Natalie Bovis gets JobShadowed about her career. You can find Natalie at www.theliquidmuse.com and on her Twitter feed in the sidebar of the interview.
What do you do for a living?
I am a cocktail book author, mixology consultant (to beverage companies), educator, TV personality (I regularly do cocktail segments on various TV shows around the country), video series host / producer of “Inspired Sips with The Liquid Muse,” and host of a podcast show on iTunes called “One for the Road.” When I have time, I also blog.
How would you describe what you do?
I would describe it as “all-encompassing.” I not only make drinks for people but I talk at industry seminars, teach cocktail classes to consumers and bartenders, and write about spirits / mixology / people in the industry for my website and other publications. I also create new cocktail recipes for liquor companies and special events. I’m excited to announce that I’m also the co-creator of a brand new product called OM Cocktails – a pre-bottled organic cocktail. It is coming out this summer and its fantastic!
What does your work entail?
My work entails a certain level of understanding of flavor pairings and a lot of passion. Whether creating a new recipe or writing a new book, dedication and knowledge come into play. I am a professional mixologist and a professional writer, so both are equally important for The Liquid Muse.
What’s a typical work week like?
There is no “typical” in my world. And, that is why I love it. Some weeks I’m traveling to Europe or Australia to teach a seminar or go on a sponsored wine-tasting tour. Other weeks, I’m madly writing to catch up on magazine articles or a book deadline. Other weeks, I’m flying to Los Angeles to shoot a TV spot, and still other weeks, I hop behind the bar and whip up concoctions for consumers. I love the crazy and fun extremes of my work. I created my own job so I get to do a bit of everything I enjoy.
How did you get started?
Blogging. For no money. In 2006, the light bulb went off in my mind — “THIS is it! Mixology is my passion.” I didn’t know how I’d make money. I hoped to do some freelance writing. I had no idea it would grow as organically as it has.
What do you like about what you do?
I love gastronomy, and I see mixology as one part of the culinary sphere, along with wine, spirits, etc. Eating and drinking punctuates our most important events in life – weddings, funerals, graduations – whatever happens, food and drink are involved when families gather. I love helping people make those events the best they can be via great drinks (with and without alcohol).
What do you dislike?
Not everyone yet understands what mixology is… “the art and craft of the cocktail.” I would add to that definition that mixology is also the study of the history of spirits, wine and drinking culture. My goal is to make mixology both accessible and understood by as many people as possible!
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How do you make money/or how are you compensated?
I make the bulk of my money from my beverage consulting gigs which can be anything from appearing on TV or video as a sort of Brand Ambassador to being involved with high-profile events for product launches. I’ve done everything from national TV appearances to parties at the Playboy Mansion – so it can be both fun and pay well, at times.
Ironically, people think that a published author is rolling in money. I have 3 books out, and they are not the bulk of my income. After the writer is paid an “advance” by the publisher, he / she doesn’t see another penny in royalties until the publisher makes back that advance – which can take years!
How much money do Mixologists make?
This varies wildly, and brings up the definition of “mixologist.” A mixologist may be a bartender who is knowledgeable in classic cocktails, is passionate about the history, art and craft of the cocktail and spirits, and someone who understands flavor profiles enough to create balanced, well-crafted drinks. In that case, this kind of mixologist will get bartender’s wages + tips, which can be very lucrative! An established bartender / mixologist at a recognized mixology-focused cocktail bar can easily make $200- $400 (plus wages) in one shift.
A mixologist who does consulting gets paid per-project. If it is simply creating a signature cocktail, the mixologist can be paid anywhere from an average of $100 – $500 per recipe. Day rates to be involved with special events or media can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars per day, depending on how influential that person is in the industry.
One of the plum mixology jobs is as a Brand Ambassador, who can make up to 100,000 per year (plus travel, etc.). Obviously, those positions are quite competitive to land. Its not “drink and get paid.” A good Brand Ambassador requires experience, skill with both drinks and people, and the right “fit” for the particular brand’s image.
How much money did/do you make starting out?
