This week, Jake goes out with Lisa and John Barlow of “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City.” The three share their favorite places to eat and drink in NYC and Salt Lake City, discuss the art of making great tequila, and reminisce on their first restaurant jobs. Tune in for more.
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Jake Cornell: Let’s get started. I’m so excited.
Lisa Barlow: Me too. Lynn says so many nice things about you, so I’m glad we finally get to chat and sorry it took so long. It’s been nuts. I feel like every time I have a free day, something happens and it’s gone.
JC: Oh my God. No, I totally get it.
L: Thanks for being patient.
JC: Oh my God, of course. First off, how was Sundance? How was the festival?
L: It was amazing to be back in person after a two-year break, but it was so different.
L: Yes, the festival was in person for the first weekend and then virtual the second half of the week, and then there were some in-person events, but it was nice to be back.
L: It felt like there was such good energy. I think it was just different because we’ve been doing Sundance. We launched Vida Tequila at Sundance in 2007, so it was so different back then. When I was in college, we were always up in Park City for Sundance, and you literally wouldn’t sleep. I would go out all night, come back in at 4 a.m., and then it was like, “Let’s go again for a week straight.”
L: It’s just a different vibe, but it was actually really good. I felt back to the basics. It was back to the original Sundance. A little more quiet, a little slower speed, but still really good.
JC: Yes, it had become such a big phenomenon that maybe it was nice to be downsized a little bit to reset a little bit.
L: Yes. It turned into a big entertainment trade show.
JC: That’s so fun.
L: Yes, it’s nice that it was like, “Okay, let’s go back to what Robert Redford originally had in mind for it.” It was good, though. Honestly, it was so nice to be back in person.
JC: How long have you been going to Sundance?
L: I went in college, and then it was back when it was really small. Then when I moved back to New York, finished school in New York, and then move back to Utah, I’m trying to think, 2001 or 2002, it had to be 2001, and we started going again with my single girlfriends and it was so much fun. It’s been a long time. No, it had to be, yes, 2000. It was 2000 because I’m thinking, I’m like, “When was I single and when did I get married?” Then when John and I started Vida, one of the things I like is that we have to do a sick launch during Sundance because it’s a way to hit so many tastemakers, trendsetters, there’s such a good culinary scene in Park City. Then with all of the restaurants that used to come to Park City and do pop-ups, it was ridiculous. It was just such a fun, cool way to launch our brand a long time ago.
JC: I wanted to ask about that because I was just curious. The decision to launch Vida, were you like, “We want to do a spirit? Which one should we do?” and then we chose tequila. The process of ending up at that.
L: How did we get into it?
L: Oh my gosh. John worked-
John Barlow: I loved tequila and I just couldn’t stand paying for it anymore. Just joking.
JC: He thought, “I got to get to the source.”
L: John used to work for a guy in New York. Actually, it’s funny because John and I followed the same path but didn’t know each other. We both were in New York at the same time.
JB: I’ve always been chasing Lisa, she just didn’t know it.
JC: Stalking with a happy ending.
L: I’m glad you’re recording this. He was interning for a guy in New York and he was in over 26 businesses. At one time after working for him, John really started looking into consumer goods based out of Mexico. He met what’s now our distilling partner back in 2003 and was like, “We have to do something together.” Back then, 80 percent of tequila revenue was coming from the United States. It was still such an underdeveloped category. I think it made up 3 percent of the global market share. When I heard John mentioning this guy, we were dating basically, and I was like, “Oh, wait, that’s amazing. We should be in tequila.” We both went to BYU, we’re both LDS, so it was not the norm.
L: I come from a family of expert drinkers and a new alliance now with wine and spirits. I was like, “You know what? Tequila is going to be everything. I just feel it. Every ounce of my body feels it.” I’m like, “Basically, you do all the icky hard stuff and I will do all-
JC: The branding?
L: The other stuff. Yes.
JB: All the icky stuff meaning what I call quality control. I taste it all.
JC: Was there any concern? I’m curious, just because it’s so different than my background being from BYU and LDS, was there any concern with getting into tequila?
L: Not for us.
JB: I haven’t been asked back to BYU to do any type of lectures. It depends on who you’re talking to, but we never really had any problems with it.
L: No, and everyone we go to church with knows we’re in the business. I think the rudest thing anybody ever said to us was there’s one person that doesn’t live in our neighborhood anymore at church that told Jack when he was really little, like, “I’m glad your parents decided to stop partying and bring you to church.”
JC: Ew, that’s so gross to go for your kids.
L: Jack came out of his class and told me, and I’m like, “Show mommy who said that to you?” We had a little chit-chat, but the funny thing is we still go to church every Sunday. At the time, it was weird, but after that, no one really said anything. I’ve been saying this for years, we’ve never looked at it as a religious wrong. It’s a business and it’s one we’re super passionate about and tequila’s complex and complicated. It’s not like a spirit you can make in your bathtub or just create overnight. It takes a lot of passion, hard work to get the plant even to the point where you can bake it.
JC: It takes a long time to grow agave.
L: Yes, harvest it, bake it. It’s a lengthy process, but we love it. I love being in the spirits industry. I didn’t realize how hard it was going to be when we started. I think we were wearing rose-colored glasses and like, “Oh my gosh, we’re going to kill it.” I remember when we first launched the brand, I’m like, “We should put up billboards that say ‘simply better'” because somebody else had one that said “simply perfect.” Then John’s like, “No, we simply don’t want to be in litigation, so no.” It was fun when we launched it. I’ll never forget the first event and just showcasing the brand. One thing about John and I is we both love luxury. We love luxury goods. Even the way I eat my Wendy’s is chic.
