Welcome to our Happy Hour Question & Answer series, where we ask questions to interesting people in the alcohol world.
This week’s spotlight is Lauren Mote, co-founder of Bittered Sling — range of award-winning cocktail bitters — Global Director of On Trade Excellence for Patrón Tequila, and author of the new book “A Bartender’s Guide to the World” (Published in late October 2022.) Click here for more on Lauren’s book which is now available.
Hops & Spirits: Why did you decide to craft a book?
Lauren Mote: After being a bartender for so many years, I wanted to create a book to share my experiences, developed recipes, new ingredients and stories I have gathered along the way. I wanted this book to allow people to come along for the journey — my international adventures in the drinks & hospitality industry.
HS: How was that process for you?
LM: Recounting the thousands of people, places and things that made each journey unique, and transferring that into a story illustrated with a cocktail has been a really interesting process. Lots of hours writing, rewriting, testing and retesting — it was a long, and really rewarding journey.
HS: How did you decide on which stories and cocktails to share?
LM: There are so many different stories and drinks to share, but the book is just 223 pages. I had to be really specific on which ones to include in this debut book, and which ones might appear in the later years. The combination of stories & cocktails featured in “A Bartender’s Guide to the World” feel balanced in flavour, subject, location and community connection.
HS: Why share a story with each cocktail?
LM: Headnotes are common in drink recipe books, but usually has a small indication of what the reader/user can expect, and less about the story surrounding it. Because this book is filled with stories illustrated with cocktails, it feels like the right approach. For example each time I think of the delicious Chicha Morada drink I had in Peru, I immediately think of blue corn, pisco, and my friend Joel; or Thailand instantly makes me think of hikes to wild mountain areas, balanced and unique flavors and how they’re used in Thai cuisine like lime leaves, rock sugar and cane vinegar. When I think of my home, in Canada, amongst many things, including maple syrup, local whisky and a vast array of apples; for Barbados, I think of hibiscus, and in Mexico, agave and chillies. The list is endless, and helps inform not only what I make, but how I conceive the ritual serve (what comes with the drink).
HS: How did you become a bartender?
LM: I started bartending when I was 18. It was a natural fit for me with my blended background as a performer, a hospitality worker and flavour lover. I started out by flipping burgers, singing condiment-themed songs, slinging drinks and pouring pints (from 1996 until 2017). I launched Bittered Sling in 2012 and my journey from 2017 was on the brand side full time.
Whether you’re behind the bar, running a bar, or working your way up in a bar — being in the drinks industry is so powerful, and can take you on so many journeys – personally and professionally. I am so grateful for my time spent behind the bar.
HS: How has the spirits industry changed in your 20+ years?
LM: It’s really interesting to see how guests’ attitudes to cocktails and spirits have changed, and how palates have evolved. Over 20 years ago, the most popular cocktails were typically on the sweeter side, and the adventurous side from both bartenders and the guests was slowly evolving. From sports bars, bistros and fine dining, our array of offerings today are from the work put in by the industry of yesterday. It’s hard to believe in a way that we’ve come so far, and great to see so many new people joining the industry, bringing their flare, personality and leadership to so many venues & roles within them.
HS: What’s been the best part about the spirits industry for you?
LM: I would say supporting bars and bartenders, inspiring the next generations to join the industry, and craft exciting plans of what we can do together to strengthen our industry; create opportunity and space for all bartenders. I couldn’t be more excited to have this continued chance to serve my community and think it’s tremendously important that bartenders make the connection with hospitality and the human element, alongside making drinks. That’s the thing that truly changes lives.
HS: Why did you help co-found Women Celebrate, a social media initiative to highlight women and fem folx and their achievements in the drinks industry?
LM: Generally, it’s important for women and other underrepresented groups to be visible, and Women Celebrate started as a way to do that, and yes, it is centred around drinks and hospitality industry pros. Being truly inclusive is not just carving out a seat at the table, but inviting others to join you (that’s courtesy of Jackie Summers). We do see the changes happening, albeit slowly, they’re happening. As more women gain positions of power, from which to steer agendas, create appropriate business pillars and open up the conversation to more voices, it’s a start, but still not enough. The paradigm shift really comes when the surprise is gone — yes, there are female master distillers, chefs, sommeliers, CEOs and directors, there are also female bartenders, which comes as a shock to some in certain parts of the world, and with respect to what’s happening in countries like the USA where fundamental freedoms are being stripped away from women (amongst other groups) the conversation can never stop, the revolution continues, and all are invited and encouraged to play a role.
HS: What’s next for you? More books? More cocktails?
LM: Always more cocktails, hopefully a lot more travel and discovery, and continuing our drinks and travelogue journey with my husband Jonathan (who’s now at the helm of Bittered Sling). There wasn’t room for all of the cocktail recipes I could have included in this book, so who knows what comes next, never say never.