We sat down with Carla Rivera to chat about her work, low-ABV cocktails, and her drink for November’s That’s Amaro! Box, the Vino Labbra!
S&S: Is there an ingredient or technique you’re currently fascinated with?
CR: I like to cook, so I spend any spare time making syrups, shrubs, reductions, jams, and more. I like the idea of maximizing the use of an ingredient and stretching its yield by using it in different manners.
S&S: Do you have a specialty?
CR: I used to say my specialty was trouble in a glass. In that you couldn’t taste the alcohol in a cocktail but it was surely present in abundance. I don’t subscribe to this philosophy anymore. Now I am focused on quite the opposite and have been experimenting with low-ABV, mocktails, fauxtails . . . et cetera.
S&S: Can you tell us about how you got into low-ABV cocktails and what interests you about them in particular?
CR: I think there is a market for it, I think people want to be able to session drink and socialize and remain functional while doing so. If you’re taking shots of full-proof sprits half the night, you’re toast. Also, I love amaros, vermouths, aperitifs, digestives all of it, but . . . Honestly, I can drink a lot and this business makes it very easy to end up consuming multiple drinks a day, several times a week, and I noticed the negative effects on my health, so I made a change.
S&S: Do you have a favorite right now?
CR: A good old classic Aperol Spritz is great, but if the bartender is open to it, I will take any low-ABV creation they want to come up with.
S&S: Can you share any secrets with us about how to make a really good low-ABV drink?
CR: It’s the same as a regular cocktail. You just have to find the balance between the ingredients.
S&S: Is the Vino Labbra similar to or different from the drinks you usually create?
CR: All my creations are unique individuals in their own way. All layered with passion and sprinkled with a bit of whimsy.
S&S: What does the name mean?
CR: Vino Labbra translates literally to “Wine Lips.” The color of the cocktail emulates the stains on a woman’s lips after her third glass of wine. Vino Labbra is the mark of a carefree sensual creature who is a connoisseur of Dolce far Niente, “the sweetness of doing nothing.”
S&S: Is there any specific food you would recommend pairing with it?
CR: It can stand up to pretty much anything, but the cola on top makes me think of BBQ—something casual, a big juicy cheeseburger or some sausages, steaks and veggies on the grill. It’s reminiscent of the spring and summer so why not find a way to take yourself back there.
S&S: What music do you hope people are listening to as they mix and enjoy your cocktail at home?
CR: Whatever makes them boogie.
S&S: As the Director of Cocktail Development for SGWS South Florida, can you tell us a bit more about what that means and what your average day to day is like?
CR: I do everything from training our sales teams on spirits internally, to training bartenders and service staff on premise in spirits, cocktail development, and bartending 101, to best practices.
S&S: What do you do when you’re not working?
CR: I love to travel. I like to go to different places and take inspiration from what I see, smell, and taste. Eating good food, drinking good drinks, and spending time with friends and family is what it’s all about.
S&S: What’s your go-to drink order when trying out a new place?
CR: The most popular cocktail on the menu if they have one.