Why Your Moscow Mule Should Be Infused with Lavender, According to Top Bartender Leslie Cofresí

By Alicia Kennedy |

© Alexandra Grablewski/Getty Images

What I Drink is a series featuring legendary bartenders to learn about how they got started, what they love to drink and discover their go-to cocktail recipes.

Leslie Cofresí is a co-owner of San Juan, Puerto Rico’s La Factoría—one of the world’s 50 Best Bars, according to Drinks International,  after less than three years in business. The impeccable drinks, the gregarious staff, and the laid-back atmosphere all reflect Cofresí’s own dedication and kindness. The bar’s stellar drinks and reputation are visiting New York City this weekend for the first Cosa Nuestra event, which seeks to bring Puerto Rican cuisine and culture to a broad, global audience. Run by Mofongo NY’s Manolo Lopez, it’s going to offer up a mix of art, food, drinks and music.

When did you know you wanted to work behind the bar? 
I started working in restaurants when I was very young, but the move behind the bar happened when my dad opened a little corner shop in “La Placita” [a plaza in Santurce, a San Juan neighborhood]. I helped by working the bar, and the interaction with guests was much more personal than what takes place in a restaurant or table-side setting. So I fell in love with it; it was a chance to relate and interact and have people receive more of me through service.

Will you be making anything special at Saturday's Cosa Nuestra event?
Definitely. This event is about showcasing what young Latinos are doing in all walks of creative disciplines, so we’ve built a few drinks that will integrate our approach to tropical flavors in a simple but elegant way. Red Bull believed in our movement and facilitated to make this event possible, so we built a really cool, refreshing punch playing with the signature Red Bull flavors. Also, our family from Serralles joined the party, so we’ll be mixing some drinks we’ve been serving with Don Q rums all over the world.

Which cocktail that you've developed in your career is your favorite, and why?
At La Factoría, we serve a variation on a Moscow Mule that we infuse with lavender—Lavender Mule. I had been serving that cocktail for a couple of years before the bar opened, especially for big events, so by that point I’d been working on the infusion that acts as its base for quite some time. I knew it was a combination of flavors that appealed to a lot of people; it had to work. It’s been on the menu for three years now and I don’t even know how many thousands we’ve served. It’s also the reason you walk into any restaurant bar or cocktail bar in Puerto Rico and there’s a lavender drink. The guys call me the "Lavender Queen"...jokingly...I think. We’ll be serving it at Cosa Nuestra.

What's your favorite classic cocktail, and why?
This answer is a bartender’s cliché, but it has to be a Negroni. It’s just the perfect marriage of simplicity and complexity. Three ingredients in the same proportions, but each being very complex on their own. Also, it is one of the few straight spirits cocktails that you can actually drink in the tropics, under the sun, and it’s still refreshing. Yes, amari under the sun are refreshing.

Could you share a great summer cocktail recipe?

Cosa Nuestra Punch

Serves 4 to 5 people 

  • 4 ounces kumquat and sage oleo-saccharum 
  • 4 ounces lemon juice 
  • 8 ounces fresh pineapple juice
  • 16 ounces Yellow Edition Tropical RedBull
  • Dilute with ice

To make kumquat and sage oleo-saccharum: in 1/2 cup of sugar, muddle in 5 kumquats, peels from 3 lemons and a handful of fresh sage; let rest until sugar is dissolved.