When Julie Reiner arrived in New York City in the late 1990s, the Hawaii native encountered a cocktail scene on the cusp of transformation. Serious craft cocktails, both decades-old classics and newfangled inventions, were still a rarity, as were the fresh fruit juices and herbs she’d grown accustomed to using at bars in San Francisco. Vodka was the king of liquors. If you wanted a good Manhattan, or something more archaic, like a swizzle, you had to seek out the handful of semi-hidden watering holes where people like Dale DeGroff, Sasha Petraske, and Audrey Saunders—now legends—were pouring.
By 2003, however, New York was becoming a cocktail mecca—thanks not only to those legends but to Reiner herself. That was the year she opened Flatiron Lounge, the first bar in Manhattan (since Prohibition, we guess) to serve craft cocktails to a mass audience without sacrificing quality. Over the next five years, she established her reputation both as a mixologist and a businessperson, culminating in the opening of Clover Club, which established a cocktail beachhead in gentrifying Brooklyn and remains a beacon of serious drinking (and serious fun). Now she’s a mentor herself, shaping the careers of bartenders like Ivy Mix (who you’ll find elsewhere in Panna).
What defines Reiner’s work is her breadth and her balance: She’s a self-described “whiskey girl” who fantasizes about opening a Daiquiri bar on the beach. She rediscovered (and resuscitated) the 1890s-era Clover Club cocktail, but also invented a Hawaiian Iced Tea in her first years in New York. Her trick is to make the old drinks seem new again, and her creations seem like instant classics; her approach brings intellectual heft to tropical refreshments like the Mai Tai, and loosens up old-school favorites like the Old Fashioned. She’s never silly for the sake of innovation or nerdy unto obscurity. She knows what you’d really, truly like to drink, and she’s here with her steady hand and clean cocktail shaker to show you how to make it.