Don Lee of Existing Conditions - Biography

New York, NY

October 2018

A software engineer by trade and documentary photographer by schooling, Don Lee is now a bartender by choice. Lee’s introduction to craft cocktails came with what he calls an epiphany over a properly made drink. It was the kind of cocktail that made him think: “Why was it so good while every other cocktail I’ve ever had was so bad?” And so began Lee’s pursuit of excellence in food and drinks.He went to specialty liquor stores, spent hours at Audrey Saunders’ renowned drink haven Pegu Club, and then attempted to replicate the drinks at home. Lee eventually got behind the Pegu Club bar and quickly rose through the ranks. While still a full-time software engineer, Lee became the opening beverage director of Jim Meehan’s PDT. His next stop was at David Chang’s Momofuku group, where he developed their hard spirits and cocktail program. Always thirsty for more tips, tricks, and techniques, Lee passed the Bar 5-Day from the Beverage Alcohol Resource (BAR) program and competed on the cocktail competition circuit. In 2014, he served as beverage director of the loved and short-lived Golden Cadillac, a 70s-themed cocktail bar that served updated Grasshoppers, Rusty Nails, and Strawberry Daiquiris. In addition to serving as Cocktail Kingdom’s designer, technologist, philosopher, and educator, he and Dave Arnold opened modernist cocktail den Existing Conditions in New York’s Greenwich Village in summer 2018.