As the head bartender and co-owner of the Brooklyn-based bar, Leyenda, Ivy Mix has been an influential force in some of the country’s most iconic cocktail bars ever since she touched down in New York City. But it’s the four years she spent living in South America that have been an unwavering source of inspiration for the James Beard Award-nominated entrepreneur.
In her new book, “Spirits of Latin America,” Mix pays tribute to her immense love of the diverse cultures and spirits found throughout Latin America through a collection of more than 100 cocktail recipes, many of which originated at Leyenda. As Mix tells VinePair, “I believe that distillates are fantastic cultural representations of their homes. ‘Spirits of Latin America’ is me putting into writing these beliefs.”
Mix hopes her book exposes cocktail enthusiasts to a wider world of spirits, noting, “Not that many people are making cocktails out of things like pisco or cachaça. Celebrating these spirits and their cultures is what makes them unique.”
Featured in Mix’s book is the Shadow Boxer, a twist on the Negroni and a mainstay at Leyenda, in which cachaça, a Brazilian spirit made from fermented sugarcane juice, is substituted for the more traditional gin. In addition to dry vermouth and Campari, the drink includes a welcome balance of apricot eau de vie and pamplemousse liqueur.
Mix also highlights the versatility of these liquors for a modern cocktail menu. In the False Alarm, Peruvian pisco complements Campari, lemon juice, and raspberry syrup, which is topped off with Champagne. The Pancho Perico takes rhum agricole to another level by mixing it with bourbon, sherry, pineapple juice, and a mildly spicy and sweet poblano syrup.
“People know about gin, whiskey, vodka, etc., but there was a glaring hole about spirits from the so-called ‘New World’ of the south,” she says. “If you like these spirits, you should know about them.”
“This cocktail started as yet another Negroni variation, but ended up something very much its own thing and a staple for us at Leyenda. The cachaça I selected here is a blend of an unaged silver with a touch of European oak, which lends itself well to the bitter sweetness of the Campari. The dry vermouth carries the apricot eau de vie to bring out the cachaça’s rich fruit even further, and the pamplemousse liqueur comes in to link everything back to the citrus of the Campari.”
“When I lived in Peru for a short stint in college, we drank a bright red, sweet cola called Kola Inglesa with pisco whenever we went out. It was certainly a college student’s sugary hangover delight but when I started to dive deeper into cocktail creation, I remembered it fondly and made up this fancier version. It really only resembles the Kola Inglesa in its red appearance, as the bitterness of the Campari gives it a different flavor altogether: fresher and more nuanced.”
“This drink, by Shannon Ponche of Leyenda, is a tall, slightly spicy stunner. We traditionally garnish it with a banana leaf for visual effect, but it’s not necessary. The bright green color speaks for itself. This cocktail proved itself a gateway to rhum agricole. If you’re perhaps skeptical of its deliciousness, whip this up to change your mind.”
Get these recipes and more in VinePair’s searchable cocktail database.