Igor Zukowiec - Freelance Mixologist

- interview by Sara Gorelick
Photo credit Filip Wolak fotoflip.com

Igor Zukowiec is a freelance mixologist who opened up a mixology consulting and cocktail catering service called Alchemiq over a year ago. While there, he creates out-of-the-box experiences at events nationwide, as well as designs cocktail menus for bars and restaurants. He offers advice on delivering high quality drinks while maximizing profit. Igor can also be found working working as a bar chef at New York's Salute.

SG: What happens at Alchemiq?

IZ: This is all about understanding restaurant business and hospitality in general. The rest is about creativity. And hard work! For example, when a restaurant asks me to create a cocktail list for them, I first do research about the neighborhood. Later I focus on the restaurant itself, trying to understand their customer base through past sales, menu selection and the crowd I see in rush hours. That gives me an idea as to which direction to go with the cocktail creation. If I cater for events, I research about the event, space, guests and try to come up with something that fits the purpose of the event. I love coming up with unique presentations too! (Like a bar made from real grass, etc.)

SG: How did you get started in the hospitality industry?

IZ: My family always worked/owned hospitality businesses. I grew up spending summers on a marina where my dad used to charter yachts. Later, my mom opened a B&B. It was almost 10 years ago when I first put my feet behind a bar and found my passion there.

SG: Do you have a favorite spirit to work with in particular?

IZ: Every few months I jump on a different spirit and create with it. In the beginning of this year, I was experimenting with beer cocktails. Recently I have mixed with single malt scotches. I think I go through phases with my creativity.

SG: What are you currently working on?

IZ: I just got involved in a project to create a mobile phone application and a website about... well, I can't say much about it yet as the project is confidential, but it's about cocktails, of course!

SG: What is your go-to drink?

IZ: That is most often a beer, Negroni or a Manhattan. All depends on my mood.

SG: What would be surprised to know about you?

IZ: Besides mixology, I love food styling for photography. I also studied acting.

SG: What would you say is the most important part of your job? Most challenging?

IZ: The most important part while being behind the bar is contact with customers and understanding their needs. It's not challenging though. I love people. The challenging part is sometimes the hours that I need to work, but it's not a big challenge - I'm a night person.

SG: Is there a cocktail you are most proud of creating?

IZ: I don't have a recipe I'm most proud of, but one of my cocktails that gets a lot of attention is called Grapefruit & Fire. Another one I recently created while experimenting with single malt scotches is called Smoked Peaches. Enjoy!

Grapefruit and Fire
  • 1 1/2 oz. Light Rum
  • Dash of Maraschino Liquor
  • 3/4 oz. fresh squeezed Lime Juice
  • 2 oz. Champagne
  • Atomizer with over-proofed Rum
  • Brown Sugar
  • Inside-out Grapefruit Peel

Caramelize (use atomizer and a lighter - be careful not to burn fingers!) 3 bar spoons of Brown Sugar in a Grapefruit Peel. Place the whole peel with the sugar inside a mixing cup. Add Rum, Maraschino and Lime and shake vigorously. Strain into filled highball glass filled with fresh ice. Top with Champagne.

Smoked Peaches
  • 3 oz. Lagavulin Scotch Whiskey
  • 3 oz. strong Camomile Tea
  • 3/4 oz. Agave Syrup
  • 1/4 of Peach
  • 2 blackberries
  • 4 lemon peels (cut wide and thin pieces)

Muddle Peach and Blackberries in a mixing cup. Slightly bend all Lemon Peels over muddled fruits to release oils; drop the peels into the mixing cup. Add remaining ingredients and stir it. Add ice and shake vigorously. Strain to a large rocks glass filled with fresh ice.