By Alicia Kennedy
Updated April 06, 2016
Credit: © Andrew Kist

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.

Some cocktail bars feel stiff, where a beer order would get you some serious side-eye. Ivy Mix’s Leyenda in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, is the opposite of that. This is the the kind of bar where you want to meet up for drinks to start the night, but end up not leaving for hours. Its friendly vibe is reflective of its owner, who’s worked at Clover Club, Mayahuel, Fort Defiance, and Lani Kai, and was named Best American Bartender at Tales of the Cocktail last year. Here, she tells us more about her history and her killer bar.

When did you know you wanted to work behind the bar?
I don't think there was a "know" or a lightbulb moment in particular. I always loved bartending because it's fun and exciting and I get to talk to people and learn stories and make connections. I also liked it because it was a trade and I can bring my trade all over the world and get a job if I needed it. But when I discovered cocktails and realized that I could do all this stuff I loved about bartending and be creative and make something beautiful, that's when I knew I wanted to stick to this industry.

What's the inspiration behind the menu at Leyenda?
The menu is supposed to be representative of Latin America. I wanted to focus in on all the places I love most and subsequently, all the flavors I like most. It's Latin inspired but Brooklyn based. My hope is that the drinks take the terroir of spirits from different countries but make them unique to Leyenda and Brooklyn.

Which cocktail that you've developed in your career is your favorite, and why?
That's like picking a favorite child! I have no idea! I have a few for different reasons. I think either the Palo Negro (reposado tequila, palo cortado sherry, blackstrap rum, grand marnier and demerara simple) because it ties together Mexico and Spain, my two favorite places on earth. The drink was a struggle to create, but I think in the end it's fantastic. It won me an unforgettable trip to Spain! The other is the Tia Mia (Jamaican rum, mezcal, orgeat, lime and orange curaçao). It was my first drink on one of Julie Reiner's menus (at Lani Kai) and now is a permanent staple at Leyenda. Mezcal Mai Tai, what's not to love?

What's your favorite classic cocktail, and why?
Negroni. Incredibly hard to make perfect but also really hard to completely destroy. I order it usually when I go out.

What's a super-easy recipe that someone can re-create at home?
A pisco sour is delicious! 2 ounces of pisco, 1/2 lemon, 1/2 lime (or just 3/4 of either), 3/4 simple syrup and an egg white. Shake and enjoy!