“I love making things that are delicious, but sound like they’re not gonna make sense,” says Michael Aredes, citing combinations like strawberry and gochujang, or coconut-matcha yogurt and whiskey.
It’s hardly surprising for someone who moved from Los Angeles to New York City with only $1,600 in his pocket and with no objective other than to try something new. “I had this imagery of New York being this amazing place where anything can happen,” recalls Aredes. The city did not disappoint. He took simultaneous serving jobs at a Mexican restaurant and a bakery; at the latter, he happened to serve Enrique Olvera, chef-founder of Mexico City’s Pujol. Olvera invited Aredes to interview for a position at Cosme, his famed Mexican restaurant in New York, before it opened. Though that didn’t lead to a job immediately, Aredes did land behind the bar at Cosme in 2017 after cutting his teeth at the Upper East Side location of Boqueria. In the years since, he’s contributed to some of the city’s most adventurous cocktail programs, like those at the progressive Korean restaurant Atoboy, the small producer–focused Nightmoves and the tropical-leaning West Village hangout Bandits.
Aredes is quick to point to the city’s influence on his own adventurous taste. “In New York, we have the ability to take risks that people [elsewhere] are sometimes afraid to,” he says. In this way, though his flavors are often pulled from his Mexican and Puerto Rican background or a particular cuisine, Aredes’ cocktails are quintessential New York cocktails. His Toki Berra, for example, draws inspiration from the Japanese Calpico soda in its combination of creamy coconut-matcha yogurt, yuzu, soda water and Japanese whisky. As Aredes summarizes, it’s “a drink that will make you question it on paper, then bring you to a happy place of refreshment and delight.”
What do you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago?
That you don’t have to deal with people tearing you down because you’re different than them—that is your greatest strength and you should always trust in it.
Weirdest drink request you’ve ever gotten:
A straight glass of pickle juice.
Best drink you’ve ever had:
Bel Air on the Cuba menu of Pouring Ribbons (RIP): Angel’s Envy Bourbon, red bean, Russell’s Reserve 6-Year Rye, toasted sesame–infused Jägermeister, vanilla–black pepper tincture.
Your favorite classic cocktail:
A Hemingway Daiquiri, because it can give me most everything I want in the moment.
Weirdest cocktail experiment you’ve ever attempted:
I was trying at one point to marry Persian tea with Korean yuzu/honey tea and I could NOT get the balance right.
The one thing you wish would disappear from drink lists forever:
Over- or under-description of what is in a beverage—just be as concise as necessary.