JC: I got to hear about that.
L: Even the way you look at it. I think back then, Patrón was spending like $25 million in print advertising alone and we were two kids in our 20s that were like, “We’re going to be the next big thing.” It’s taken a long time, a lot of work, but we created something beautiful that’s done extremely well and we’re super proud of what’s in the bottle. Finally, it took years, but I kept working on an original bottle for Vida because the juice inside is so good, we make amazing tequila. I’m like we have to have something that matches on the outside. When we first got into the tequila space, everyone kept saying the prettier the bottle, the worse the tequila, and so that always stuck out in my head.
L: Yes. We had a very traditional bottle when we launched. I had a restaurant in Park City and I worked with this amazing designer on that. He’s not a glass guy, but he’s like, “Let me try designing some bottles for you.” They were beautiful but not quite right, so one day I just sketched out what I felt like the perfect bottle for Vida would be. Finally, it took forever because nobody likes to give up their secrets like who’s doing what for them. We found the best glass architect and engineer and found the best glass blower in Mexico and we were able to produce a super unique, beautiful bottle that’s my fingerprint in tequila. It’s just very unique and pays homage to the heritage of tequila when tequila was a really big deal in Mexico. It was originally in a tall skinny bottle and they put them in the short squatty bottles because for table conversations and dinner conversations, you wanted to be able to see across the table and have conversations with your guests or friends and family, so they went to the shorter squattier bottle. We fused the two and I love our new bottle. Newish bottle, I should say. It’s been out for a few years, but it’s been really fun. I love, love, love the wine and spirits industry.
JC: I didn’t realize until I had Dorinda on a few months ago and she was talking about the process because she has her bourbon, of sourcing. They wanted a stopper that was this size and the bottle to be this shape. I didn’t realize what you’re talking about; figuring out who does what to make the different parts that go into — I just thought you called a guy and they were like, “Yes, what shape do you want?” I didn’t realize the amount of like — it’s actually crazy.
L: Yes, I know, it’s complicated. Even when we redesigned Vida based on the renderings, I’m like, “Oh, that bottle’s going to be so sick.” It’s expensive. Every time you create a new mold, it’s 30 plus thousand dollars. We were at 17 iterations at this point and I’m like, “John, something is wrong with this bottle.” It was driving me insane. I literally got blue painter’s tape and literally wrapped the bottle in it and I’m like, “This is what it should look like.” We sent pictures to our glass engineer. It’s a serious thing and there’s a glass shortage right now too, which makes it even more complicated. We sent it to Mexico and I’m like, “It has to look like this.” The owner of the glass facility we use in Mexico was actually up in Salt Lake for a show. He’s a billionaire, they’ve made specialty glass Baccarat, the best crystal in Mexico. Crystal products in Mexico. He was like, “Lisa, your bottle was so complex.” When we met, he said, “The demolding process all has to be done by hand.” He said that one of the unique things was when I taped up the bottle, it was millimeters of change, but it created a totally different bottle.
L: Yes, and I’m like, “Oh, it’s just like diamonds and Melanie has seen a lot.” It was cool going through the whole process. Even like what Dorinda was talking about is very true. Your headspace in the neck and what’s going to make, based on temperature conditions, what’s going to make the corks pop off or lift. It’s really complicated. The whole process to make tequila we find is so fascinating, so artistic, but it is a process. When I said the bottle had to match the beautiful juice side, I meant it, and I feel like we hit that with this new bottle. It’s been really fun to be like, “That’s our beautiful tequila,” and the bottle is beautiful too.
JC: It is such a beautiful bottle, I do have to say.
L: Thank you.
JC: I’m curious, of the Vida Añejo and the Reposado, what’s each of your favorite of your three children?
JB: That’s worded perfectly.
L: Oh my gosh, I can’t pick. I know for me, it’s mood-based. My signature drink is probably the 80. It’s 80 calories. I don’t really look at calories when I drink, but I think the nice thing about it, it’s really clean. Obviously, if you’re doing a cocktail and not pure. The Blanco is just so citrusy based and it has all those beautiful honey tones of the agave. I like to drink our tequila just like you would a wine. I open the topper, I take the topper off. We let it aerate, we let the notes really, I don’t know, flow. I just like to let my tequila sit for a little bit, and then I start nursing it. There’s times where I’m cleaning the house and I’m like, “Oh, I’ll just pour some Blanco in a glass.” The Reposado is so different. I think it’s lots of vanilla, white pepper. You get all those beautiful notes from the American white oak barrels. We buy new barrels, so when we’re aging it, you’re just getting the pure notes from the barrel imparted into the tequila, which is 100 percent tequila Weber Blue variety. The Añejo, I think-
JC: Is the Añejo aged in the same barrels as the Reposado?
L: No, it’s actually aged in French oak. A lot of brands aren’t doing this right now, but we’re full maturation on our agave plants, so we’re going 10 to 12 years on our agave plants, and then we also age for 11 months. The American white oak barrels on the Añejo, we age for a full two years in French oak.
