“I’m repeating a message that has very much been a message for the last three or four years,” says Sam Anderson. “It’s like, ‘Don’t take it so seriously, but take it seriously.’”
It’s a statement deeply indicative of Anderson’s personal drink-making style. As beverage director at NYC’s Mission Chinese Food, he’s earned a reputation for creating an ongoing roster of characteristically playful cocktails. Among them: his color-changing Mood Ring and the Moon Walker, a jet-black Margarita riff garnished with edible glitter.
But his drinks are often simpler than they appear (“I try to keep it to three-bottle pickups,” he says) and always carefully executed, owing in part to his old-school training; prior to landing at Mission Chinese, Anderson cut his teeth behind the bar at Freemans, served on the opening team at Hotel Delmano and eventually took over as beverage director at Salvation Taco.
So what does Anderson do when he’s not busy making drinks, or creating cocktail-driven installation art? And what’s the weirdest drink experiment he’s ever attempted? Here, Anderson tackles our Lookbook Questionnaire to warn about the dangers of a baijiu deep-dive, recount the first time he ever got drunk and share the one thing he wishes he’d known years ago. —Lizzie Munro
Beverage director at Mission Chinese NYC.
What do want to be when you grow up?
Surfer and winemaker in the Azores.
Best thing you ever drank:
It’s a toss-up: either a spilling-over cup of poorly mixed Gatorade at the 23rd mile of the NYC Marathon, or the bottle of Agrapart 7 Crus in the tub afterwards.
Worst thing you ever drank:
Deep-dive baijiu tasting in Chinatown.
First time you ever got drunk:
Finger of peppermint schnapps on a playground chased by grape gatorade. I was wearing a Magic Johnson Dream Team jersey. Fall of ’92.
If you had to listen to one album on loop for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Philip Glass, Metamorphosis series.
What’s the weirdest hobby you currently have or have had?
My 99-cent store obsession.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago?
That you can’t be a rookie twice.
Weirdest cocktail experiment you’ve ever attempted:
The fountains cocktail installation project I’ve been working on since last summer. I’ve found myself in the belly of 99-cent store basements rooting around in aisles of trash for a specific shade of jade-green cocktail glass, or found myself spray-painting hard-boiled eggs on a sidewalk, or arranging tropical flowers and sprouting coconuts in color-coded bands and thought, What the hell am I doing???
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not eating, drinking or drink-making?
Visiting art galleries, The Strand, matinees at IFC, cycling over bridges, Central Park jazz in summer, practicing yoga, the ocean. Oh, and long-distance running.
Weirdest drink request you’ve ever gotten:
Still waiting to be weirded out.
Your favorite bar, and why:
Hotel Delmano. It’s still my home after nearly 10 years in NYC, which is really all I want to feel if I’m going out to a bar.
Best meal you’ve ever had:
Noma was chill. But also, shout-out to Mama’s Fish House on the coast of Maui for a totally immersive, “never wanna leave” tropical experience.
What’s your go-to drink in a cocktail bar?
My cocktail-drinking alter-ego would order a mezcal Negroni. Fuck it, I might even order one of those.
Island wine! By which I mean wines that are pure, simple without lots of manipulation and are maybe coming from somewhere coastal or from remote islands that will transport me with a whiff. Shout outs to: Gabrio Bini, Frank Cornelissen, Los Bermejos, Frontón de Oro, Calabretta.
In a dive bar?
Whatever my brother is having.
Your preferred hangover recovery regime:
I don’t drink much, but if I do, I run 10 miles the next morning, preferably in blistering heat.
The one thing you wish would disappear from drink lists forever:
Trying too hard.
The last text message you sent:
“I love fog.”