On Monday we posted about our visit to Hollywood's Hard Rock Cafe to taste their new cocktails and burger pairing. While we were there, we learned that the master mixologist behind the drinks on our menu, and on every Hard Rock Cafe menu around the world, are created by the talented Cindy Busi. We put together a few questions for her and here is what she had to say!
This Girl: When you're creating a batch of original cocktails, where do you draw your inspiration from? The food? Seasonal fruits and herbs? The season?
Cindy Busi: I find inspiration everywhere I go! For Hard Rock, we are always staying ahead of trends and looking for ways to meet our guests’ changing needs. We research beverage trends country by country and use fresh, quality ingredients in all of our drinks. We also like to take risks on serving beverages in unique vessels, such as the new mason jar cocktails, which are perfect for Hard Rock guests to enjoy during the summer months.
TG: How long were you a bartender before you came the master mixologist for Hard Rock Cafe, and how did your experience behind the bar prepare you for your current position?
CB: I got my start in mixology while living in the Caribbean and Mexico. My husband has an unbelievable pallet and passion for beverages and began introducing me to the world of different and unique flavor combinations. I started experimenting with everything from sweet to savory, and traveled extensively to expand my knowledge of cocktail creation. Prior to joining Hard Rock, I gained experience as the Beverage Manager for Darden Restaurant Group’s Smokey Bones BBQ and assisted with bar designs, developing bar training programs, beverage development and promotions.
All of this prepared me for the position I have been in with Hard Rock for the past 12 years. Now, as Worldwide Beverage Director for Hard Rock International, I oversee all aspects of the brand’s worldwide beverage development, including beverage standards, inventory/cost control systems, sales and marketing, innovative promotions and partnerships. I am so lucky to do what I love every day with such an amazing brand like Hard Rock!
One of the most important things I have learned is to never be complacent. I am always experimenting and trying new ideas no matter how crazy they seem. I want to keep Hard Rock on the mental shelf of every guest around the world by staying creative and ahead of trends. I also think it is important to be collaborative, so I spend time sharing my ideas with our BARocker staff, and they love to expand on those ideas. This process keeps them engaged in our bar business and makes my job more fun!
TG: We love the mason jar cocktails. Which is your favorite?
CB: I like the Back Porch Tea cocktail featuring BACARDI Superior Rum, Bombay Sapphire Gin, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, iced tea, made-from-scratch lemonade, muddled basil and mint with a hint of Monin Cucumber. All the new mason jar cocktails are refreshing and showcase unique flavors, making them the perfect way to beat the summer heat! Our adult guests should visit their local Hard Rock Cafe on Hollywood Blvd. or at Universal CityWalk to find their favorite!
TG: When you're not working, what are you sipping?
CB: I’ve been working with beverages for so long, it’s hard to pick a favorite! But recently, I’ve been enjoying gin a lot more lately. I have always had a pallet for it, but it used to be a simple gin & tonic. Gin cocktails are getting more creative with the introduction of great flavor trends, unique ice and fresh herbs and fruit. However, I have to admit rum is my go to spirit. I always say if I was stranded on an island and could only pick one spirit to drink, hands down, it would be rum because it is so versatile and really takes me back to the beginning of my mixology days.
TG: What career advice can you give to women who aspire to become beverage directors like you one day?
CB: I am definitely extremely lucky to work in an industry that I’m passionate about with such a unique company like Hard Rock that encourages me to innovate every day. My best advice to other women aspiring to become a beverage director or master mixologist is to always be constantly innovative! Make drinks your own and be willing to take risks. I can tell you for every award I’ve won for the cocktails I’ve created, there were hundreds more that didn’t work. Trust your instincts and be positive about your ability to make amazing cocktails--then share them with the world!
To taste Ms. Busi's creations, click here to find a Hard Rock Cafe near you.