L: It’s that really beautiful chocolate and cinnamon imparted into the juice, and it’s so delicious, but they’re also different. I think it’s mood based. I think when I’m looking for something that’s a little more on the rich side, you would definitely go for the Añejo. I think our Reposado is award-winning and so amazing and well balanced. It’s a beautiful, beautiful Reposado. It’s got that perfect amount of jalapeño tingle where it’s got that little bite on the back of your palate, and a lot of people don’t know what that is. It’s that little bite that you know that jalapeño is present, but they’re all so good they’re so different. It would literally be like asking me to choose between Jack and Henry. I can’t do it.
L: Speaking of, Jack is walking in, a future CEO of Vida. Run a podcast.
JC: It is so fun. I think it’s really cool with tequila more so than any other spirit. The scope of the Blancos to the Añejos. It goes from drinking a clear spirit, it’s almost a whiskey. You know what I mean? That doesn’t really happen with any other spirit in terms of aging. The spectrum of aging is really incredible. It’s cool that you guys get to celebrate all three levels of that.
L: Yes, I know. It’s really nice. I feel grateful ours is so good too. You really can tell the difference. The Reposado was definitely so much more unique than the Añejo because we didn’t use the same barrel.
JC: That’s a great choice.
L: It just has its own identity. They’re their own things, which is really great.
JC: I want to ask, I’m so curious because I’ve never been to Salt Lake City, but I’ve heard so much about it. I’m from Vermont, so I know a lot of people who would go out west to go skiing. I went to college in Vermont, so I’ve heard a lot about it over the years. I’m curious, for two people who live there and such a part of the culture there, what is going out in Salt Lake like? On the weekends, what is the nightlife vibe like? What is the social scene like in Salt Lake?
L: It’s really great and I think it’s underestimated. When we brought “Housewives” here, I literally was like, “Oh my gosh, our hidden treasure is going to be exposed,” but the food scene is amazing. We have some of the most incredible chefs. A lot of them are featured on Food Network programs and other culinary programs. We have insane chefs and an insane beverage scene. I actually think a lot of our bartenders, bar experts are really cutting edge when it comes to creating the perfect cocktail and the drink, but there’s definitely a nightlife here. Park City and Salt Lake City, it’s definitely a busy town. You feel it, you feel the energy when you’re out on the weekends. There’s so much to do. There’s so many amazing restaurants, bars, clubs, we have all of that. I think Park City is really an elevated space for that and the culinary scene there is amazing too. You basically have everything you would want from a coastal big city and sometimes I think we’re even ahead of the trend and creating trends, which is unexpected from Utah but definitely happening.
JC: Would you say, this is just me purely conjecture on my part, but because of the LDS influence in the area, there is historically a little bit less of a drinking scene, do you think that that pushed the food seem to be elevated a little bit more because there was less of, I guess, a distraction?
L: You know what? I don’t think the stereotypes match for the last probably 15 to 18 years.
JC: Really? Okay.
L: Yes. I think that there’s a lot of stereotypes still out there, but the food scene is serious because you have to look at Utah, the landscape has changed. It’s a banking center, it’s a tech center. We have silicon slopes, which is the new Silicon Valley. We have so many tech startups. I think just people moving in from the key cities like Florida, and New York, and Chicago, L.A., Texas. Being second homeowners, I think there’s influence from those big cities. Utah has always been known for producing great — great things come out of Utah and great connectors. I think that a lot of people here just focused on, what can we do that’s cutting edge the best? A lot of well traveled people live here, so it’s imparting things that they found in Europe or in other destination spots where they’re like, “Let’s do something like that and create that here.” Plus, you have all the Mormon missionaries that go to foreign countries and they come back and they’re like, “Let’s bring this little influence here, but elevate it and do it in a different way.”
JC: Oh, sure, yes.
L: I think that that drives it a lot. People still come here and joke and say, “Oh, do I need a club card to get into the bars?” and I’m like, “That hasn’t happened for years. Not since I’ve moved back. That’s not a thing anymore.”
JC: Got you.
L: There are the stereotypes around that still.
JC: That makes total sense. That’s so so interesting. I’m also curious because, obviously, like I mentioned, being from Vermont, another ski destination, there’s such a different in the experience of being in certain parts of Vermont during the winter versus during the summer, during ski season versus during summer. What is the vibe of Salt Lake in the summer? Is it more like everyone’s local? Is there still huge tourism there? Is it still a fun vibe?
L: Oh my gosh, yes.
JB: Utah is cool and I think people are discovering the city is totally a year-round. It used to be just the wintertime for skiing, but we have some of the best and world renowned trails for mountain biking.
JC: Oh, duh.
JB: Park City has some phenomenal ones.
L: Right behind our house.
JB: Yes, where we live, it’s awesome because we can literally ride our bikes out of our garage and hit the trails and hit some of the best trails that people actually travel from all over the world to come here and either hike or mountain bike. We still have quite a bit of influx of people almost any time of the year.
L: It’s also like a big foodie cultural scene too. Our art scene is huge. We are one of the only cities that have a full time symphony ballet. There’s a lot of money spent on the art, so you have theater year-round, you have the symphony, this year-round symphony, which is amazing. So many cities don’t have that. I think there’s less than 10, but there’s so much to do here and I actually am hopeful that one day we get to shoot “Housewives” during the summer because there’s so much people don’t see and it’s such a different landscape in the summer, it’s so beautiful here. The mountains are so gorgeous and you can actually see them, the weather — it’s a dry heat. Growing up in New York, I’m so used to the humidity and that really bone-chilling wet cold that I’m not used to anymore. When I go home, I’m like, “It used to not piss me.” Now, I’m like, “Oh, my God, it’s so cold.” It’s so beautiful. It’s a dry cold and then you have a dry heat, so it’s really awesome. I think the Kardashians made our hidden treasure Lake Powell super famous, but so many celebrities come in during the summer too, for Amangiri and Blue Sky in Park City. It’s just such a different place now.
