Asbury Park cocktail lounge Laylow had been open just four months when the pandemic settled into the Garden State last March. Forced to close their doors, the team got creative to keep cocktails flowing in the community. Starting on March 21, the week of the statewide shutdown—and continuing weekly since—Laylow bartenders log into Zoom from behind the bar to teach virtual cocktail-mixing classes. The classes inspired another idea.
“We did a few weeks of [what we call] ‘five o’clock everywhere’ sessions, our virtual cocktail class… We had such a good time connecting with the community, and we got such good feedback,” says bartender Pat Pipi, host of the virtual sessions and creative partner for Cul+ure Collective, the hospitality group behind Barrio Costero, Reyla, and most recently Laylow. “We realize we had great content, and we had a really great story.”
Pipi and fellow barman Jamie Dodge, beverage partner at Cul+ure Collective, gathered their stories and decided to create a cocktail book, Raise Your Spirits, sharing their journey through those first weeks of lockdown alongside custom drink recipes and a few renditions on classics.
Pipi, or “Pip” as most people call him, is the voice behind a majority of the writing. He’s been with the hospitality group for around five years, starting with the bar program at Barrio Costero, moving up to his current position and, now, becoming a soon-to-be-published author. “It’s funny,” Pipi says. “When I went to school I wanted to be an English teacher because I wanted to teach and I wanted to write. Now here I am, teaching and writing.”
The book, due in early December, can be pre-ordered on Laylow’s website. It features over 20 recipes, with the often comical background stories of how the drinks were imagined, created and named. One such cocktail, affectionately named “Punch Pip in the Face,” garnered popularity in the virtual classes. At home, the time to execute the muddling, vigorous shaking and mixing involved in the drink’s creation is no issue. In a busy cocktail lounge, it could raise problems. “The story behind the name is, you know, it’s a multi-step cocktail. If I put this on any of our menus, the bartender that would have to make 50 on a Saturday night would probably want to punch me in the face,” says Pipi.
One goal of Raise Your Spirits is to encourage all readers that potentially intimidating techniques like shaking up egg whites, a necessary step for the Punch Pip concoction, are doable for at-home bartenders of any skill level. Pipi and Dodge keep the equipment and ingredients list as pared down as possible, focusing on easy-to-make syrups and mixers and other accessible ingredients to keep costs and stress levels low. “Crafting a cocktail should be fun, and you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on equipment and ingredients,” Pipi says.
While imparting cocktail-mixing wisdom is the main tenet of Raise Your Spirits, the Laylow crew had more to say and didn’t hold anything back in the pages. “It’s not your typical instructional book by any means,” Pipi says. “It’s also about us. It’s about the community and us wanting to reach out to them. We thrive off of our guest experiences. And this is us finding new ways to reach out to people.”Click here to leave a comment