Native Angeleno Matt Landes founded Cocktail Academy with mixologist Brandyn Tepper in 2014 with the ambition to revolutionize the cocktail culture’s future. Now an industry leader in cocktail production, the company has a strong reputation of offering artistic, personalized cocktail experiences. From executing major campaigns for the Oscars to being the go-to Bar in a Box creator, Landes opened up all about Cocktail Academy to Angeleno.
Tell us more about your customized cocktail kits! Why do you think it has been such a success?
The idea was inspired by presentation boxes we had been hired to design for a molecular whiskey company. In the process of telling the brand story in a box for education and tasting purposes, we realized how powerful a storytelling tool that custom cocktail kits/boxes could be. I think they are such a success because of the element of surprise in the "unboxing experience," and then the curated placement of all elements feels so pampering for the recipient. We also make sure that, at the end of the day, all the cocktails are easy to make and delicious.
What is your creative process for developing a cocktail menu/experience for major events— whether that be for the Academy Awards, New Balance or any of your other high-profile clients?
I always ask "what is the story our client is trying to tell?" Then I get into Pinterest or old magazines and start getting inspired. My team and I also have a really clear understanding of the elements of any bar or drinking experience that can be personalized or modified to make each event more impactful. People drink with their eyes first, so we are constantly thinking what are they looking at from the drink out before they even take the first sip.
What about gifting experiences— is the approach similar?
It's the same thing! We are creating a bar-in-box experience, garnish containers, glassware, linens, menus, materials, textures, all with that same perspective of drinking with your eyes first. A drink always tastes better in the right environment. Think about a Piña Colada on a tropical island versus on your kitchen island.
Do you have a favorite activation Cocktail Academy has put on?
Probably former President Obama's 60th birthday from this past summer. Yes, because it was an honor of a lifetime, but really because Diageo (a long-standing partner of ours) trusted us with their incredible spirit portfolio to create five different cocktail experiences that were the centerpiece of the party. From Campfire Smores's Old Fashioneds to Tequila tastings and Tray-passed Bailey's Milkshakes— it's not everyday that Jay-Z and Beyonce are fighting for your milkshakes!
How do you plan to “raise the bar” this awards season?
I am going to get with our team and start talking about these amazing films, get inspired and try to do something that hasn't been done before. Like tray pass cocktails on tennis racket strings in honor of the film King Richard.
What is your favorite classic cocktail and why?
It's a tie between a Gimlet and an Old Fashioned because they are the base cocktails for some of the most exciting cocktail variations we all enjoy the most today.
New Year’s Eve is practically here! What is an across-the-board, crowd-pleaser cocktail perfect for a holiday party?
This year it's a sparkling margarita we call a Limonata. You use a reposado tequila like a Don Julio with lime, agave, dry sparkling wine and some fresh mint. It makes a great pitcher and punch— something to wow every guest. Recipe below!
2 oz Reposado Tequila
1 oz Lime
.5 oz Agave Syrup
3 oz Dry Sparkling Wine
Photography by: Scott Clark Photography; Courtesy Cocktail Academy; Igallegos