Living at the Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta gives residents access to a top-tier food and beverage staff, as well as several upscale restaurants and bars merely an elevator ride away. In addition, the mixologists at The Café & Bar offer cocktail making classes for individuals or small groups seeking to learn to craft their favorite cocktail while enjoying canapés with their creations.
We spoke with mixologist Lauren Bryson on her approach to craft cocktails.
What started you on your path to becoming a mixologist?
Bryson: I have worked in restaurants and bars for several years now, always trying to expand my beverage knowledge and learn the art of making a great cocktail. When I began working at the Mandarin Oriental, I realized our guests appreciated a more sophisticated and creative approach to their drinks, which challenged me to take what I’ve learned and begin to use traditional recipes and elevate and modernize them to set our bar apart.
What sets an excellent cocktail apart from a good cocktail?
Bryson: The difference between a good cocktail and a great cocktail is staying true to the classic recipes that have stood the test of time and staying within those parameters and flavor profiles. When setting out to create new and innovative cocktails, one of the hardest things to learn is that more ingredients does not mean a better drink. As with food, keeping it simple and flavorful is key.
What’s your favorite cocktail to make at home?
Bryson: At home, I keep it very straightforward and simple. Having a good quality vodka and a nice bourbon/whiskey on hand opens up several options based on what you have hanging around in your kitchen, whether it be fresh fruit and fruit juices, or your favorite soda. However, every now and then I like to infuse a really nice syrup and play around with what I have at home to make something fun especially while entertaining friends or family.
What’s different about working at the Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta as opposed to a traditional bar?
Bryson: What sets Mandarin apart from a traditional bar is the guest experience from start to finish. Here you receive a level of luxury service that is rarely found in bars, paired with quality, fresh ingredients and a thoughtfully crafted cocktail menu. Our guests expect a high-quality product, and even higher quality service, which keeps us at our best every night.
What’s your favorite hors d’oeuvre to enjoy with a cocktail?
Bryson: Pairing food with drink goes far beyond just wine, and there are great opportunities to create some nice flavor profiles with cocktail pairings. When I’m drinking something heavier like bourbon, sliders or anything off the grill hold up nicely. For something lighter like a vodka or gin-based drink, you can’t go wrong with fruit and cheese or some fresh shrimp and scallops.
Classes will be about one-and-a-half hours long, and students will create three cocktails. Pricing starts at $120 per guest, and classes can be held at the resident’s home for an additional charge.