Q&A: Professional Alchemist and Mixologist, Igor Zukowiec & New Drink Trends
Hey booch fans, We’re quite delighted to be featuring our first mixologist. Grab a front seat at the bar as we dive into the world of Igor Zukowiec, a successful event entrepreneur and professional mixologist. We'll learn about his unique story and and passion for both food and mixology. Read on to find out how he started his own company and is changing how experience events, hors d’oeuvres and cocktails!
SN: Thank you for talking with us today and giving us the opportunity to learn more about you and your amazing brand. I want to start off by first getting an intro about you. Can you tell me about yourself?
Igor: Sure! I’m originally from Poland. I moved to NYC over a decade ago. In NYC I was introduced to the world of cocktail parties, hors d’oeuvres and mixology. I started in NY as a bartender, but I always had a dream of running my own business. I'm actually beginning my bicoastal life. I’m between NYC and LA a lot as we just launched ALCHEMIQ on the West Coast. That being said I reside either in Queens, NY or Pasadena, CA.
SN: Why did you choose to be a mixologist?
Igor: Once I noticed the craft cocktail movement which was somewhat new a decade ago I was very intrigued. I’ve always cooked a lot so I had an experience in developing flavors, however mixology was like a whole new world of flavors in a liquid form I previously had no clue it existed. I had a huge urge to learn the craft.
SN: You work on recipe development for brands such as Hakkasan, Macallan & Patron. How did you come about landing such high profile brands?
Igor: Hakkasan was one of the last places I worked at as a bartender. I’ve joined the opening team and couldn’t resist to throw some of my ideas on the cocktail menu. Patron has originally reached out to help them with their Ultimat Vodka. It didn’t take long before I started working with their entire portfolio. Some of my recipes are still on pamphlets of their bottles. Around that time I managed to book Google for a mixology showcase I did at YouTube offices and then many brands, including Macallan, reached out to collaborate.
SN: For those interested in mixology, what makes a good mixologist? How are you do you approach designing drinks?
Igor: First of all, there’s a lot of back and forth in the bartenders community if “mixologist” is just a fancy name for a bartender. I don’t think so. I think a bartender is there to tend a bar while a mixologist is a bartender who can design flavors and thrive to move the industry to the next level. A good mixologist should have a talent for matching flavors and then spend years developing their palate. The rest is in a creative thinking.
SN: What are some of your personal favorite seasonal cocktails?
Igor: I love the two most famous, Margarita and Mojito in the summer. I also often go for Caipirinha or Last Word. In the winter I’m happy with a Manhattan, Old Fashioned and a Negroni. Overall, I drink more beer and wine, though haha.
SN: What's the biggest mixology trend in your eyes right now?
Igor: In LA it is all about seasonal, farm-to-table ingredients. In NY it has always been about bringing an element of a surprise. I think it recently got a little bit over the top with mixologists using literally anything they can find as a cocktail vessel. I keep seeing drinks in plastic bags, bird cages, flower vases etc. Another, more interesting trend that’s been slowly evolving on both coasts are non-alcoholic cocktails. There are brands popping up offering craft non-alcoholic spirits and beverages. I’m curious to see what the industry will do with it next.
SN: What is the most unusual ingredient you've ever used or was asked to used?
Igor: I was once asked to muddle some Peking Duck into someone’s cocktail. I wasn’t thrilled, but the guy drunk it haha. The weirdest idea I had myself was infusing vodka with different types of scallops. I wanted to extract the specific type of sweetness scallop has. I succeeded with one particular type and made a pretty good passion fruit cocktail with it. I’ve never put it on a menu, though. I didn’t believe it would sell.
SN: Have you noticed any spirits getting more share attention than others? If so which ones and why?
Igor: Definitely. It usually happens because of a trend. Patron has started a tequila trend that continues to this day. I think the popularity of Mezcal was based on the same trend of agave-based spirits. Look at rums. For some reason rums are not trendy even though Mojito is worlds no. 1 cocktail. I believe rums will have its moment of fame, but someone needs to get the public interested. I don’t know how that happens. I guess we need someone famous make some rap songs about drinking rum haha.
SN: What's your secret weapon?
Igor: For me it’s about constant creativity. People need to see and experience new things all the time to stay interested in our services.
SN: You also have a passion for food as well?
Igor: Yes, the kitchen was where I started. I’ve been cooking since I was a little kid. I wanted to have food in my offering since day one, however I started the company as a cocktail catering business because I wasn’t ready for a full blown catering operation. Few years later I relaunched it with new branding and the current concept was born.
SN: You launched Alchemiq Catering which is a NYC based company that focuses on both one of a kind food trends and complimenting cocktails. Can you tell us how you came up with the name and what it means?
Igor: I wanted to tie “alchemy” to the name as it strongly represents cocktails and mixology. Polish word for “alchemist” is “alchemic”. I changed the “c” at the end into a “q” and ended up with “alchemiq”. We launched as the current concept in December 2014.
SN: Most of us has an understanding of what a mixologist does but how does alchemy play into this or make the art of drinks different?
Igor: The mystery behind alchemy translates well into the world of mixology. Most of people don’t know what is in all the liquor bottles mixologists work with. It is mysterious to them. Then they see the mixologist making delicious drinks using specific measurements. It indeed feels like an alchemy.
SN: You have gained a lot of high profile clients like Lamborghini and designer, Stella McCartney. Do you remember your first client for Alchemiq Catering and how did that first job go?
Igor: Yes, it was a small and cute holiday event for Jo Malone in West Village. We served spiced hot apple cider and organized a Christmas-themed food station.
SN: As you know, we have a lot of booch fans. When was the first time you had kombucha and what was that first experience like?
Igor: I actually don’t remember. It was at least 10 years ago. I loved it right away. I have an adventurous palette.
SN: I'm often intrigued how luck can be part of a person's success or story, did it have any role in your success?
Igor: I think when you work hard and always believe in the big picture you will attract some luck that will help you get there. I can’t think of particular situations, but I feel it’s always a mixture of talent, networking, business management and luck.
SN: For many of us that would love to follow your journey and story. How can we find you? Do you have an instagram or website we can look for?
See below for Igor’s Spiced Punch recipe. Of course we at Seek North had to add 10 oz of our Seek North Immunity kombucha to it and it was amazing!
SPICED FALL PUNCH
1 liter of Tequila
0.5 liter of Spiced White Wine Syrup*
0.5 liter of Fresh Lemon Juice
1 liter of Sparkling Water
4 large Rosemary Sprigs
10 oz Seek North Kombucha (Optional)
Garnish (per serving): Star Anise and Rosemary Sprig
Directions: Combine tequila with rosemary sprigs and lightly muddle it. Add syrup and lemon juice. Stir all ingredients together. Add ice to a shaker, fill it up with a mix and shake (this step will need to be repeated until the mix is finished). Strain trough a fine strainer to a punch bowl with an ice block. Gently stir in sparkling water. Garnish with rosemary sprigs and anise stars.
*Spiced White Wine Syrup: In a saucepan combine 16 oz. of dry white wine, 1 quart of sugar, 1 cup of diced ginger, 10 anise stars, 2 small cinnamon sticks, half of a nutmeg (grated), small handful of black peppercorns. Cover and bring it to boil. Momentarily reduce heat and simmer slowly for 10 minutes. Cool it down and strain it.