Cocktail culture is thriving in large part due to a passionate contingent of exceptional bartenders and mixologists. This feature places a spotlight on the craftspeople behind the bar, and not just the structure itself. Meet Julian Cox from Rivera in downtown Los Angeles.
Josh Lurie: Do you consider yourself a bartender or a mixologist? What’s the difference?
Julian Cox: I consider myself a bartender first and foremost. I love the art mixology but I think at times the term mixologist can be a bit pretentious. In the end bartending is all about creating an experience for someone by way of the cocktail.
JL: How did you become interested in mixology?
JC: I found myself in the middle of a lifestyle of school, bartending and promotions in Scottsdale Arizona, and I carried that interest and passion with me to Los Angeles. Comme Ca is where I fell in love with the technique and artistry of classic mixology.
JL: What’s your first cocktail memory?
JC: Eggnog for Christmas as a kid! Christmas punch and eggnog are the two alcoholic drinks that I always wanted when I was too young to drink.
JL: What’s your current favorite spirit or liquor?
JC: I love all spirits that are artisinal, hand made, or small batch. I don’t discriminate man. Recently I have been really enjoying Balvenie’s new 17-year Rum Cask scotch, a truly exceptional bottling.
JL: Which cocktail is past its prime?
JC: The lemon drop or the Cosmopolitan.
JL: What’s the cocktail of the future?
JC: The Dealers Choice custom cocktail. The idea of making cocktails bespoke is giving the guest a chance to be lavished with cocktails they wouldn’t normally drink.
JL: Describe one of your original cocktails. What’s it called and what was your approach?
JC: I was asked to create an ancient Oaxacan drink that was made to commemorate the Death of a Zapotec princess. I had only a few original ingredients mescal, citrus, and pomegranate. I had to find a way to make mescal more palatable to the masses so I used orange and agave nectar to soften the spirit and fresh pomegranate seeds for color and subtext, I made a chapulin salt (made from finely ground crickets a Oaxacan delicacy). The result was the Donaji
JL: Do you have a cocktail mentor, and what did they teach you?
JC: From Joel Black a true love for the fun and artistry of bartending, from Michel Dozois attention to detail, blazing your own path, and the sweet science of ice, and from Marcos Tello leadership, and a respect for the rich history we all are a part of.
JL: Outside of your bar, what’s your favorite bar in town and why?
JC: I love the Doheny. Daniel Nelson is phenomenal barsmith, the cocktails are superb, and rumor is it is close to Rivera, which is a blessing after work.
JL: Who’s another mixologist you respect and why?
JC: Dale DeGroff would be one person I would say I have a tremendous amount of respect for. I think that his contribution to our art is staggering. To inspire people from New York to Los Angeles and the world abroad is an amazing accomplishment. I wonder where modern mixology would be without his presence.
JL: If you had a bar of your own, what would you call it?
JL: What’s the best simple cocktail for people to make at home, and what’s the recipe?
JC: I think anyone can make this cocktail and it is a great spring or summer libation:
4-6 pcs of lime
2-3 cucumber slices
¾ oz simple syrup
2 oz gin
Add ice, muddle, shake and dump.
Add a small pinch of salt to finish.