November 2014 Bartender of the Month: Juyoung Kang
Name: Juyoung Kang
Current Position: Mixologist at BLVD. Cocktail Company at The LINQ
Recent Gigs: Juyoung Kang, lead mixologist at BLVD. Cocktail Company at The LINQ, has worked with some of Las Vegas’ most progressive cocktail programs. Today, the Philadelphia native is one of the more well-known mixologists in the city. When crafting the perfect cocktail, Kang is passionate about working with whiskeys and gins. She says, “I taste different spirits everyday just to keep my palate up to par and expand my palate by tasting different foods and spices.”
Kang has previously worked for The Peninsula Hotel Beverly Hills, Thompson Hotels Beverly Hills, Comme Ca Las Vegas, Commonwealth and the Laundry Room. She has been crowned Las Vegas’ Most Imaginative Bartender by Bombay Sapphire and the USBG and has been praised as the “ninja” mixologist and interviewed by The Tasting Panel, AskMen, USA Today, and Eater.com, amongst many others. Her passion and experience shows through her skillful crafting of unique drinks to be served with the highest level of integrity and quality.
Why did you become a bartender?
I became a bartender because it was the only profession at the time when I was in college that interested me more than my school work. It was fascinating, fun and like most people we need rules and bartending has its routines and regulations. I can color outside the lines as well as inside. I can live a life of dichotomy and not be shunned out of society.
What are some of your favorite flavors?
I love, love, love drinks with multiple layers of flavors. I try to create drinks that have impossible written all over it. For instance, a drink that is bitter on the edge of sweet but not quite finishing there. Or a cocktail having citrus notes but no citrus juice actually in it. It's that balance I like tinkering with. Right now, I'm working on the balance of super savory or vegetal, super floral and super bitter cocktails. Thinking about how much is too much and can it work. Working with teas and helping me find that balance.
What are you doing different from the norm?
I can't say I'm doing anything different from the norm IN my beverages except for marrying flavors that I know work. My experiences and background are different than most people. I grew up eating and drinking flavors that most people have never heard of. I would say the difference between me and most is the way I serve my beverages. I try to understand the guest and cater to their needs. Those that need a further understanding, I try to take the time I have and help them connect and get gusty to try something new. Everyone should experience something new every day. I think that's the key to living life to the fullest. Mine just starts with a beverage.
What’s in the mixing glass or shaker for your customers?
A lot of people are used to simple, citrusy drinks. I've been getting a lot of adventurous guests that want to try whiskeys they haven't had before and mezcals. Yes both whiskeys and mezcals are hot right now and I'm glad they're both having a big play in the beverage world. I've gotten a lot of gin requests as well - which makes me happy because it's one of my favorite spirits besides scotch, Italian and French liqueurs. Vodka is still about the same. It's become a go-to cocktail while they think about what's new and what's next. For the most part, I never lose giving someone a Bee's Knees, an Old Fashioned or a properly made Negroni.
What are you sipping on and why?
I always sip on Glenfiddich 15yr with water on the side because that's my go to drink although some bars don't care it. Otherwise I like a good stout. Cocktails are tricky for me. I like it with many layers - sweet, spicy, salty, citrusy, bitter, rich. I'm always looking for that balance but I've come to terms that I like booze-forward cocktails. I feel like it’s harder for most bartenders to find that balance of rich, bitter and smooth taste in a boozy cocktail. I worked really hard to achieve this because I started bartending during the time when Cosmopolitans, Lemon drops and whatever flavored martini or variation of a gimlet you can make was popular. After consuming so many of these rather ridiculously overly processed cocktails youalmost want what's in the bottle.
What are you dancing to while mixing?
Usually it's Vampire Weekend or Empire of the Sun because I feel like their music is always happy music. Happy bartender + happy cocktail making = Happy guest drinking a happy cocktails. But when it's crunch time and I need a kick in the butt to get inspired and move, some Jay Z works. Pretty much a good flow of music helps my mood a lot and makes the time go by quicker.
What are some quirks/quotes you are known for?
I'm a super neat and clean bartender so everyone says I am Overly OCD (although I don't see a problem with that). I've been told that I'm very intense and intimidating - though people that know me say that it's because I'm very particular, expect perfection and detail oriented drinks. I don't know if I have quirks/quotes that I'm known for. I have been telling everyone to #vote4ju every time they mention me here on out. Lol. I guess I tell people to "think about it" and "don't be stupid" a lot. I think that's because my mom always used to say that to me. She would always tell me to "Think twice so you don't look stupid. You don't want that as a lasting impression about you."