Award-winning mixologist Jim Ryan didn’t originally intend on landing a career in the liquor business. After graduating in North Carolina with dreams to pursue classical acting, Ryan began bartending to pay the bills while supporting his artistic endeavors and realized that the mixologist life was exactly what he was looking for. Ascending the ranks of bartending and mixology in revered New York bars and lounges, Ryan became known for the eccentric touches in his custom creations and his penchant for using fresh, natural ingredients wherever possible—a concept that he’s been interested in ever since picking berries from his grandmother’s garden as a child. Here, the current Hendrick’s Gin Brand Ambassador tells Dujour about living the cocktail lover’s dream, and shares his favorite summer recipe for a delicious, strawberry-infused drink.
How did you get your start in mixology?
I grew up spending loads of time with my grandmother, who has an amazing green thumb. The memories I have from her garden, the vivid smells of the herbs and watching the fruit grow just ripe enough to eat from the tree—that’s where it began for me.
Tell us something we wouldn’t expect about the day to day life of a mixologist.
After an evening working on your feet for hours, the best thing to do before going to bed is to lie down on your back and put your feet up against a wall for 5 minutes. Trust me, that and a shower and I’m done for the night.
What is the first cocktail you loved?
On my very first trip out of the country, my parents took me to Puerto Vallarta. I was admittedly underage, but I kept noticing the adults sipping these glorious tropical drinks out of an entire coconut. The bartender’s presentation was so fantastic—involving a machete and more than one cocktail umbrella—that I absolutely had to have one of those. That Coco Loco was like sipping on a little bit of heaven.
Your go-to drink?
Drinking is about an occasion, so it really depends on the type of bar I’m at. If I’m meeting friends for cocktails before dinner, you’ll likely find a Hendrick’s Gin Martini in my hand. If I’m at an established cocktail bar, I’ll order a Last Word with Hendrick’s. If I’m at a café catching some sun, a Hendrick’s with a bit of Lillet Rose served long and topped with seltzer water would be my go-to.
What are your favorite bars?
There are loads of places to get fantastic drinks, but some of my favorite bars include Prizefighter in Emoryville, California; Arnaud’s French 75 Bar in New Orleans, when Chris Hannah is working; and Sunny’s in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Sadly, Sunny’s was badly damaged during Hurricane Sandy and hasn’t opened since, but they are really working to get back on their feet.
What are you doing this weekend?
I’m planning on taking a long scooter trip out to the Hamptons this weekend. I collect and tinker with vintage Vespa scooters, and I’m really excited to take my new baby out on the open road—it’s a 1980 burgundy in mint condition with a matching sidecar.
What is the recipe for your favorite summer cocktail?
One I’ve been working on is the Strawberry Smash. Strawberries, mint, fresh lemon and Hendrick’s Gin—yum!
1.5 parts Hendrick’s Gin
.75 parts fresh lemon juice
.5 parts simple syrup
2-3 whole strawberries hulled and chopped
8-10 mint leaves
In a mixing glass, muddle all the ingredients well enough to break up the strawberries. Ice, shake with vigor and strain into an iced rocks glass. Garnish with a half of a strawberry and a sprig of mint and enjoy.