TJ Lynch | Owner, Mother’s Ruin and Loverboy

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“I made this,” says T.J. Lynch, gesturing to an oversized, wooden muddler. (It is, more accurately, a repurposed French rolling pin that Lynch sawed in half.)

It’s clear that Lynch, who opened the Nolita dive-meets-cocktail bar Mother’s Ruin with Richard Knapp back in 2011, makes a habit of not taking himself—or his drinks—too seriously. When asked about his drink-making philosophy, he explains that “Everything’s up for interpretation,” and jokes, “You might not even get the same drink in the same kind of glass twice.”

But that playful approach belies serious know-how: After spending seven years working as a chef, including a stint as co-owner of Baltimore’s Red Maple restaurant, Lynch moved to New York, where he took up posts behind the bar at Highlands in the West Village and The Rusty Knot, working under Toby Maloney. Today, his seriousness behind the stick is exemplified by the ambitious menu at Mother’s Ruin, which changes daily, and the attention to which he pays to each drink and the ingredients that go into them. (On a recent Tuesday, he spent a few minutes lamenting the difficulties of sourcing top quality mint.) It’s a charge expected to carry over to his latest project, Loverboy, set to open in the spring of 2017. Asked what he has planned for the new bar, he offers a quip: “It’ll be a lot like this,” he says, gesturing to Mother’s Ruin. “But with pizza.”

So what does Lynch do when he’s not slinging drinks, or planning his next bar? Here, Lynch takes to our Lookbook Questionnaire to share his weirdest cocktail experiment, the worst thing he ever drank and his favorite bar in the world.

Current occupation:
Owner, Mother’s Ruin, Loverboy (opening this spring).

What do want to be when you grow up?
I decided at the age of 26 that I would never be an adult. I’ve managed to do a pretty good job up until having a baby, but I’m hoping to be a really silly dad to balance it out.

Best thing you ever drank:
That’s virtually impossible to answer! So many great beverages, enhanced by the location, company, etc. I did have a kick-ass madeira at Daniel last week. It was pretty epic.

Worst thing you ever drank:
What I thought was my beer, only to find a cigarette butt in it. 

First time you ever got drunk:
Uh, peach schnapps in my parents’ basement. Thanks for reminding me. 

If you had to listen to one album on loop for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Beastie Boys, Paul’s Boutique.

What’s the weirdest hobby you currently have or have had? 
Who has time for hobbies?!?! 

What do you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago?
That Zima would be making a comeback.

Weirdest cocktail experiment you’ve ever attempted:
We did a Thai red curry, rum and Campari slushy once at Mother’s. Surprisingly, it worked .

What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not eating, drinking or drink-making?
Sleep. I was going to say spend time with family on a beach as far away as possible, but they are the same thing, as beach naps are my favorite thing in the world.

Weirdest drink request you’ve ever gotten:
A woman asked me to make a White Russian with what she claimed was her breast milk, [which] she had in her purse.

Your favorite bar, and why:
Bar do Evori in Florianópolis, Brazil. They have ice cold beer, shrimp pastéis (turnovers) and are the nicest people you’ll find. Oh, and it’s a 70-year-old shack that’s on a perfect little beach where, when the tide comes in, it makes a river that you can float on to get back into town.

Best meal you’ve ever had:
Four way tie: Daniel, Marea, Mas (farmhouse), some nameless B & B in Tuscany when I was 22.  

What’s your go-to drink in a cocktail bar?

Wine bar?
Whatever, I like all wine… a lot.

In a dive bar?
Whatever’s coldest and a shot, obviously.

Your preferred hangover recovery regime:
Exercise, beer, pizza or wings, beer. In that order.

The one thing you wish would disappear from drink lists forever:
Any use of the word “craft.” 

The last text message you sent:
“Shit!!! How did you do that???”