None. I started as a cocktail blogger. I did it because I loved it. Pretty soon, my blog got noticed by the Washington Post. That blurb was read by an editor at Everyday with Rachael Ray, who then gave me my first paid writing gig – a couple hundred bucks to write a national article on Thanksgiving Cocktails! That lead to liquor companies noticing my work, and then they began contacting me to work on projects with them.
At first, I wasn’t sure what to charge or how to go about turning my passion into a business. Luckily, I got some good advice from friends with marketing jobs (such as: if the client says “yes” to your fee without blinking, ask for more next time). I believe that each opportunity begets the next, and I’m pretty good at building upon opportunities.
What education, schooling, or skills are needed to do this?
Beyond bartending, in order to be a true professional in my industry, a lot of self-education is necessary. Mixology is a very niche field within the world of food and beverage. Luckily, it is expanding quickly in the public eye. This means that in order to be good at what I do, I try to taste, read, experiment, share and study every reputable new product, publication or book pertaining to the field.
I also regularly attend seminars whenever they are available, and I did the prestigious 5-day BAR (Beverage Alcohol Resource) program offered annually in New York City by the “top dogs” in the liquor / mixology industry. It is expensive and grueling but the best way to measure one’s strengths and weaknesses!
What is most challenging about what you do?
My work is essentially freelance. So, like all small businesses, my biggest challenge is keeping a steady stream of clients. It can be very “feast or famine.”
What is most rewarding?
Everything! I think if you are a hospitality worker in any way (and a mixologist should have a strong background in the hospitality industry), you get a lot of satisfaction in seeing a guest happy. I love seeing a guest’s face light up when I make a special cocktail just for them. I love when students in my classes enter feeling intimidated by bartending but leave feeling empowered and excited to apply what they learned. I love when a client trusts me to represent their brand in the media, or feels my cocktail recipes celebrate their products. Of course, I literally teared up the first time I saw one of my books in print. It was so exciting. And – down to basics – my mom still saves every single magazine article I write or am mentioned in. That is very rewarding.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
A lot of people think that working in the liquor industry is just party, party, party. And, yes, there are a lot of parties – it’s a natural venue to present alcoholic beverages. But, don’t be fooled into thinking that acting like a drunken frat boy is the key to success. I don’t drink when I work. I take my profession very seriously. I believe that earning respect and acting like a professional is why my business has grown, and is taken seriously. Therefore, my biggest piece of advice would be that people not be drawn in by the glamorous, rock-star bartender image people associate with this field – but rather realize that it is a business. And, the most knowledgeable, hard-working professionals will rise to the top.
How much time off do you get/take?
I create my own schedule but whenever someone works for themselves, they work constantly. I never stop thinking about my business. I work on weekends. I get up at 6 am to do a conference call with someone in a different time zone. I’m often on a plane to somewhere to do something for several days of non-stop work. But, the beauty of working for myself is that between projects, I can give myself a few days “off” here and there. Or, if nothing is pressing on a particular day, I can take the morning off and go on a hike or hit a yoga class in the middle of the week. As long as I’m willing to work hard when I have to, I have the flexibility to enjoy some free time, too.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
I think that people don’t realize how much work goes into building a small business, in any field. It may seem glamorous to work in the field of cocktails – and it sometimes can be – but it’s also a job.
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
I see The Liquid Muse going further into media of all kinds. I want to reach more mixology-enthusiasts and give them the information and tools they need to be great home-entertainers and more creative bartenders.
What else would you like people to know about your job/career?
There is no bigger satisfaction that knowing that you creating something out of nothing. Seven years ago, The Liquid Muse didn’t exist. Now it’s been my vehicle to produce a blog, a video show, an iTunes show, three cocktail books, a multitude of TV appearances and radio interviews, and cocktail classes that reach out to both consumers and professionals. I sometimes think that it would be great to get a job working for a big liquor company, earn a fat monthly salary and a couple of weeks paid vacation per year, and not have all of the responsibility on my shoulders. But, after seven years of calling the proverbial “shots,” and knowing that win or lose, its all my creation, I’d probably feel that a steady job – even at an Executive level – would be a step down.