I got an email from Ryan Magarian while he was on the cruise ship M.S. Prinsendam, going through the Panama Canal. The next day, he called from the coast of Costa Rica. Seattle-based Magarian certainly has created a cool niche for himself in the world of mixology, one good slice of which is developing and implementing the onboard bar program for Holland America Line’s 12 cruise ships. Part of the Kathy Casey Food Studios creative development team, through which he consults with independent restaurants, corporations and spirits companies such as Brown-Forman, Magarian has tapped a vein of interest in contemporary cocktails. “I love what I do,” says Magarian, “working the craft of making cocktails and doing so for so many different projects. The creative possibilities are endless.”
Magarian’s livelihood is just one example of where a career path lined with creative cocktails might lead these days. A decade ago the landscape was very different for the professional bartender, with few options that allowed him or her to get out from behind the bar. Today, in addition to making great cocktails for thirsty customers, the country’s hot bartenders are finding new niches teaching, consulting, writing that have developed in recent years. Below you’ll meet eight others who are carving out a spot for themselves in the realm of craft cocktails.
Michael MacDonnell is one of the current bar stars, shining neon-bright in Las Vegas. His job title is corporate mixologist for the Olive Group, chef Todd English’s Boston-based restaurant group, but his home base is at Olives in the Bellagio Hotel & Casino. From there, he travels the country to help open all new English restaurants, getting bar systems set up and creating cocktail lists. He also touches base with existing restaurants on a regular basis to update beverages and incorporate new spirits, always working to “keep things fresh and creative,” MacDonnell says. He has a mission to “stay on the cutting edge of cocktails.”
Olives Las Vegas re-opened in August after renovations which included an expansion of the bar area. This is where MacDonnell does his best work, he says. One new signature drink is a fusion of Belvedere Pomrancza Vodka, fresh lemon, pineapple and pomegranate juices, and a splash of orange cura