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We Ask Nikki McCutcheon, Beverage Director, What’s in a (Cocktail) Name?

Nikki McCutcheon, Senior Beverage Director of Silver Lining Lounge in New York City, began her journey in hospitality at a family-owned restaurant in upstate New York at the young age of 15.

She moved to NYC to pursue a college degree three years later and was hired as a hostess at TAO Uptown. McCutcheon realized that she was intrigued more by the world of hospitality than her studies. “Consequently, I switched colleges to pursue a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management from St. John’s University. From working as a Maître ‘D at the Dream Downtown during my sophomore year to managing and opening Bodega Negra, my immersion in the world of hospitality has been both dynamic and fulfilling.

At 24, experiencing a full-on quarter-life crisis, I shifted my focus to beverages, earning my Certified Sommelier certificate. Over the next four years, I mastered the art of inventory, bar management, cocktail development, and wine list curation. With a decade of experience in standalone hotels and restaurants, I transitioned to a corporate regional role overseeing the beverage programs in our East Coast venues, finding satisfaction in witnessing guests enjoy the creations we’ve built together.”

McCutcheon is now able to fulfill her passion for hospitality as the Senior Beverage Director at Silver Lining Lounge, a live music and piano lounge located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The lounge provides a lively atmosphere, with guests able to sing along to their favorite songs performed by local musicians. The beverage program at Silver Lining Lounge resonates with the senses and space. “Starting with the cocktail names, we crafted a narrative using cultural references on our menu, tying in the lyrical art and ambiance of the room. The cocktails themselves incorporate seasonal and local ingredients, combined with signature twists on classics, to entice both novice and curious drinkers. Finally, to bring it all together, our creative presentations appeal to both visual and aromatic senses, incorporating fresh flowers and dynamic glassware.”

Some of the go-to ingredients on the menu include vibrant flavors such as blueberry, violet, hibiscus, habanera, and red bell pepper. Although familiar, they are eye-catching and evoke the freshness and approachability coupled with the elegance of NYC’s cocktail culture. The music culture of NYC inspires the beverage program, as all the cocktail names reference music pop culture as well as underground subcultures, and the recipes are mainly variations on classics.

When asked to share advice with bartenders on how to create an exciting cocktail program, McCutcheon had this to say: “A successful cocktail program is not only about the drinks themselves but also the overall experience of your guests. The theme of your cocktail menu should complement the ambiance of your space, creating a cohesive drinking experience. In terms of menu development, remember that not everything is for everyone. It’s important to strike a balance between classic and contemporary offerings.

Incorporate well-known, comfortable classics that stand the test of time, as well as modern creations that showcase one’s creativity and pique the interest of adventurous drinkers.” McCutcheon suggests that bartenders know their audience, stay trendy and unique, and offer variety and quality if they want their beverage program to be successful.

The post We Ask Nikki McCutcheon, Beverage Director, What’s in a (Cocktail) Name? appeared first on Chilled Magazine.

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