Ivy Mix at Waterworks
Good drinks and good stories came together this week at Waterworks Food + Drink
in Winooski, where bartender Ivy Mix introduced a group of her colleagues to a 500-year-old Bolivian spirit that is new to Vermont.
The drinks were made with Singani, a potent, smooth liquor that's distilled from one variety of grape — muscat of Alexandria — that is grown in Bolivian vineyards at an altitude of one mile or higher. The stories that flowed with the cocktails Tuesday afternoon at Waterworks followed two themes: how Singani made its way to this country; and how Mix came to be a top drink mixer.
The event, organized by the Vermont chapter of the United States Bartenders' Guild, was a form of professional development.
Jonathan Brathwaite, chief operating officer of a company called Singani63
, told the first story.
"I'm your new neighbor," said Brathwaite, who recently moved to Hinesburg from New York City. "And I brought Singani with me."
Brathwaite, 37, explained that importing Singani to the United States was the work of filmmaker Steven Soderbergh, who fell in love with the liquor when he was filming his movie Che
"[Soderbergh] invested his own money to bring Singani to the world," Brathwaite said. "And to put it in the hands of people like Ivy."
In her hands, Singani was transformed into two creative cocktails at Waterworks. While 40 or so bartenders sipped her concoctions and learned about the spirit that made them distinctive, Mix told the story of her transition from art student to bartender.
"I swear a lot," she declared as she started talking. "I'm a bartender."
Mix grew up in Tunbridge and attended Bennington College. During her first year there, she spent a term in Antigua, Guatemala, where she "discovered bar culture." Mix taught art in the mornings and hung out at bars at night.
"This was back in the day when people had tabs," said Mix, 32. She ran up a tab at a local bar. To pay it off, she started working there.
After college, Mix moved to New York City and discovered that, as she put it, "Holy shit! You can make money" mixing and serving drinks. She turned her attention, and her creativity, in that direction.
Mix has since won bartending competitions, including the 2015 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Award for Best American Bartender of the Year. She opened a bar in Brooklyn, Leyenda
, that specializes in Latin American drinks. And she started an all-female bartending competition called Speed Rack
that raises money for breast cancer research.
"It's become this total sisterhood thing," Mix explained.
She described Singani as "super-duper-duper" floral, and cheered the way that Soderbergh approached Singani63.
"He came at this booze in a really creative, artistic way," Mix said.