Q&A with Mixology Mastermind Kim Haasarud

Madison RutherfordFebruary 16, 2021
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James Beard-honored mixologist Kim Haasarud has worked with hundreds of liquor brands, restaurants and hotels to create one-of-a-kind cocktail programs across the globe. She established her beverage consulting company, Liquid Architecture, nearly two decades ago and recently created The Cocktail Collaborative (nicknamed “The Lab”), a Phoenix-based nonprofit that serves as a space for budding beverage professionals to hone their mixology skills.

Now, she’s helming a homegrown hospitality concept in the heart of Phoenix, with an emphasis on “grown” – her newest endeavor is a “garden-to-glass” cocktail space aptly named Garden Bar.

Garden Bar is currently a delivery-only experience offering cocktail kits – including a chai old fashioned and honey lavender highball – and grazing boxes featuring locally sourced goodies brought right to your door. Once renovations are complete, drinks inspired by seasonal ingredients, artisanal spirits and sustainable practices will be served in a beautiful Downtown bungalow.

Intrigued by the newly harvested idea, we sat down with Haasarud to get the scoop on the accessible cocktail concept, her love affair with natural honey and what (and who) inspires her.

We’re familiar with farm-to-table, but Garden Bar is “garden-to-glass.” Explain this concept and what patrons can expect from it.
It’s always been my philosophy in making drinks to celebrate the ingredient, much like chefs do.  So, taking garden-fresh ingredients and making that a central focus in the cocktail program is what garden-to-glass is all about. I’ll be using tons of herbs, florals and seasonal fruits and veggies throughout the program.

What was your biggest source of inspiration when creating the Garden Bar concept?
I have so many! Mainly, I’m taking some of my philosophies that I’ve always carried into my cocktails into a brick and mortar space. This bar will be the antithesis of the dark lounge feel that so many bars have and will be light, airy with lots of greenery. I’m big on how a space feels and I want people to feel like they are coming to our home and hanging out in a garden. I also want to take some of the intimidation out of cocktails and give people drinks that they can easily understand and be super delicious.

Which also leads me to The Cocktail Collaborative, our nonprofit initiative. In addition to the Garden Bar (which will be open three nights a week plus Sunday), the space will also be used as a workspace for beverage professionals and for educational purposes, with classes and demos on everything from honey to gin to canning classes – that anyone can attend and sign up for.

You offer kits so tipplers can make their own cocktails at home. Describe the process of breaking down these drinks to be approachable for novice mixologists.
Yes!  One of my strengths is being able to talk layman’s terms when it comes to having the general population understand cocktails and how to make them. I want to make it as simple and approachable as possible, but still be super fresh and delicious. Our cocktail kits are meant to be consumed over a weekend, so each kit makes six to eight cocktails. We include video instructions on our website (or accessible by a QR code also found on the mixer labels) to go through step by step on how to make them. The goal being, giving those folks at home some easy peasy instructions to make a great cocktail at home.

You are especially excited about using honey in your creations. What drew you toward this particular ingredient?
I’m a huge honey fan. I used to think of honey as just a sweetening ingredient. But, when I started playing around with various honey varietals, that opened up Pandora’s box for me and I started to understand just how nuanced and complex honeys can be. They can range in flavor from floral, like orange blossom, to grassy to chocolatey to funky. I plan on doing some honey tasting classes and incorporating it all over my menu with various varietals as well as using honey pollen, royal jelly and honeycomb! Honey also plays such a critical role in agriculture.

You also offer a “grazing box” featuring items from local purveyors. Why is including local fare with your cocktails important to you?
Whenever it’s possible, we will use local ingredients. I think it’s important to support the local community and businesses as much as possible, especially in a time facing a global pandemic that has affected businesses so much. It’s good just to keep and maintain those local connections. But, just as important, usually, local ingredients mean fresher ingredients. Just for starters, we’re using Terri Nacke’s sugars for our Bubbles & Botanicals cocktail kits, local jams, chocolate (from Stonegrindz), flatbread from Tala Bakery, etc.

In what ways is Garden Bar similar to the work you’ve done with Liquid Architecture and your other endeavors in the mixology world? How does it differ?
I’ve had my consultancy for 20 years now and I’ve learned a lot. One thing that’s been important to me and a mantra is keeping it fresh and teaching others, whether it’s a bartender or enthusiast, about spirits and how to make good drinks. This concept allows me to continue my work with Liquid Architecture, and consulting with various companies, restaurant groups and hotels, but also keep my feet grounded in that one-on-one connection with guests and hospitality. It’s really a good marriage between both of those things.

What is one obstacle you’ve had to overcome when developing Garden Bar? How did you overcome it?
Going through this process has been a great lesson in local government and civics. We purchased this house several years ago not realizing the hoops and red tape we would have to go through in the permitting process. That’s been a big one, but one I’m grateful for because it’s allowed us to do more community outreach and ultimately become a local neighborhood bar.

Leave us with a great piece of advice you received recently.
I heard this quote from Maya Angelou and it’s stuck with me in how I relate to people, how I want to be as a leader and how I approach hospitality: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”