In the midst of New York’s seemingly endless gray winter, an evening at Brooklyn’s Leyenda is an excellent option for those who can’t escape to warmer climates. Drinks are finished with fresh flowers and small bouquets of mint, and the bar has an extensive selection of Latin American spirits like tequila and mezcal.
Ivy Mix, Leyenda’s co-owner, first got behind the bar in Guatemala when she was 19. In 2015, she took home the Spirited Award for American Bartender of the Year at the annual Tales of the Cocktail festival.
We caught up with her in Brooklyn to talk about her “forever bar” and the cocktail she says tastes like “fabric softener and water.”
What’s your desert-island drink?
It depends upon if the island is an actual island. If it’s a beach it would be different than if it was a mountain. I think the general consensus is the same. If you had to drink one drink for the rest of your life… I think a Negroni, which is funny because I’m a tequila and mezcal lady. But I can’t drink a Margarita forever — it’ll give me heartburn. A Negroni is really hard to mess up, but hard to make perfectly. I’m rarely wowed, but when it’s good, it’s good. And it’s very rarely bad.
What’s the first drink you bought when you turned 21?
Oh God, I have no idea. When I turned 21 I was in college in Vermont. I bet you I bought a handle of Popov vodka; it’s pure swill and comes in a half-gallon. That’s what we used to buy. It was the choice spirit when we were all living off our parents’ money.
FMK three cocktails: Negroni, Margarita, Manhattan?
Kill the Manhattan, fuck the Margarita, marry the Negroni. That actually sounds perfect to me. It’s best of both worlds. I get to keep the Margarita — it’s my mistress.
You’re on death row. What’s your final drink?
It would probably be the biggest glass of red wine possible like an Amarone. I’d want to go under pretty well sloshed.
You can only drink at one bar for the rest of your life. What is it?
Fort Defiance in Red Hook. I love that bar. I worked there back in the day. I love that it’s cozy, it’s unpretentious, the drinks are really good, [and] I like that it’s walking distance to Sunny’s. If I could combine them, I’d take them as my forever bar.
What’s the best and worst bottle on your shelf?
It’s all so good. The thing I’m most into right now is a rhum agricole, Clairin, from Haiti. I haven’t been this excited about a rum in a long time. The worst? Who am I going to upset? We have some vodka here… I’m looking at one I wish we didn’t have. We got it from an event.
What cocktail will you never order again?
An Aviation. It tastes like bathwater. It tastes and looks like fabric softener and water.