Though Lynn grew up around spirits, she didn’t always picture herself going into the industry as a career. Not only was it incredibly difficult for women to break into the spirits world 30 years ago, but Lynn pictured herself entertaining people from the stage, not from behind a bar.
However, as she started bartending, Lynn discovered she could channel her creative energy into crafting specialty cocktails—and that she had a natural talent for it. Instead of memorizing lines, she began learning spirits: teaching classes, cultivating her palate and growing her love of the industry.
Now, as the national spirits specialist and portfolio mixologist for Heaven Hill Distillery, Lynn spends her days educating and creating, working with our entire portfolio of spirits. She’s our go-to cocktail expert and a master entertainer, so she sat down to answer some of your most-asked questions about mixing drinks, hosting an event and more.
Q: WHAT ARE SOME EASY COCKTAILS THAT CAN BE PREMADE AND SERVED ON-DEMAND?
My go-to is a punch variation since they only require a few ingredients and can be made as early as the day ahead. They can be boozy, bubbly or low proof; you just need some combination of spirit, sugar, acid, spice and water. One of my favorites is a pomegranate spiced punch. To make this one, mix 2 parts Rittenhouse Rye Whisky, 1 part PAMA pomegranate liqueur, ½ parts simple syrup, ½ parts lemon juice and 2 parts brewed chai. Before serving, add 1 part ice water.
And if you want to take your punch presentation to the next level, use water balloons! Fill and freeze them, then use the ice in your punch bowl. It’s easy to execute and quite elegant.
Q: CAN YOU RECOMMEND A WHISKEY COCKTAIL THAT’S BOTH SWEET AND BALANCED?
Nothing beats the classic Old Fashioned. It’s the quintessential cocktail. You can tweak the sweetness level to your preference and experiment with different sweeteners. The traditional method is simple syrup, but other sweeteners like maple syrup, sorghum, molasses or fruit syrups allow you to bring in unique flavors while maintaining a balanced drink.
Q: WHAT SNACKS OR FOOD PAIRS BEST WITH BOURBON COCKTAILS?
I feel like everything pairs well with Bourbon. However, go-to’s when hosting a party are rich dried cheeses, nuts, charcuterie, chocolate, smoked meats, smoked fish and savory crackers.
Q: WHAT ARE SOME EASY COCKTAILS TO TRY? WE’RE USED TO DRINKING NEAT.
If you’re used to drinking Whiskey neat, then keep the cocktails classic. Personally I love a great Manhattan or Boulevardier. With these drinks it is important to stir and not shake, since shaking will over-dilute the cocktail.
My recipe for a Manhattan is 2 parts Whiskey, 1 part sweet vermouth and aromatic bitters.
My go-to recipe for a Boulevardier is 1 ½ oz. Whiskey, ¾ oz. sweet vermouth, ¾ oz Campari.
On the lighter side, I recommend a Whiskey Sour. Try this recipe: 2 oz. Whiskey, ½ oz. lemon juice, ½ oz. simple syrup, 3 dashes of aromatic bitters and 1 egg white (optional).
Q: DO EGG WHITES CHANGE WHISKEY SOURS ENOUGH FOR ME TO USE THEM?
Egg whites act as an emulsifier. They will not drastically change the flavor, but they create a better cocktail because they add texture and mouthfeel and keep the ingredients from separating. It’s much like how eggs work when making a Caesar Dressing: the egg keeps the oil and vinegar from separating. If you don’t want to use real egg whites, there are substitutes available, like Fee Foam or Aquafaba. However, for myself there’s nothing like the classic way of making a sour.
Q: WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE MELLOW CORN COCKTAIL?
One of my favorite Whiskeys in the portfolio! Mellow Corn is a one of a kind spirit. I have had it in Boilermaker, a Paloma and Old Fashioned. However, my favorite is a cocktail that I created called the Moby. 1 oz. Mellow Corn, 1 oz. Hpnotiq, ½ oz. lemon juice, ¼ oz. simple syrup, 2 oz. hard apple cider. Combine all ingredients together except cider. Add ice and shake, then serve tall in a Collins glass. Float hard cider on top (I recommend Ace) and garnish with a lemon wheel.
Q: WHAT ARE SOME BOURBONS I CAN HAVE ON HAND THAT WILL SATISFY BOTH NEW AND EXPERIENCED BOURBON FANS?
Larceny is a phenomenal Bourbon for new and experienced fans. It’s a Wheated Bourbon, which means the secondary flavoring grain is wheat. It’s sweet and nutty with a touch of honey, citrus and great vanilla notes. That describes Larceny to a tee. At 92 proof the alcohol is nicely constrained; it stands up on its own but also mixes quite well. I love it in a Paper Plane or Whiskey Sour, though it also lends itself to many cocktails with fruit flavors. If you have a more experienced enjoyer of Bourbon, I recommend the Larceny Barrel Proof. It’s released three times a year and each expression has consistently been an amazing experience.
Q: HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHAT COCKTAILS TO MAKE FOR AN EVENT?
I first get a feel for the event. Is it a holiday, festival, birthday, wedding or casual gathering? Knowing how many will attend is key, and understanding the experience level of those attending is crucial. For example, at festivals I can expect large crowds and many are novice Bourbon drinkers. So I go with a crowd pleaser cocktail and something that is super easy to replicate at home.
If it’s a holiday I draw inspiration from the traditional flavors of the season. If it is something specific like a birthday or wedding, I look to the guest of honor for inspiration. Find out what their preferences are and create a cocktail around that. However, for events I do stick close to the classics like Whiskey Sours, Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, and I tweak those recipes.
Q: THIS IS MY FIRST TIME HOSTING A COCKTAIL EVENT AT MY PLACE. WHAT TOOLS OR OTHER ITEMS SHOULD I MAKE SURE TO HAVE ON-HAND FOR MY GUESTS?
Make sure you have a designated space to craft your cocktails. Ice is key, so have plenty on hand. If you’re serving individual cocktails, I personally suggest 1 lb. per person. Ice melts, and you need ice for mixing and for serving. And don’t forget a dump bucket for discarding spent ice!
Spirit-wise have a great Bourbon, Rye, gin, vodka and tequila on-hand.
Also consider the essential tools to keep handy: jigger, mixing glass, mixing tins, bar spoon, citrus peeler, cutting board, knife and a hawthorne strainer.
I think ingredient-wise it is important to have a variety of bitters and mixers on hand. I love Fever Tree—they have a vast range of mixers available and are all delish. Have lemon juice and lime juice ready, and an assortment of aromatic bitters, too. For spirited mixers a potable bitter like Campari is key, along with dry vermouth, sweet vermouth, dry curacao and well-made liqueurs.
Q: WHAT IS THE #1 THING I CAN DO TO UPGRADE THE EXPERIENCE WHEN I’M HOSTING A GROUP?
Remember that this is fun. So make it experiential. I like to set up a cocktail making section with a menu of recipes and instructions and let my guests have at it. Everyone loves to share their twist or take on the drink! Maybe also have a cocktail book or two at the station so that people can be inspired to get a little adventurous.