Cocktails all around, and not just for the aficionados and epicures. That’s what Las Vegas bartender and mixologist Juyoung Kang is aiming for by contributing her image and expertise to a new line of flavored simple syrups, juices and mixes that hit shelves a month ago at Walmart stores nationwide. The big-box chain store is already a place to find common spirits such as Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey and Tito’s Handmade Vodka. In the interest of encouraging even the most basic of cocktail culture in the home, Phoenix, Arizona’s Next Phase Enterprises has launched the Cocktail Artist Essential Bar Ingredients line (cocktail-artist.com) as a smart complement to Walmart’s existing spirit offerings.
After being selected and paired up with the mint syrup, Kang says she got to work with Next Phase to select the winning formula from several iterations, all made from natural cane sugar infused with varying combinations of mint. “What I like is that it’s a consistent flavor all year round: Mint in the winter can be kind of soft; mint in the spring and summer could be really bright and fresh,” Kang says of the final product. “It’s a bit of a cooling mint with that sweetness; not overly bitter. So you only get the best parts of the mint.”
Cocktail Artist syrups are designed to complete the entry-level home bar for someone who is ready to take on Moscow Mules, French 75s and other easy-to-replicate drinks at home—nothing is too exotic. On the brand’s Facebook page, Kang will provide step-by-step demonstrations of cocktails such as the Mojito, Mint Julep and Pimm’s Cup. At $2.87 for the 375-milliliter syrups and juices and $3.47 for the 750-milliliter mixes, the products are also priced to be accessible, a natural accompaniment to a bottle of Jim Beam Bourbon picked up for a backyard barbecue or to bring to a gathering.
In addition to Kang’s face beaming confidently from her bottle, seven other well-known bartenders from the nation’s emerging mixology markets have signed on, including Atlanta’s Sadiyyah Iddeen (simple syrup), Dallas’ Bonnie Wilson (grenadine), Boston’s Tenzin Samdo (lemon juice), Chicago’s Luke Andrews (lime juice), Philadelphia’s Vincent Stipo (ginger Mule Mix), Phoenix’s Robert Porter (Manhattan Mix) and Los Angeles’ Matthew Biancaniello (and host of FYI’s Good Spirits; Old-Fashioned Mix).
Overall, Kang sees this project as a jumping-off point. “I’ve always been an entrepreneur, and I always wanted to create some kind of enterprise that helps people in a different way. There’s always a disconnect between what we bartenders do behind the bar and what people do at home. They’re either like, ‘Well, I’m just creating a party for eight people; why do I need to do all this?’ or, ‘Now I have a dinner party for 20; am I gonna do all this?’” The right spirit with the right modifier and sweetener, some ice and garnish represents minimal effort for a significant improvement over the typical booze-and-mixers table.
For her next act, Kang would like to address the prevailing lack of flattering, comfortable, functional and especially female-friendly bartender workwear. “There’s a way to make it stylish and functional. It’s the same as when we look at a bar and say, ‘The bar looks pretty, but it’s not functional.’ With clothes, if people don’t feel good, they just don’t work well. If you want people to feel good at work, you should make them feel good about what they wear.”
If you know Kang and are surprised to just now be hearing about her ventures into the realms of beverage and barwear design, you’re not alone. “The only person I remember telling is [my fiancé], Sean,” Kang says. “I was home and I was like, “Hey, babe! Guess what happened!”
To sample Kang’s cocktails in the wild, visit her at The Dorsey in The Venetian, where she is the lead bartender.