JC: You’ve mentioned that a couple times, this experience of living in a place that you love, that you feel like had these hidden treasures. Was that a concern when you said yes to “Housewives” and got involved, like, “Oh, are we going to make these things that feel special to us and personal to us?” Like, “Are we showing them off a little too much.” Or were you like, “I want to showcase these things that I love so much?”
L: It’s both. You want to showcase all the chic things here, but then in a weird way, I’m like, “Don’t move here. We’re full.”
JC: I get it. It’s true of New York sometimes too. I’ll post about a restaurant I love and I’m like, “Oh, wait, I obviously want this restaurant to do great business, but I don’t want it to become this thing where it becomes a place you got to go,” because then it’s a pain in the ass for me to go. It changes the place again.
L: I know. It does. Same thing.
JC: It’s so funny.
L: I feel you on that.
JC: You mentioned you grew up in New York. Were you in the city?
L: I spent a lot of time in the city. When we were first married, John and I had an apartment in the city, but I grew up between Westchester County and the Capitol District, both.
JC: Oh, nice. Do you guys have favorite spots in the city when you come back and visit?
L: No, I think it’s changing so much, especially since the pandemic. I think New York is always doing something cool. New York is like no place on Earth. No matter where I live, I’m always a New Yorker. I think it has my full heart because I was born and raised there. I think that when we’re in the city, I like to try new spaces. I have some oldies but goodies. Growing up, I’ve always loved Pastis.
L: I know what I’m going to get. It’s super solid. I think that there’s so many cool restaurants that are popping up. I think the pandemic changed everything for a little bit. The last time we were there, I’m like, “Oh, my gosh, some of my favorite spaces aren’t even here anymore.” I think that there’s new cool spots always opening up. That’s the cool thing about New York. There’s always something good. There’s always something innovative happening.
JC: Your answer is like that of a true New Yorker, which is like, “I have my spots that I love that are my classics,” and then you branch out. I feel like that’s an ideal weekend. It’s like on Friday you go to your classic and then on Saturday you try somewhere new. At least one of them is going to be great. It’s always you got to go try the new stuff.
L: Exactly. You have to try the new stuff. Then, there’s always the oldies but goodies. My kids laugh. We have the same driver for 18 years in New York when we go home. They know when Joey picks them up, they’re going to have this pizza in the car and they are-
L: -waiting for it and craving it. They know that they’re going to have this day one of being in New York. Probably this and then something new. New York is changing so much too. It’s just changing so much. Even some of the parts of the city that used to not be as cool, they’re the new cool parts of the city to be in. That’s where you’re dining, your neighborhood places. I love finding the perfect burger place or the perfect place to get something that I love that’s like a classic in New York.
JC: I can tell you where to get some great burgers next time you’re in New York, Lisa. Let me tell you that right now.
L: I love that. We’re going to have to pack and go.
JC: I’ll let you know. I’ll send you a little list. There’s definitely some places you should check out. Do you feel like that’s also happening in Salt Lake, though? Is Salt Lake expanding and changing in the same way that New York does, or do you feel like it’s not at the same level?
L: It’s so different because you’ve got a classic old, old city where everything in Utah is new. I think since the pandemic, even during the pandemic, we weren’t under the same restrictions because we’re not in a densely packed city. I think that in Salt Lake it was crazy because there were restaurants opening during the pandemic and we could still dine out.
L: For the first month, we did curbside pickup from a lot of our favorite restaurants, like the Charleston Draper, which is by our house. We were always going to the Charleston and saying like, “We want these things.” Then you felt cool, normal still. I think since then and during the pandemic, a lot of stuff popped up. Literally, I’m still finding new restaurants. Even being in the food and beverage scene here. I’m still finding new little spots to go that I’m like, “Oh my gosh, John, we have to go to this restaurant. We have to check it out.” There’s so many of them popping up. I feel like there’s like one a week almost, which is a lot for a city like Salt Lake.
JC: Absolutely. What kind of restaurant is exciting to you? Like when you are looking to try somewhere new or with the places that you already love, what are the things that make a restaurant special to you?
L: Oh my gosh, so many things. I have to be comfortable when I’m in a restaurant. I think that’s the most important thing is I’m like, “I have to be comfortable. I have to be in a space where I can lounge.” I love to get dressed up. I think it’s the New Yorker in me like I want to go to a place, especially when we’re going out to eat where I can look good. I can have great service. Then I also love unique eats, so not anything too crazy, like John’s a lot more interested in trying funky stuff, like eating stuff I wouldn’t normally eat, but I love a good classic. There’s a restaurant that opened in Salt Lake that I’m obsessed with called Monarca. It’s a Latin restaurant and the owners are from Mexico, but they use a lot of influence from other Latin countries. I love it. I think they’re cutting edge and trendy with their eats and they have chic eats. Even the way they make ceviche is so different, which is really cool, but I think that for me, I just love a vibe. I have to have a vibe. John and I used to own a restaurant in Park City called Silver, and it was a vibe. It was influenced by New York. It had everything I love about a restaurant. It was like a supper club where you could dance after dinner upstairs in the bar.
JC: Oh, that’s so fun.
L: Yes. People would dance on the tables, grab the microphone. We had a DJ seven days a week, and I just look for that vibe. I love a good energy around a restaurant, but definitely great food, great service, and something unique. We have a lot of that here too, so I feel really lucky.
