Ryan Perry at Ladybird's.

Image: Lauro Rojas

After a two-month hiatus, Meet the Mixologist is back with a new roster of drink slingers eager to tell their stories. Kicking off 2019 is someone who started working at the Angelika Cinema and now competes at a world-class level. This is Ryan Perry.

Where are you currently working and how long have you been in the industry?

I’m currently at Ladybird’s and I’ve been in the industry going on seven years.

What got you into the industry?

I’ve always had a bit of the industry in me. One of my roommates in college was a bartender and I was envious of the camaraderie and lifestyle that he had with his co-workers and people he hung out with. I found myself unemployed; I was working in the arts and I was watching this TV show, Party Down, and it reminded me of how much fun I had doing industry stuff. I contacted a friend of mine that was managing a movie theatre and I went in wanting a job as a projectionist and he told me that they needed a bartender, and [he] asked me if I had any experience, to which I responded yes.

How did you discover mixology?

My exposure happened around 2011. It’s unconventional for most people but it was at a movie theater, so a lot of it was through movie-themed cocktails and there were no strict parameters besides don’t use the expensive stuff. So I took that as an opportunity to teach myself how to make nice drinks. Within the capacity of the movie theater people are in a line for their movies, so the execution has to be quick. Julep was where I was able to expand on that knowledge while working with a talented crew, and really was where I learned how to make traditional cocktails. At the theater a lot of it was reading up and making my own riffs on things and shooting from the hip, so to speak.

Have you been involved in any competitions?

I have been in a quite a few. When I was at the theater the first competition that I ever signed up for was Bombay Sapphire Most Imaginative Bartender. I felt that I had something to offer and it would be fun to see how I stacked up against other people. It was the first competition I had submitted for, and I got accepted for the Houston regionals. I participated in a few local things, but the thing I am most proud of is that this past year I made it to the National finals for World Class, which I did not expect to go far in. I hadn’t even planned on submitting but friends of mine gave me that extra nudge to try it. 

What would you say is an underrated cocktail?

The Sidecar. Not many people gravitate towards cognac or brandy anymore and that was one of the first cocktails I ever had. I read a book about vintage cocktails and that was one of them; I made it at the theater and I thought to myself that it was really good. Also brandy has a special place in my heart because I spent a lot of time with my great-grandparents who would always have a little bottle of Christian Bros. and, being a mischievous kid, I would try to sneak sips.  

When you’re off the clock where do you like to go?

If I want to get food I go to 13 Celsius. It’s super friendly, laid back, and I get the same food item every time. I’ll switch the wine up but I always get the España Panini. Before I started working here I would come to Ladybird’s when I would get off work because the staff here is great. I always have a great time at Houston Watch Co. and it's one of the places I will always direct people to.  

You're in an empty bar and you have three stools in front of you: Who are you pouring for and why?

Hunter S. Thompson would be a fun person; you’re going to have an interesting conversation and probably a late night. My aunt, who passed away, who was one of the funniest people I ever met. She never met a stranger in her life and was super personable and could get real wild without having to drink. Lastly, Dave Chappelle or Richard Pryor. It would be a trifecta of people that are definitely going to end up laughing, might set something on fire, and will definitely end up having a memorable time.

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