Interview with Mixologist Chef Julian Cox of Rivera Restaurant – Los Angeles, CA

March 18

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.