JC: Yes. Is a lot of the vibe of the restaurants in Salt Lake kind of that hierarchy, high-energy like party vibe or is that just like one of the vibes that you’re drawn to? Is there also low-key stuff happening or is it because it’s this destination now? Is it a lot of it that really high-energy vibe?
L: I think there’s a lot of high energy. One of my go-to restaurants in Salt Lake is HSL and you can go look it up in Salt Lake, it’s Handle Salt Lake. They became really popular in Park City and they’re cutting edge with how they make vegetables and things like that. Briar was featured on the Food Network, the main head chef, which is one of the husbands of — there’s two partners in the restaurant and one’s a married couple and then there’s another married couple as well. I should say there’s four partners in the restaurant. They’re two married couples, but I think they changed — they were one of the cutting-edge restaurants that changed the food scene in Park City and then they brought a lot of that to Salt Lake. There’s a fast-casual restaurant that I love that’s called Taqueria 27 and what they’ve done for tacos is next level. There’s always the taco of the day and they’re always kind of boujee, it’s not a basic taco. I think that there is an elevated vibe, like people love to get dressed up. We have a big food scene, lots of food bloggers. It’s definitely a mood and there’s so many different places to go to get that vibe and mood. You can look up Monarca, it’s amazing, Stanza is so good, Under Current, super sexy way to eat, high-end seafood, beautiful. Under Current says it all.
JC: Yes. I have to say it’s so nice talking to you about this because it’s just really — between the tequila and then just talking to you about like the nightlife and the restaurants, it’s very clear that you both are very passionate about culture and restaurants and stuff. I think it’s like refreshing especially for people that are so involved in a city. Also, frankly at this point like representatives on some scale of this city in this one way, you know what I mean? It’s really cool that you guys love that city.
L: We’ve always been involved in the food and beverage scene here. It’s been really important to us since we launched Vida. It was very important that we understood who all the restaurant owners were, what they were doing. We look and see which new places are opening. We have a team that looks up like, “Hey, these are the new licensees in Salt Lake right now.” It’s cool to be a part of the evolution. We have our Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association and we’ve always said, “Let us be involved. Let us work with you, and how can we do that?” You’re in the scene? I think that that was really cool when we brought “Housewives” here because I was like, “Hey, let me help you.” Season 1, I think I cleared all of the restaurants for production all of Season 1, because I’m like, “Hey, I know all the owners.” Like, “Let me help you guys clear these restaurants before we even start filming.
JC: That’s really f*cking cool because that’s also such exposure for the restaurants. You making that bridge is a really cool kind of thing of like, “Hey, do you want to have this level of exposure?” I think that’s a really cool service that you were able to provide on both ends to production and to the restaurants.
L: I think that that’s one thing I always looked at. I’m like, the city’s the seventh star of the show, Season 1. I’m like, “This city is the backdrop but it’s also full of really amazing people.” When you have a platform like this, you want to use it to support people that have been supporting you for years too.
JC: Sure. That makes total sense.
L: I think it’s a win-win but it’s really fun to showcase so many of the hotspots. I think that there’s so much more we can even show. I’m excited. I know what I’m working on for Season 4, and I’m like, “This will show a little bit of a different side of Salt Lake, the more elevated part of it.” We filmed Season 2 during a pandemic and part of Season 3, so it’s a little different. I think Season 4 you’re going to get to see a lot more.
JC: That’s really exciting. I’m curious, this just came to me and I’m just curious about this. When you and John have Vida in a bar in a restaurant, do you have any strong feelings or strong preferences about how it is served or showcased or featured within the restaurant’s cocktail menu within their program? Do you just want it on the back bar and whatever anyone wants or is that something you guys think about when you’re getting Vida into these spaces that you care about so much?
JB: Yes. We actually really love to have specialty cocktails created with Vida. It can be with any three of the styles. One of our goals, when we have placements in various restaurants, is to get menus on the cocktail menu. Drinks on the cocktail menu.
L: We don’t ever tell the bartender what to do with our product. Two weeks ago, we were out to dinner with the kids and the bartender was there and I was like, “Make me whatever you think I would love with Vida.” He came out to the table with three different drinks and each one was so unique and different. Obviously, our kids are under 21 but they were both like, “Oh, my gosh, I want to smell them.” They have a really sophisticated nose and palate because they’ve been around this their whole entire life, the food and beverage scene. Both of them were like, “Oh my gosh, this is amazing.” Henry, our fifth grader was like, “Oh my gosh, I can smell hints of cinnamon in this.”
JC: Damn, in fifth grade, that’s impressive.
L: I know. I’m like, it’s so funny, so young but great palate. It was cool. I like seeing what other people do with our product. We’re never like, “Oh, don’t do this or do this.” They all know. They’re buying it from the liquor store. They know it’s a luxury product. I think they always pay homage to that. One thing we do on our website and we’re currently working on adding more cities. We’ve always focused on our city, but we definitely want to focus on other cities. We have a bar expert program where we feature the bartender. After owning a restaurant, I used to have my favorite spot in our restaurant which was at the top of the stairs. There was a built-in banquet and I used to sit there. It’s right in the bar area and watch people come up the stairs and watch the bartender interact with guests. As you get to know your bartenders and they become part of your family, you realize they’re doing so much more when they’re not at work. They’re basically bringing their art to work and creating this cocktail. A lot of them do super cool things. I’m like, “Let’s tell your story too. While you’re making something beautiful with our product, we should tell your story too.” We started this whole bar expert program where we featured bartenders. It’s so crazy how in one location, you can have four totally unique people that are making something completely different with your product. You just want to really tell that story. It’s an art. I’m like, “Great cocktails aren’t just simply shaken or stirred. They’re built,” and I firmly believe that.
