Master Mixologist: Michael De Mono of SWEET HOSPITALITY GROUP

Michael De Mono of SWEET HOSPITALITY GROUP

By: Feb. 23, 2024
Master Mixologist: Michael De Mono of SWEET HOSPITALITY GROUP
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Michael De Mono is the Director of Marketing and Business Affairs for Sweet Hospitality Group, the premier theater concessions and catering company in New York City. He came to SHG in 2008 with an eclectic background in theater, food and beverage, and customer service management (including six years in movie theater concessions management and five years at Actors’ Equity Association where he was National Director of Membership). Michael took the reins of SHG’s beverage program in 2012 and has since created hundreds of one-of-a-kind show-themed and seasonal event cocktails that have been featured by various media outlets. 

 

Today, he continues to craft and curate SHG’s menus of dynamic food and beverage offerings while also overseeing branding, communications, and design ensuring the look and voice of the brand are infused into everything SHG does. He also ensures all of this is done by the books by managing licensing, trademarks, proposals, and contracts. Michael enjoys exploring the bar and restaurant scene of new cities and consuming as much pop culture content to keep the references fresh for new drink names and designs.

We had the pleasure of interviewing Michael De Mono of Sweet Hospitality Group for our "Master Mixologist" feature.

When did you first become interested in the cocktail culture?

I’ve always had a passion for good food and beverage, but I really got into cocktail culture in 2012 when I took over the beverage program here at Sweet Hospitality Group. Over the years I’ve had so many opportunities to craft new drinks and experiment with endless themes and ingredients. We even compiled many of our recipes into a hardcover recipe book, Broadway By The Glass! It has been a fun journey through the years, observing trends in cocktail culture, as well as theater, and bringing them together!

What innovations in mixology and bartending do you find fascinating?

An essential business challenge for SHG has been how to expand and elevate our cocktail offerings at higher volume venues, while maintaining our signature speed and efficiency of service. The solution emerged in what we refer to as “batched mixology.” 

We weren’t willing to sacrifice great flavors and fresh ingredients, so part of the preparation for each new show is building a large-scale batch of each cocktail’s specialty ingredients. Finding the balance in a batched cocktail is crucial, but once this mixture is finalized, our bartenders can craft a cocktail as quickly as they would pour a juice or soda.

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

A popular ingredient that we incorporate into many of our drinks is elderflower, but my personal favorites are our herbal syrups, like basil, rosemary, and mint. These flavors may be surprising to see in cocktails, but I find that they add a level of complexity to what could otherwise be a simple drink. I consider these syrups my secret weapon for elevating a recipe!When you create a cocktail for a show, what are some of the elements you consider in the creative process?

When a new show comes into one of our venues, I review any and all information I can find. Scripts, song synopses, out-of-town reviews…I want to get a really strong sense of what the show is about and what the atmosphere in the theater will be.

Many of our cocktails are directly inspired by these findings, being named after characters or quotes, or even food and drink items mentioned in the show itself. Other times we’ll base a cocktail recipe on the season or locale in which it’s debuting, if that feels like a better fit.

Master Mixologist: Michael De Mono of SWEET HOSPITALITY GROUP

(Desert Bloom, Photo Credit: Peej Mele)

Tell us about a few of the cocktails you have created for recent shows.

One of my favorites is from one of our longest running shows, Aladdin’s The Desert Bloom. This drink holds a special place in my heart because it incorporates rose and cardamom, ingredients that can sometimes be overpowering, but in our recipe makes for a refreshing, pale pink cocktail, perfect for such a magical show.

The pop music at & Juliet was another fun challenge. Our Head in the Clouds cocktail is pulled from Ariana Grande’s Problem, and is a “heady” mix of gin, elderflower, lemon, and cucumber, finished with tonic for an effervescent kick.

When we began service at off-Broadway’s Titanique, we knew we had to embrace the humor of the show. Being a nautical show, we made our riff on a classic tiki cocktail with The Salty Seamen. Classic flavors like rum and tropical juices are mixed with Campari and a Salt and Pepper tincture to create a saucy cocktail that’s as savory as it is sweet.

Master Mixologist: Michael De Mono of SWEET HOSPITALITY GROUP

(& Juliet Cups, Photo Credit: Peej Mele)

What are some of the upcoming shows and cocktails we can look forward to?

Right now I am working on Uncle Vanya, and Titanic at Encores!  Part of what makes planning these menus fun season after season is seeing how patrons respond to our current drinks, and building recipes they may want to try next. New York City Center is one of our venues that audiences return to over and over again, and I want to always make sure they have a new and exciting cocktail to experience.

Why do you think that cocktail and show pairings have been so successful in NYC?

One of the best parts about what we do is that we get to be a part of the show, and our themed menus and displays are our way of amping that up. From the moment an audience member enters the lobby, we want them to get wrapped up in the atmosphere of the piece they are about to see.

Also, people love a theme! A person can walk into any bar or restaurant and order their “usual,” but we want to give everyone the opportunity to enjoy a special night out. Take a chance on one of our cocktails, or even confer with one of our sensational bartenders to make sure you get something that will make your night perfect!

 

Tell us a little about your company.

Sweet Hospitality Group has been shaking things up on Broadway and beyond for over 38 years, born in 1986 by Julie Rose with a vision to elevate theater bars by introducing a yet-to-be-seen array of sweets, savories and beverages. SHG has innovated concepts like Featured Show Cocktails and Souvenir Show cups that are now staples at theaters across the country. 

From top shelf spirits to an extensive wine list, to show-themed craft cocktails. From our custom intermission™ brand snacks to local baked goods, to souvenir show cups. Our innovative offerings and striking bar displays stir the excitement.

We are deeply committed to customer service. We were founded on the idea of making theater bar service more exciting and welcoming to theatergoers.

Our smiling, engaging and energetic staff pour on the charm. We serve not only drinks, but also style, charisma and a healthy dash of dramatic flair at every performance.

Simply put, our bars are A Dramatic Departure from Ordinary.

To learn more about Sweet Hospitality Group, please visit: www.sweethospitalitygroup.com.  You can follow Sweet Hospitality Group on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/sweethospitalitygroup/ and on Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/company/sweet-hospitality-group/

Photo Credit: Lead Photo, Michael De Mono's headshot provided by Sweet Hospitality Group



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