J U S T I N N O E L
Mixologist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Justin Noel believes in chasing your dreams while remaining adaptable. Easier said than done, right? We were excited to learn about Justin’s approach to business building and journey to becoming an owner and partner in multiple successful spirits brands, restaurants, and bars across the world.
Prior to his mixology days, Justin was a professional soccer player and spent his early career working in bars across Europe. After retiring from soccer, Justin decided he wanted to get back into the industry and continued to develop his trade, immersing himself in cocktail culture across Europe, Asia, and Australia. By the age of 29, he had opened his first cocktail bar, 1534 (which was nominated for “World’s Best New Cocktail Bar” by Tales of the Cocktail within just a year of its debut) and launched several liquor brands along the way.
Today, Justin runs Sweetwater Social and Bleecker Kitchen in NYC with his partners Tim Cooper and Shaun Rose and (in his spare time) serves as the Director of Trade Advocacy for London Essence Drinks Co. Equally as impressive as his professional achievements, Justin and his partners are passionate philanthropists who spend their time and resources on meaningful causes. Each month, they feature a new charity cocktail on their menu, and for the entire month of October, Justin’s Oliverlane Whiskey based “Check Yourself” is the featured cocktail! A portion of proceeds will be donated to 5 under 40, a foundation that provides services to young women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Read on to learn about Justin’s journey of starting his own business, tips for the at-home mixologist, and how he likes to enjoy Oliverlane.
What experience or part of your background has had the biggest influence on who you've become today?
Traveling around the world during my career. That exposure at a young age and seeing a variety of cultures, styles, and methodologies really opened my eyes to how diverse the craft can be. It taught me so much and also made me realize how lucky I was to have that experience. I now try to get the young bartenders I mentor to go abroad and learn how different cultures embrace drinking, cocktails, and food. My professional soccer background has also had a huge influence. To play at a high level, you have to have confidence and work ethic. The confidence in myself and work ethic were the driving factors in being able to invest the time and energy required to open a business.
What was the biggest challenge in starting your own business?
The biggest issue with starting my own business (and I assume any business) is having the courage to go for it. I think most people fear the unknown. Starting something on your own takes a lot of courage. The second thing is sticking to your concept or dream, but also being adaptable. You should always have a vision that you want to see come to life, but you also need to be aware that tweaks and changes can sometimes give your dream the best chance at success.
What’s your favorite cocktail ingredient?
My favorite cocktail ingredients right now are apertivos and vermouths. I am a huge fan of things that have massive amounts of depth and complexity and can be used in various ways. Apertivos and vermouths have a nice richness with spicy and herbal notes.
What’s a tip that you have for the novice, at-home mixologist?
Invest in some cocktail books and start reading them. Try out books from multiple authors and eras and see how the drinks have changed over time. Also practice using jiggers before just free pouring. Jiggers are like measuring cups and ensure that the cocktail turns out balanced and accurate.
What’s your favorite place to have a cocktail?
Paradiso in Barcelona and Salmon Guru in Madrid. The bars are run by two good friends of mine and exude European hospitality. At both bars, the cocktail is all about presentation. They want to curate one-of-a kind experiences for their guests, and their teams are just so happy to provide that experience. The drinks are works of art, both visually and in taste. The atmospheres are genuine and enjoyable, comfortable and fun, without the pretentiousness that can be common with some cocktail bars here in the U.S.
What's your favorite music to mix to?
I love mixing to anything upbeat and funky. Bartenders are all about the vibe and zone, and so when it's busy and the music is just right, it takes the bar's atmosphere and experience for guests to the next level. So, throw on some old school funk or Kygo, and let the music move you.
What’s your favorite way to enjoy Oliverlane?
Well, since I was lucky enough to get a taste from Ashley herself, I really enjoy Oliverlane neat. It’s so easy drinking and enjoyable. I also really enjoy it in this modified sour called Check Yourself (named for Breast Cancer Awareness month)! It’s a delicious, subtle herbal cocktail that plays well with the flavors in Oliverlane.
- 2oz Oliverlane Whiskey
- 0.75oz fresh lemon juice
- 0.5oz Otto Bergamot Liqueur
- 0.25oz honey
- dash of lavender and bitters
Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker minus the garnish. Add ice and shake. Strain into a glass over a large ice cube, then garnish.
For the month of October, a portion of proceeds from the Check Yourself cocktail will be donated to 5 under 40 - so make sure to stop by Sweetwater and grab a drink.
Cheers to you, Justin!