JC: I love hearing how much you guys trust the bartenders and trust the industry and the service professionals do. Because it is so much more than handing someone a recipe and be like, “Execute this exactly.” Knowing that it’s about having these personalities and these hospitable energies and also that artistic and creative vision. You guys trusting people with that and then celebrating that is unfortunately unique. That doesn’t always happen. I think that’s really exciting that you guys are approaching the brand with that. That’s really fun.
L: Oh, thank you.
JB: It’s fun for us too because some people still think tequila only goes in Margaritas or Palomas.
JC: No. I want an Old Fashioned with the Añejo. That’s what I want to try.
JB: It’s amazing.
L: We need to get you some.
JC: Please, I would love.
L: We’ll make sure that happens.
JB: We’ll tell bartenders to make whatever they want, that’s not traditional. It’s fun for us to have them do that.
L: We did this one thing that was really cool a few years ago where I was like, I love late-‘88 through ‘92 fashion. I think it was the epitome of everything couture. I had this whole segment where we’re like, let’s infuse that into our drinks. We literally remade and I literally told all these bartenders, I’m like, “Come up with your favorite late ‘80s, early ‘90s classic cocktail, and let’s remake it in a totally unique way.”
JC: That’s so funny.
L: Yes, I like doing fun things like that too. One of the bartenders that works with us frequently, we just did an event with Whitney for one of my castmates that has a new jewelry line and it’s all intention-based so I asked the bartender, “Let’s come up with fun cocktails that feel like intentions.” She came up with the most “she” cocktails and so unique where she infused things that are important like, “I’m a big astrology girl and I love energy.”
JC: Oh, me too. We could talk all day about that.
L: Yes, all day. I like to base everything off the moon and the sun.
JC: Do you know your moon sign?
JC: I know every single planet, babe.
L: Okay. What’s your moon sign?
JC: I’m an Aquarius moon.
L: Oh, I love that. What’s your sun sign?
L: John’s a Scorpio.
JC: Oh, what’s your birthday?
JB: November 16th.
JC: I’m the third.
L: Oh, I love it. My dad’s the fifth.
JC: Nice and then I’m Capricorn rising.
L: Okay. I’m a cap moon sage.
JC: Oh, nice.
L: I’m a sage cap moon but I think that cap makes me a little extra sage because it’s the beginning and the end.
JC: Yes. That’s very cool.
L: I feel like I got lucky that way but with the cocktails, I’m like, “Let’s think about what’s important for this event.” I love doing things like that too, where it’s like, “Okay, this is all energy-based.” Like, her whole jewelry line is energy and tension based so let’s come up with cocktails that you can feel that way, and we did. They were so amazing. The recipes were ridiculous and we had fun names. I love being creative because it is an art to make tequila and I think it’s an art to make a great cocktail and it’s always fun to see how diverse you can be. I always say too, like with tequila, a lot of people just look at the category, and I’m like, “No, look at the flavor profile with the Blanco.”
JC: Yes, it’s so true. You’re making me miss it because I was a bartender for 10 years. My college bartending job was at a tequila bar and that was for two or three years. It was one of my favorite jobs. It was like everyone in that restaurant was best friends. I’m still so close with everyone. It was just the best time. Something we would do is every week we would come up with like, “Oh what,” because I think we had 85 tequilas on the menu, and it’s like how do you get someone to get excited about not just the five names of tequila everyone knew at the time. Back then everyone obviously knew Patrón and maybe Jose Cuervo or something. I was like, how do you get people excited about showing them like, “Hey, this one tastes like this and this one tastes like,” and so we would come up with different cocktails each week to highlight different things. Just hearing you guys talk about that is really making me miss looking at these lineups of beautiful tequilas and being like, “Oh, what can we do with Vida Blanco to really highlight that this week and show people how to try this one.” It was just very fun.
L: Oh, that’s amazing. I love that you guys put that much thought into it too and I love that you stayed friends with those people. You’re all artists. I love it.
JC: Yes, we’re all still super close and it’s really fun because when we were all in college, we were bartending at the time. Some of us stayed bartenders, some people are lawyers now. It’s just really fun to watch where everyone went.
L: It’s a skillset that everyone should have.
JC: 100 percent. Did you guys ever work in restaurants when you were younger?
L: Both of us did.
JC: Oh, amazing.
L: I did a stint at Northwestern and I worked at Roxy Cafe.
L: It was my first serving job. The owner of the restaurant or the GM, I can’t remember which one he was but he was like, “You are so social and so fun to have here but you suck at your job.”
JC: Because you’re probably too social. You’re just making friends.
JC: I can see that.
L: Yes. He’s like, “Everyone loves you but you shouldn’t be here.”
JC: That is so funny. The minute I asked the question, I was like, the answer is obviously yes, like, “People don’t love restaurants in the way you guys clearly do unless you did it.” I think you have to have worked in it and seen the other side of it to love it and know it in the way that you guys clearly do.
L: Oh my gosh. John told me the funniest story yesterday in the car. He was like, when I worked at Los Romanos, he was obviously going to school at the same time and he worked at the hottest Mexican restaurant in town. He literally was like in my — what class were you in? Sociology?
