K A T I E R U E
Katie Rue, Founder & Owner of Reception Bar, left her job as a successful options trader to pursue her dreams of creating an intimate cocktail lounge in New York City that would bring her Korean heritage to the foreground. We instantly felt a connection to Katie, and after learning more of her story, were completely inspired by her “no rules” approach to starting her own business and creating one-of-a-kind cocktails. When asked what had the biggest influence on who she has become today, Katie shared something many first-generation Asian Americans can relate to. “I'm just really blessed to be in America at a time where I have the luxury to explore my identity as a Korean-American. My grandparents' and parents' generations had to work to assimilate and survive. Luckily, they still kept our Korean culture very much alive, especially through food. My generation can do anything! So it's my privilege and responsibility to be here at a time where I can figure out what it means to be a descendant of Korean immigrants, and celebrate it with Reception Bar.” Katie came from a world far from the food and beverage industry and started as an at-home mixologist. With a passion for mixology and an appreciation for chemistry, she began experimenting with cocktails and non-alcoholic elixirs inspired by her childhood memories. After years of experimentation, a dinner party series, and collaboration with esteemed Beverage Director Sergio Dimoff (formerly of Four Seasons, Soho House and MADE Hotel), Katie meticulously crafted Reception Bar’s menu of beautifully balanced cocktails. We sat down with Katie to learn about her favorite ingredients, tips for the at-home mixologist, and how she likes to enjoy Oliverlane.
How did you become interested in mixology?
When I first moved to New York, the speakeasy scene was trending with "speakeasy" being synonymous with good or interesting cocktails. Up until that point, I thought only food could have depth, texture and layers, while a good cocktail only needed balance. Seeing first-hand what these mixologists could do really opened my eyes to what a cocktail could be.
What's something that you're most proud of?
Opening Reception Bar and all the great responses we've had! I'm not professionally from the food industry so when a chef or mixologist comes in and compliments my drinks, it's really validating and special for me.
Do you feel like any specific part of your background or previous experiences helped you in starting Reception Bar?
I'm not a networker by nature, but just by living in New York for so many years, you make such a huge variety of friends. Reception Bar would not be possible without the help of my friends. Eldar Shahar, a manager of restaurants I frequent, donated his time, expertise and consultation on my business plan and operations. Ulysses Vidal from Employees Only spent time reading my recipes and trying my drinks when I was still experimenting in my kitchen. He also connected me with my Beverage Director, Sergio Dimoff, who is now my right-hand man and good friend. Finally, Miran Jang, a Korean-American architect, and Michal Skiba, a talented builder and furniture designer, helped give my concept a physical form.
What’s your favorite cocktail ingredient right now?
We have Korean pear shrub that we make at Reception. It's so refreshing, and it keeps the juicy, crisp essence of a Korean pear.
What’s a tip that you have for the novice, at-home mixologist?
Skip the premade juices, and juice at home! Get inspired by what's in season at the grocery store. And if you're juicing citrus, don't forget to strain before use.
What’s your favorite place to have a cocktail?
Angel's Share in New York – I loved the earlier iteration of their menu that came with a little backstory on how they came up with each drink or what memory inspired it. They've since removed that portion, but the drinks are still amazing! Mack the Knife is a great balance of spices, and I can never get enough of the plum salt rim on the Flirtibird.
What would we find you doing when you're not working?
Cooking, eating, drinking and playing some Nintendo Switch.
What's your favorite music to mix to?
Disco with an electronic twist, and anything by Peggy Gou.
What's your favorite way to enjoy Oliverlane?
Oliverlane is such an interesting whiskey. It's smooth, clean and refreshing but also has some of the warm notes found in traditional whiskey. It's great on-the-rocks, but it's also begging to be made into a whiskey sour. Here is our play on a whiskey sour with a Californian Korean twist:
- 3 oz Oliverlane Whiskey
- 1/2 oz lemon
- 2 dashes eucalyptus bitters
- 1 tsp (2 bar spoons) yuja honey
- Egg white
Add ingredients to a shaker and dry shake. Then add ice and shake to chill. Double strain into a coupe glass, and garnish with a toothpick design of angostura and eucalyptus bitters (5 drops each).
Cheers to you, Katie!