Llama Inn bartender Lynnette Marrero was a musical theatre performer for eight years before she realized she wanted to enter the hospitality realm. She had a strong start: In 2005 she kicked off her bartending career at Julie Reiner’s famed Flatiron Lounge, and just four years later was honored by the James Beard Foundation as one of America’s Leading Female Mixologists. “Walking into the Flatiron lounge was like being transported to the gilded age of cocktails,” she recalls. “Everyday I learned new drinks, and everyday I worked hard to move up to a bartending role.” In addition to co-founding the female bartending competition Speed Rack and running her own cocktail consulting company (DrinksAt6), she’s now heading up the cocktail program at Llama Inn, the Peruvian restaurant that hit Williamsburg this fall. Here, Marrero talks about her best drinking buddy, her next travel destination, and the fortified wine she keeps reaching for.
BoozeMenus: What went into the menu development for Llama Inn?
Lynnette Marrero: Jessica Gonzalez and I were seriously inspired by the wonderful flavors of Peru. Chef Erik tasted us on some amazing family recipes, including his chicha morada. His passion for food mirrored our passion for cocktails, so it was a natural partnership. The focus on Peruvian pisco, Peruvian ingredients, and sherry really gave us a great framework to work within, as well.
BM: What cocktail has your name and drinking style written all over it?
LM: The Electric Ladyland, with pisco, rose jam, lime juice, and Champagne!
BM: What’s the most recent cocktail to hit the menu, and what inspired it?
LM: The Aye Que Calor. I wanted a summer sipper with a little spice! It’s made of Panca pepper infused Pisco Porton, fino sherry, Ancho Reyes, lemon, and husk cherries.
BM: How is this project a departure from your work at other bars, and how might it be similar?
LM: I love working on projects with a clear direction. Llama Inn, like most of the bars and restaurant projects I have accepted, is very clear on its concept. I come in and give the cocktail program a voice.
BM: What has served as a favorite memory behind the stick here, so far?
LM: There have been too many to really count. I have had a very successful career and I get to be inspired daily by the new bartenders I work with. I also love getting to work with my mentor Julie Reiner. She graciously lends her time to Speed Rack, and it is an amazing thing for the women to get access to the knowledge she has.
BM: When’s the last time one of your cocktails was inspired by something beyond the food and drink world entirely?
LM: I have made some cocktails inspired by locations. I was lucky enough to guest bartend in Hong Kong at the Mo Bar, and I made a drink called the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. It’s a cool drink.
BM: Where’s somewhere you'd like to visit right this second, and what for?
LM: Japan! For sushi, sake, and whiskey.
BM: Who’s your favorite drinking buddy?
LM: My hubby! He is my favorite cocktail garnish. Every drink is better when he is around.
BM: What’s your go-to food and booze pairing there right now?
LM: Sherry, sherry, sherry — with almost anything.
By Nicole Schnitzler
(Photos from left: Interior by Douglas Lyle Thompson; Lynnette Marrero by Eric Medsker; Electric Lady Land cocktail by Douglas Lyle Thompson)