Mixologist Julian Cox
Rivera | Los Angeles, CA
Sweet syrups and Red Bull were the bane of Julian Cox’s bartending existence. Stymied by the artificially colored cocktails that club and bar patrons guzzled down in Los Angeles, Cox quit the bar scene outright. But a friend turned him on to a new kind of cocktail that was being made at Chef David Myers’ French brasserie Comme Ça.
The bar team was trained by the elite cocktail-crafters of the Sasha Petraske’s famed Milk and Honey; Cox was inspired by their use of fresh ingredients and the careful skill they applied to each and every drink. Unfortunately, the closest he could get to the bar at Comme Ça was as a server. It wasn’t long before his cocktail talent was discovered and he joined the mixology team. Cox learned the ins and outs of mixology fundamentals, from recipes to best practices, and came away with a genuine passion for the tradition and tools of his craft.
Cox crafted cocktails at Comme Ça and at Myers’ modern California restaurant Sona before hooking up with Chef John Sedlar to open his Southwestern/Latin-inspired Rivera in January of 2009. At Rivera, Cox uses the kitchen as a muse for his mixology creations as, for example, when he effortlessly blends mezcal with chipotle puree and ginger syrup for a spicy, savory, beef jerky-garnished appetizer/cocktail.
In addition to his recent 2010 Rising Star Award, Cox won the Roy’s National Holiday Drink competition in 2006, and was given The Jimmy Barela Award for his 1800 Tequila cocktail, the G.T. Foam Home. In March, Cox will be opening Cedd Moses’ latest mixology temple Las Perlas in downtown LA.
Antoinette Bruno: How did you get into mixology?
Julian Cox: I got into mixology because I was tired of the regular Los Angeles bartending scene. Basically I’d come to the point where Id pretty much given up on it. I was bored with using Puckerz and cranberry juice and Red Bulls and the whole kind of club, bartending scene. It really happened to me when I was working at Roy’s , they were using the freshest local ingredients that they had for the food but the cocktails were still syrups. They were basically still using syrups. And I just wasn’t into it anymore. And I just quit and a buddy of mine was like “You have to check this bar out, it’s different from anything you’ll ever find.” So I took a serving job—after being a bartender—at Comme Ça, a French restaurant on the West Side. They hired bartenders from Milk and Honey to train their staff on cocktails and it was the first real cocktail program that I’ve seen take over in LA at the time. I started off as a server and right away they found out I was going to be perfect at the bar. So right away I was working back at the bar and I sort of just fell in love with it again.
AB: Did you train in mixology?
JC: I trained—not in any school just in each job. I was officially trained for mixology at Comme Ça.
AB: What are some of the trends that you’re observing in the current cocktail market?
JC: I am seeing a huge use of fresh juices, definitely seeing a huge influx of artisanal spirits, small batch spirits and products. I’m also seeing interesting and exotic ingredients.
AB: What goes into creating a new cocktail for you?
JC: For me it mostly has to do with the seasons. We have a seasonal cocktail list. Obviously I’d go to the market and see what’s fresh, I’d see what John [Sedlar] is using in the kitchen. And I get a lot of inspiration from what goes on the kitchen more than anything else. I just try to bring out and amplify those flavors in a cocktail.
AB: What’s your favorite cocktail to drink and what’s your favorite cocktail to make?
JC: My favorite cocktail to drink is probably the Negroni. I just love it. I think it’s perfectly balanced. My favorite cocktail to make would probably be a Brooklyn.
AB: What’s in a Brooklyn?
JC: We make it here with a half ounce of maraschino liqueur, two dashes Amer Picon, a half ounce of amaretto, three quarters of an ounce of dry vermouth, and you have a choice of either two ounces of bourbon or two ounces of rye whiskey. I like mine with rye. That’s a fun one to make for people who love Manhattans. We have a lot of big business guys who come in and they love Manhattans.
AB: What’s your favorite mixology tool?
JC: My favorite mixology tool I’d have to say I love Tiffany shakers. Tiffany shakers are awesome. I wish I could stock my whole bar with those. I like the Oxo strainers. Oxo strainers are great. Hawthorne strainers, I should say. I love having good chef knives. Good pairing knives are so important to have at the bar, good sharp knives.
AB: What are your dreams? Where do you want to be in five years?
JC: Five years from now I’d love to see myself as an entrepreneur. Owning an establishment, obviously, would be great, but also furthering the mixology movement and getting people really to enjoy cocktails—to have an appreciation for the culinary aspect of cocktails and furthering that. It would be great to have my own thing but I’d really also like to go out there and sort of be involved in the community, opening up everybody’s eyes to this lost art form.
back to top