One big night inspired by Big Night—the 1996 drama-comedy following two brothers opening an Italian restaurant in New Jersey—convinced Shannon Mustipher that hospitality was her calling. When the Charleston-born bartender was just 19, she and a few friends organized and executed an elaborate dinner party inspired by the cult Stanley Tucci/Tony Shalhoub hit.
It was a huge success, and the experience, from top to bottom, set her on the path to her current position as the beverage director of Glady’s Caribbean in Brooklyn, a role she’s occupied since 2014. “There was a glowy vibe to the night,” says Mustipher. “I was hooked by the magic that exceptional service can bring about.”
Though her initial plan was to become a chef, “the bar won out in the end,” says Mustipher, who now splits her time between Glady’s and working as an independent spirits consultant with a strong focus on rum. “I love to tell the story of where a spirit comes from, and the places, people and culture around it,” she says.
She further conveys her passion for education through Women Leading Rum, a cane spirit-centric professional development organization she co-founded; and Women Who Tiki, a pop-up tropical cocktail series celebrating talented female bartenders across the country.
Mustipher’s next big project is Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails, which was released earlier this week. “This book is about flavor and ingredients first,” she says. “The intention is that the reader can take what they have learned and apply it to their own signature cocktails, feeling confident while they do so.”
So what does Mustipher do when she’s not teaching others about spirits? Here, she tackles our Lookbook Questionnaire to divulge the worst drink she’s ever had, her love of Radiohead and the one thing she wishes would disappear from drink lists forever. —Drew Lazor
Spirits educator and consultant.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Best thing you ever drank:
A Manhattan made with Kinahan’s LL Whiskey. It was made in Dublin, and the distillery shut down in 1919 so the spirit was at least 90 years old when I found the bottle.
Worst thing you ever drank:
A tap Zombie cocktail…with no discernible acid…or sugar (?????). I took two sips and switched to Budweiser to avoid any further disappointment.
First time you ever got drunk:
I don’t recall.
If you had to listen to one album on loop, for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Kid A. I listened to it incessantly for a year, so there’s a good chance that this one could keep me happily morose for a lifetime.
What’s the weirdest hobby you currently have or have had?
I collected insects in middle school. I especially got a kick out of collecting venomous and stinging insects, which was a bit dicey because I have an allergy to bee stings.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago?
Everything is OK, most of the time, even when it doesn’t appear that way.
Weirdest cocktail experiment you’ve ever attempted:
It wasn’t that weird, but the result was unlike anything I’d had before or since: rum infused with smoked duck fat that I used in a Salty Ginger variation. Laughably simple, but a head-turner nonetheless.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not eating, drinking or drink-making?
Reading. I’m voracious. Any moment I can steal away to get some new ideas, I am there.
Weirdest drink request you’ve ever gotten:
Puncheon Rum, neat. It’s a hair shy of Everclear—straight alcohol, liable to rob you of your sight.
Your favorite bar, and why:
Grand Army. Been a regular since they opened. It’s the rare bar that works for everything: day or night, alone or in a group, happy or not so much, sober or downright plastered—it is always thoroughly enjoyable.
Best meal you’ve ever had:
It was in South Africa … ostrich steak with a good glass of wine. There were sides but I don’t remember what they were. I was so into the ostrich I ate the whole thing. I never eat the whole anything!
What’s your go-to drink in a cocktail bar?
Bubbly, orange, combo of the two.
In a dive bar?
Miller High Life always does the trick. If it’s a pony, even better. Too cute and a practical way to avoid overindulging.
Your preferred hangover recovery regime:
Drink two seltzers for every alcoholic beverage and never have more than one cocktail in an evening. In other words, don’t end up with a hangover in the first place. When mistakes do happen, some kind of broth usually does the trick.
The one thing you wish would disappear from drink lists forever:
Chocolate Martinis. PLEASE. PLEASE. PLEASE!!!!!
The last text message you sent: