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Master Mixologist: Matt Landes of Cocktail Academy and MIKE'S HARD LEMONADE

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After graduating from the University of Denver with a degree in Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management, Matt Landes joined the opening team of Montage Hotels & Resorts' new Beverly Hills property, taking on two exciting bar development projects: the hotel's Lobby Bar and the ultra exclusive scotch bar, 10 Pound. His time at Montage prepared him as General Manager for what is today's most exclusive member's club in Santa Monica, 41 Ocean, where he focused heavily on the bar experience.

Inspired by the overwhelming response from 41 Ocean members, Matt decided to dig in to the cocktail side of the industry and start Cocktail Academy. 41 Ocean also lead to Matt forming a partnership with Lead Bartenders Brandyn Tepper, Max Kestenbaum and Director of Membership Ana Moskus. The Cocktail Academy team was formed. With Cocktail Academy, Matt has dedicated his life to educating cocktail professionals, because he believes the success of a cocktail program is directly tied to the quality of education given to the team. Cocktail Academy has celebrated many successes with their amazing clients, both in execution and consulting. The plan for the future is to continue delivering personalized and memorable cocktail experiences.

When did you first become interested in the cocktail culture?

In 2011 while I was a food and beverage manager at the Montage Hotel Beverly Hills, I was put in the development team of 10 pound which set out to be the most exclusive Scotch bar in the world. At that time I only had a basic understanding of bartending, once being a server and managing bartenders. My interest was peaked in the interview processes while looking for our lead barman to head the program. We entered a gentleman who is now a close friend Nick Vituli who I ended up interviewing for 2 hours and was introduced to the whole history of world cocktail culture.

What innovations in mixology and bartending do you find fascinating?

Although I am now more of an advocate of simple is better, I do find the stripping of pectin's very fun, because drinks like bloody marry can be clear. This can be accomplished using safe chemicals or by using a centrifuge and spinning a liquid until there is separation of color and texture.

Why do you prefer making cocktails with Mike's Hard Lemonade?

I prefer making cocktails with Mike's hard lemonade, because drinks like the Tom Collins have really come back into fashioned and using Mike's allows me to eliminate two elements and one timely step. Mike's uses real lemon and not just the juice, but the oils from the skin as well making the lemon flavor incredibly fresh and bright and when mixed with real sugar and carbonated with tight bubbles all I have to do it pour it over ice with my favorite spirit and it delivers a happy customer every time.

What are some of your favorite infusions and how you like to use them in drinks.

My favorite infusion is taking a fun American Gin like Wilder from the Ventura Spirit Company and letting it sit overnight with loose leaf chamomile. The next day I have my own secret weapon for making unforgettable white negronis and sours.

Tell us about a few of your signature cocktails for summer and why they are distinctive.

One day we were putting together a summer aperitif cocktail menu for a client and were playing around with Mike's Hard Black Cherry Lemonade. We thought what would the classic "Americano" taste like subsisting out sweet vermouth and Mike's Black Cherry in place of club soda? Well the answer was amazing! We then called it the "Mike's Wet Hot Americano Summer" with the official specs being 1 oz Campari, 1 oz Blanc Vermouth, and 2 oz of Mike's Hard Black Cherry Lemonade.

A cocktail that I love for summer is one we came up with for a client who loves Mezcal and is deathly allergic to nuts. The original drink called for Orgeat that is an almond syrup we make in-house. Knowing we could not use real orgerat, we looked for a flavor and consistency that would be comparable and we decided to create a sweet corn syrup from cold pressing fresh grilled corn, Madagascar vanilla bean, orange flower water and sugar. With this new delicious concoction we went ahead and finished the rest of the cocktail. "Lust for Life" 1.5 oz of Mezcal, 0.5 oz Palo Cortado Sherry, 0.75 oz Fresh Pineapple Juice, 0.75 Fresh Lemon Juice 0.5 oz of our Sweet Corn Orgeat.

Give us your perfect pairing for a cocktail and a culinary selection.

A cold Mike's Hard Lemonade with the Soho House Guacamole and Taro Chips. The creamy salty and the bright and refreshing Mike's are perfect.

I also like to throw a half a shot of espresso into a dark rum old fashioned and enjoy that with a warm chocolate chip cookie.

Tell us a little about your company or restaurant.

Cocktail Academy is Los Angeles's premier cocktail catering company offing clients artistic personalized cocktail experiences on any scale. Whether you are hosting an intimate whiskey or tequila tasting at your home or activating your brand with thousands of guests we are a turnkey cocktail production services committed to delivering the highest possible cocktail experience.

For more information on Cocktail Academy, visit:

For more information on Mike's Hard Lemonade, visit:

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Matthew Landes

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