Each month, as part of an ongoing portrait of rising talent in the bartending community, PUNCH hosts a resident bartender who has demonstrated a strong sense of personal style. In this installment, Nitecap’s Lauren Corriveau is taking over our bar, and debuting a custom menu of four original cocktails that we’ll serve throughout her month-long residency.
“It’s been a really fast and furious journey,” says Lauren Corriveau, whose zig-zagging path led her from the Finger Lakes to her current role as head bartender at New York’s beloved Nitecap.
Prior to taking up her post at the Lower East Side cocktail bar, Corriveau bartended her way through college. She graduated from fashion school with a degree in business management, which led to stints in retail operations and jewelry design, where the intention was to start her own line. “I realized I just didn’t vibe with that industry and the people that made it,” says Corriveau.
She made her return to bartending at Williamsburg’s now-shuttered Battery Harris, a beach-themed bar that Corriveau cites as pivotal in her career. It was there that, following the sudden loss of a beverage director, Corriveau convinced management to allow her to take a stab at the menu. “I had a Mr. Boston cocktail book,” she remembers, “and just sort of taught myself how to Mr. Potato Head things.”
From there, a position at Brooklyn’s Donna led to a more permanent gig at Nitecap, where, alongside owner Natasha David, Corriveau found a space that encouraged her highly visual approach to cocktails. “I’m always striving to invent things that people haven’t had before,” she explains. “There are a lot of bars in New York, and I really want to curate a very special experience for anyone that comes to a bar that I’m behind.”
Where most bartenders start with a classic build when constructing original cocktails, Corriveau’s jumping off point is often far more abstract, ranging from the image of a cherry blossom tree, which she translates into her Sakura Colada, or a walk through the forest, which manifests itself in the Douglas Fir-inflected Rites of Spring.
“Most of my inspiration comes from imagery,” explains Corriveau. But a common thread can also be found in the inherent whimsy in her repertoire: “They’re definitely always playful and have a sense of humor to them,” she says. “I just don’t really take myself too seriously.”
Here, get to know Corriveau in four drinks.
“The Crystal Visions for me was like pulling apart every piece of a white wine that I really love, highlighting all of those notes and recreating that,” says Corriveau. This crisp, white wine spritz gets a floral hit from St-Germain, while Salers and fennel liqueur counter with vegetal notes. The drink is finished with a cooling hit of eucalyptus extract.
“I knew I wanted to do a sweet and sour Daiquiri,” says Corriveau. To the expected rum, sweetener and lime, she adds a measure of Contratto Bitter and red pepper juice, to play off the vegetal notes that she picked up when first tasting the Brooklyn-made Owney’s rum. “I have this crazy sense of smell that actually ruins my life on a daily basis,” she says, “but when tasting, I always find really odd, hidden notes.” To juxtapose the red pepper, Corriveau adds a measure of raspberry syrup for a Daiquiri with notes of grilled fruit.
“Rites of Spring is a delicate Manhattan variation, inspired by the idea of having this solo, introspective walk through a beautiful crisp forest,” says Corriveau. To the woodiness of the rye base, she adds Douglas fir eau de vie to the floral notes of lemon verbena-infused bianco vermouth. Lastly, orange marmalade adds body, brightness and aromatics to the drink.
Inspired by a cherry blossom tree, Corriveau’s Sakura Colada marries the botanicals of gin and kirsch with coconut milk, vanilla syrup and a small measure of red bean paste. “The gin is… the blossom or petals, the coconut and vanilla are sort of like the sap of that flower and the red bean is the stalk,” explains Corriveau. “It’s bright and refreshing, just as much as it is decadent.”