ICE Alumni with Beverage-Based Careers
These culinary and management grads specialize in cocktails, bar management and mixology-focused entrepreneurship.
Bar and cocktail culture continues to flourish, with new concepts and brands around the country focusing on innovative recipes and fresh ingredients. The culinary and management curricula at ICE offer foundational skills for opening a bar, becoming a consultant for bar programs or mixology concepts, or even crafting bar products like bottled cocktails or bitters to sell.
Michael Shain (Culinary, ‘10/Hospitality, ‘09) studied Hospitality & Hotel Management and Culinary Arts at ICE before launching his career with five years at Union Square Hospitality Group’s Blue Smoke. “There was a big beverage focus there, especially on beer and American whiskey,” he explained of his promotion to beverage manager. “I always had an interest in beverage and being there drove it home.
Michael moved to USHG’s first standalone bar concept, Porchlight, as the opening general manager, where he was involved in the beverage list curation and menu development. "We hired a really talented bar team to push the beverage vision forward and I became more focused on the overall operation,” he said of his four years at the Chelsea cocktail destination.
Today he’s directing operations across the country for Gin & Luck, the parent company of prominent New York City cocktail bar Death & Co. “I got connected with the Death & Co. proprietors and hit it off,” he said. “They were looking for a GM and it was a really cool new opportunity. They’re respected all over the world for what they’ve done in the cocktail industry.”
Death & Co. has been an East Village institution for 13 years, opened locations in Denver and Los Angeles, published two award-winning books on the subject and aims to be a destination for innovation. “We’ve honed the craft and there are Death & Co. modern classic drinks at bars all over the world,” Michael explained of his excitement to join a growing company.
“The management program helps you analyze and think through all the scenarios that come up in our world,” he said of his ICE education. “There’s a lot you can’t truly plan for, but the foundation and tools set me up and were truly beneficial.”
Michael described his career as an endless pursuit to learn as much as he possibly can. “Being a student is the most important thing to realize when you’re focusing on the beverage world and thinking about hospitality,” Michael said. “It’s a never-ending pursuit, there’s always something new to learn, there are always ingredients and techniques available.”
While enrolled in ICE’s Culinary Arts and Restaurant & Culinary Management programs, Anna Monaco (Culinary/Management, '07) discovered a similar interest in ongoing education. “Understanding individual ingredients made me a better chef,” she says. “Beverages were just another world of things to learn about.” Although she initially wanted to be a head chef, ICE opened her eyes to the idea of working front of house, which was solidified by a lecture in an afternoon management class. She ended up spending seven years with Union Square Hospitality Group, before taking a break from the food world. During this hiatus, she came up with the idea of starting a bitters company in Upstate New York.
In 2017, Anna founded Tonic & Tinctures Bitters Company to make bitters for use at home instead of marveling at a mixologist behind the bar shaking various tinctures into drinks. “Our goal is to use organic ingredients whenever possible and to not put anything chemical in our products,” she says, noting that the company doesn’t use food dye or glycerin in its bitters. “As a consumer, I’d rather my products be as natural as possible than look a specific way.” She offers five flavors: Alibi (citrus, aromatic), Pink Mist (smoked grapefruit), Napalm In The Morning (espresso), A Better Name Than Kamikaze (horseradish, ginger) and Fire In the Hole (poblano).
For Anna, going into the beverage world seemed like a natural step after attending ICE, where she learned to pay attention to the details of food preparation. “You need to understand the components [in beverage] the same way you do ingredients going into a cassoulet or a soup,” she says. “Bitters really excite me because it’s like the salt and pepper of the cocktail world … It’s a small addition that really can turn something drab and boring into an explosion of flavor.”
Explore a future in the bar and beverage sector in ICE's new Beverage Studies program.