Joshua Anthony Campbell at Leyenda. Special thanks to Ivy Mix for styling and coaching support for Josh's first cocktail shoot.
At 25 Joshua Anthony Campbell is the youngest person on our line up of LGBTQ cocktail and spirit pros for the second annual Spirited Pride series in partnership with Campari America. When I sat down to chat with Joshua over Americanos at Dante on a sunny afternoon in early June, he was fresh off the boat from Buffalo by a matter of a couple weeks, and he'd already landed barback shifts at Leyenda and was hosting at Pouring Ribbons. We spoke about his start in the business, his love of rum cocktails, and the value of being focused and bold when going after opportunities.
JAC: I started out in Rochester at a restaurant called Revelry, and the same group owns Buffalo Proper in Buffalo, which is what brought me to Buffalo.
JR: What's the cocktail & food scene like in Buffalo?
JAC: It is very adventurous, it's a city that loves to drink, the cost of living is so low that people can afford to go out and drink every day, they have 4:00 am closing time, it's an amazing party city.
JR: So what's the average craft cocktail run you there?
JAC: Average is about ten bucks.
JR: Yeah, so that's a big difference from, say, here in NYC.
JAC: Prices are going up a little more with the evolution of craft cocktails there, and more expensive ingredients and more time consuming to produce, but capping out around twelve bucks.
JAC: Yes, it's great, a little bit goes and long way and it just takes up it a notch.
JR: So how did you come to move down to New York City?
JAC: Well, obviously the city is a hub for all things food and cocktail, it's at such a high level. I'm from the city originally so I'd be come down frequently to see family and friends, and make it a point to go to the great cocktail spots. So the things I was doing upstate were definitely insprired by people here like Ivy Mix, or Natasha David, all these great minds, and I've always been inspired by their individual styles and creativity. So moving down here to be more exposed to this level of creativity was always a draw, but considerations like cost of living made me think long and hard about it. But I had some personal changes, a relationship I was in ended, and I felt like I needed to make some decisions for myself. And I also realized, I'm at an age where I can afford to make a few mistakes. And I'm a bit of a gambler. So I'm rolled the die! I'm just really here to learn from these heroes that I look up to.
More after the jump, including the recipe for Josh's Black Rose...
JR: So how'd you land the gig at Leyenda, one of the hottest spots in the cocktail scene right now?
JAC: Well, honestly I just sent my resume in like everyone else. But I'm a bit of a hustler and at the end of the day I'm a hard worker. At Leyenda, I don't know how that worked out so well, exactly. I know when I came in to the bar a month or so ago I had some really great interactions with one of the bartenders Amanda Nuez, who's a really sassy Cuban chick from Miami, and I've spent a lot of time in Miami, so I just kind of hit it off with her. And I told her I was seriously considering moving here, and I was like, so what's it like trying to talk to Ivy, or Julie Reiner, and she's like, oh, they're really approachable, they're real people. And I'm like, what?! So, that influenced me to reach out, and literally that same day Ivy reached out and said, hey, we're actually looking for someone, can you be here tomorrow? And I said, yes! I was in Buffalo at that moment and I literally dropped everything to come down to Brooklyn the next day, worked a training shift, and that was it!
With Pouring Ribbons, I'd met Joaquin Simo at the Rocheseter Cocktail Revival –really great cocktail conference, and the cocktail scene in Rochester is killer. Joaquin was there for a seminar, I met him, told him I was thinking of moving to the city, told him my experience, he said to send my resume and be in touch, and now I'm hosting there.
JR:So you have a special affinity with the pan-Latin focus of Leyenda, right?
JAC: Very much so, I love what they are doing there. The last place I was head bartender at was a similar concept, place called Pasion in Buffalo, focus was highly on rum, with some tequila drinks too, strong South American and Carribean influences, as well as Spanish, with wines exclusively from Spain and South America, all organic or sustainable. So Leyenda feels like a seamless extension. And I love those fruity tropical drinks, and those are so popular now, so that's great for me. And Ivy and the whole cast there are doing amazing things there, the food, the vibe—so happy to be there.
JR: And finally, what are your plans for Pride? Will this be your first NYC Pride?
JAC: It's actually going to be my first Pride anywhere! I'll be working all weekend but will be getting out when I can to explore and experience this—I'm sure it'll be pretty epic.
Joshua shared one of his cocktail creations with us which he created while at Buffalo Proper.
“Based on the Jack Rose cocktail, the Black Rose uses Lux Alpina, the German green walnut liqueur, to bring a little bit of a mysterious nuttiness and added depth, the Campari brings the bitter and length to the drink, the syrup adds a sultry dark cinnamon note.”
Cinnamon Syrup: “Toast the cinnamon sticks in a saucepan for just a little bit, then steep them in a 1:1 simple syrup—raise the temperature but don't boil, let sit for about 20 minutes .”
Vanilla Peychaud's: "We infuse one vanilla bean into a few bottles of Peychaud's that has that nice anise note and the vanilla pairs well with it, giving the impression or illusion of sweetness without adding sugar."