JB: Oh, no, Organizational Behavior. I was an idiot.
L: Yes, and then at the end of a shift, they’re like, “What can we do to change things up?” John’s like, “I literally wrote them an essay because I thought I was so enlightened.” He’s like, “You know they read one paragraph, and then threw it away.”
JC: That’s so funny. That’s so funny.
L: We were laughing, “Oh my gosh, it’s so cringe but amazing.”
JB: I should have been fired.
JC: Just thinking you are the smartest person in the world because you took college classes, it’s so funny.
L: My first question to him was, “Did they fire you?”
JC: That is so funny.
JB: No, but they should have.
L: It was really funny.
JC: Okay, wait, because we only have a little bit longer left and there’s a bunch of questions I want to quickly get to. One, I want to make sure we get to talk about Blue Jay.
L: We love — the perfect accessory for Vida Blue Jay Seltzer is amazing. During the pandemic, there was this global glass crisis and we’re still dealing with it. It’s just not as dramatic as it was for the last two and a half years but we’re like, we love making a product in Mexico. We’ve had the best experience working in Mexico. Our partnership is amazing. We love everyone we work with there but we realized we needed to do something local or at least in the United States.
L: John and I started doing research and one thing we wanted to do was to create a seltzer that drank like an RTD so that was super important to us and we’re like, “Hey, this is Vida’s best friend, Vida’s best accessory.” We had to make sure it was perfect so when we started the whole process and we captured all this on film, I wish you got to see it but it’s a lengthy process. It took almost two years to do this but we hired a flavor chemist. They broke down Vida tequila’s flavor profiles so we actually, even though it can’t have Vida Tequila in it because it is a hard seltzer, we broke down Vida Tequila’s flavor properties so each style of Blue Jay, you’ll get the essence of Vida and you’ll get to taste Vida Tequila. If you want to go from 5 percent alcohol to 85 percent, all you’ll have to do is add in Vida Tequila. It’s a beautiful flavor profile but we have the Paloma, the Margarita, and the Mexican Mule, three of the most popular tequila cocktails that everyone’s familiar with, and literally, I love hard seltzers so much, we debuted at Sundance 2023. Everyone was like, “This is so amazing,” the feedback was exceptional.
JC: Oh my God, great.
L: Yes, you are going to have to try it, you will fall in love with it, but it’s so easy to drink, it’s almost too easy to drink.
JC: I know I’m excited. I did try them because I’ve had seltzers flavored as Margaritas and Palomas before but they were so sweet. After talking with you guys, I kind of trust you guys that I feel like these are going to be a little more-
L: They’re balanced.
JC: -balanced is exactly the word.
JB: One of the things that I like about it too is when you think of the seltzers, you’re thinking of just the clear, bubbly beverage. What we actually have is, there’s an opaqueness to them. Each of the different flavors of Margarita looks like a Margarita when you pour it in a glass.
JC: Oh, that is fun.
L: Yes, it literally looks like you made a Paloma and poured it in your glass and it’s not so overpowering with the carbonation. The best way to say it is it’s so balanced and just clean and beautiful.
JC: It’s also nice if you’re in the mood for a Margarita or a Paloma but you’re like I shouldn’t really be drinking hard liquor tonight. Do you know what I mean? It’s nice to have that option.
L: Yes, absolutely, and then Blue Jay, the name-
JB: This is Lisa’s favorite story.
L: I tell it every week, no joke, to my kids in the car like why Blue Jay means so much to me. First of all, when we are trying to name the hard seltzer, I wanted it to be something that was not so stereotypical because it’s a Latin-based cocktail and I’m like, “I don’t want to go with any of the stereotypes.” I just thought it would be really important to say what it is in the can without having to be so obvious about it, right?
L: When I was in third grade, I’ll never forget this, there were reading groups based on birds. Cardinals was like you’re barely reading, we’re so happy you’re still coming to school, you need a lot of work. It was like Blue Jay which is like you are flying, you are everything, you are going to be all of the advanced everything for the rest of your life. I was putting cardinals and my teacher hated me because my brother had a photographic memory and he’s a year ahead of me in school. She had him first and then she had me and I’m social. I had my little Holly Hobbie brown glasses on and annoyed everybody, I’m sure, because I was always talking, my brain was going 200 miles an hour. She’s like, “You’re a Cardinal.” I’m sitting there raising my hand and she’s like, “What Lisa?” I’m like, “I need to be a Blue Jay. I should not be a Cardinal, like super offended. It took everything in me to not be crying and calling my mom and just saying, “This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.” She hands me a book and it’s like this super grownup passage and I read it with ease and she’s like, “Okay, you’re a Blue Jay.” I was like, I’m a Blue Jay, and I always tell my kids every day, not every day, but at least once a week in the car, “Make sure you’re a Blue Jay. You tell people you’re a Blue Jay.”
L: When they know the story.
JB: She also reminds us that she’s a Blue Jay.
JC: Spoken like a true fire sign. Definitely a sage.
L: Mommy is a Blue Jay and they love to fly. I think for Vida, I love that our stuff is blue agave-based, so I’m like, “I love that it has the word blue in it,” because it’s blue agave-based, but I’m like, “Everyone should feel free.” I’m like, “Let Blue Jay make you feel free.”
