! chatted with the two cocktail queens about what makes a great bar and their favorite drinks.
What Should We Do?!: How did you both discover bartending?
Julie Reiner: I am originally from Honolulu and started cocktail waitressing in Waikiki when I was 18 years old; I was fascinated with what was going on behind the bar. At that time, I was serving all sorts of tropical drinks, and I loved the smiles and joy that it brought to the tourists. My first real bartending job was in college. I realized that I could control the party from behind the bar, and I loved that! After I graduated, I started really studying cocktails.
Ivy Mix: I fell in love with bartending when I lived in Guatemala and made the realization that I could be paid to be in a place I was always in anyway. I love the social and community aspects of bars. I enjoy being behind the stick and seeing everyone who I like come in to say hi. It’s like working in your living room. I moved to NYC to be closer to my sister and pursue an art career. But the economy had just crashed and there was no money in that! I realized I could bring my artistic background and creativity to the cocktails instead.
WSWD: What was the first drink you ever made?
Mix: A rum popo for my mom, which is Jamaican rum and lime juice on ice.
Reiner: A frozen mango margarita for my parents at a dinner party.
WSWD: How did you two meet?
Mix: We met when I was working as a cocktail waitress at Mayahuel in the East Village. Phil Ward owned it, and he used to work for Julie, so she would come by. I then got to know her better when I started working for her at Lani Kai Cocktail Lounge in SoHo.
WSWD: What inspired you to open Leyenda?
Mix: I lived in that part of the world [Central America] for a number of years. I was always interested in bringing what I loved from there to here. I also wanted to celebrate the cultures of all of Latin America.
Reiner: When our landlord at Clover Club came to us with an opportunity to open in his space across the street, we immediately thought of Ivy. She had been looking to open a bar, but was hitting a lot of roadblocks. Her passion for Latin America, and the cocktails and food that go along with it, was the perfect complement to what we do at Clover.
WSWD: What’s the recipe behind a great bar like Leyenda?
Reiner: I think that Leyenda really works because it was built around Ivy’s passion for this part of the world. Sue Torres consulted on our menu, and the food is authentic and delicious. And, of course, we have created an atmosphere that is warm, fun, and welcoming. We’ve been on Smith Street going on 10 years now, so we are very familiar with the clientele. I think they can smell bullshit a mile away, and Leyenda is no BS! It’s authentic.
WSWD: What’s your most-ordered drink?
Mix: It’s probably our classic La Sonambula [jalapeño-infused blanco tequila with chamomile, lemon, mole, and Peychaud’s Bitters]. That has been on the menu since the beginning.
WSWD: If there’s one cocktail that could sum you up perfectly, what would it be?
Mix: A Negroni. Bitter, a little sweet, and dry.
Reiner: I, too, would say the Negroni. I drink more of them than any other cocktail all year long. It’s got it all…sweet, bitter, and strong!
Ivy Mix and Julie Reiner’s Faves…in a NY Minute
Mix: Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn.
Reiner: Smith Street! I spend a lot of time there. I also love Charles Street in the West Village. It is so quaint.
Mix: Rear Window.
Reiner: Wall Street.
Spot for breakfast?
Mix: Honestly? Leyenda! Our brunch is great!