L: Be you, start flying. You’re good to go now. I think it was just the perfect little accessory for Vida. Henry, he was in fourth grade at the time. He really wanted to name it Altima, but our trademark attorneys were like, “Which means “ultimate” in Spanish.” Our trademark attorneys are like, “You’re going to end up in a lawsuit, don’t do it.” We’re like, “Sorry, Henry. Great name. You’re on your path to perfect branding, but that’s not going to work,” but it was a good learning experience for the kids to see us developing another product too.
JC: That is really, really cool. That’s so exciting. This has been truly so lovely. The final segment of the show is I always end the show by planning with my guests a potential night out that we could have together.
L: Oh, I love this.
JC: I feel like the two options are, I could show you a burger in New York, or you guys could show me a restaurant I got to see whenever I end up in Salt Lake City.
JB: I’d say both.
L: Yes. We need to do both, so you’re going to walk us through our perfect night in New York, and then we’re going to walk you through our perfect night in Salt Lake.
JC: Okay, perfect. I’ll do some research and we’ll take you out for a great Margarita to start. I think that’s what we got to do. We got to have some Vidas.
L: I’m in.
JC: Perfect. Then you mentioned burgers. I think I’ve talked about this restaurant a million times on the podcast, but there’s a restaurant in Brooklyn called Bernie’s that is my home away from home. My favorite place. I think I got to take you to Bernie’s, sit in the booth and get you some burgers.
L: I’m in. Let’s go.
JC: The normal drink to have at Bernie’s would be a Martini, but maybe we could do Vida Blanco Martinis. There’s nothing wrong with-
L: I love it.
JC: -Vida Blanco martinis.
L: That sounds the perfect night out for me, and a night at Bernie’s instead of a weekend at Bernie’s.
JC: Yes, exactly. It’ll be a night at Bernie’s. I’ll make a call. I’ll get us a table. It’ll be perfect. The three of us, we’ll have a great time.
L: I’m in for Fashion Week, so I’m going to hold you to that.
JC: I will clear my schedule, don’t you worry.
L: I love it. When you come to Salt Lake, we need to take you to Monarca, the birria tacos, I think about daily, literally as soon as it’s 11 o’clock, I’m thinking of their birria tacos. They’re innovative drinks, and of course, they have Vida on the menu and then their ceviche is not just a traditional Mexican ceviche, it has Peruvian influence so we’re going to start with that.
JC: Oh, I love ceviche.
L: We’re going to have the birria tacos and you are going to lose your mind because they’re the best I’ve ever had ever.
JC: This is very exciting for me, so we’ll do burgers on the East Coast and then we’ll move west and I’ll do Mexican in Salt Lake. This sounds perfect.
L: Yes, done.
JC: I can’t wait. See you at Fashion Week for burgers.
L: I know, I love it, same. Then you just have to make sure to let us know where we can drop-ship stuff.
JC: Oh, yes. I’ll have Katie send you the address. That’s so sweet.
L: No, you have to try Fresh Wolf too. Our kid’s brand, you’ll die. It’s so good.
JC: Oh, I’ll try anything. I’m happy and excited to try anything and everything.
L: We’re going to send you, you’re going to get like a massive box full of stuff.
JC: I love a big box.
L: We love to share. With your passion for food and beverage, I know you’re going to absolutely love both Blue Jay and Vida.
JC: Oh, yes.
L: Do you have any other questions? Did we hit everything we needed to chat about today?
JC: Yes. I feel we really covered it. I feel one fun one would be of all your castmates, who’s the most fun to have on a night out?
L: Who’s the most fun to have a night out with? I had the best time with Whitney in New York. After the reunion we went out to dinner. We literally ended up sharing a jacket on our way to a gay bar and we had literally the best time, we ended up on stage singing songs.
JC: Do you know which gay bar?
L: I do. Oh my gosh. It’s going to drive me nuts.
L: Oh my gosh. No, it was so good. Hold on, I’m going to pull it up because I felt the owner is the coolest person ever.
JC: I’m obsessed.
L: Can I text you because I know I have it in my phone?
JC: Absolutely. I’ll stitch in later to let the listeners know what it was. I’m so glad I asked because the other question I was going to ask was, because I knew you were in New York for the reunion, I was like, “How did you blow off steam after that reunion?” Knowing you guys went out to a gay bar is the perfect answer.
L: We ended up literally having the best dinner and then we went to a gay bar and I had the most fun. I thought it was 1:30 in the morning. We left at 3:30.
JC: Incredible, that’s New York.
L: I was like, “Time is standing still. I feel like I’m 18 again.” It was amazing.
JC: Oh, I love that. You guys earned it after that reunion for sure. That’s amazing.
L: That reunion was so weird. That’s all I have to say, weird.
JC: I’m glad you had fun after, honestly, you guys earned it. Thank you guys so much for doing the show. This was perfect.
L: Thank you so much. I can’t wait to meet up in New York too. It’s going to be so fun.
JC: We’ll have a blast. You’re going to love the burger, I promise.
L: I believe you.
JB: I’m hungry now.
JC: Awesome. Have a good one, guys. Thanks again.
L: All right, you too. All right, bye.
Thank you so much for listening to Going Out With Jake Cornell. If you could please go and review us on whatever you’re listening to this on, that would be really gorgeous for me in a huge way, so thank you.
Now for some credits. Going Out With Jake Cornell is recorded in New York City and produced by Keith Beavers and Katie Brown. The music you’re hearing is by Darby Cicci. The cover art you’re probably looking at was photographed by M Cooper and designed by Danielle Grinberg. A special shoutout to VinePair co-founders, Josh Malin and Adam Teeter for making all of this possible.