Cocktail Club

Meet the beverage director for ‘a family of South End-centric restaurants’

Ryan Lotz shows us how to usher in 2023.

On Dec. 29, beverage director for Traveler Street Hospitality Ryan Lotz will be teaching us how to make champagne cocktails as part of the Boston.com Cocktail Club. Photo courtesy of Ryan Lotz

Ryan Lotz didn’t quite know that he would find himself in the beverage industry, but the bartending world seemed to choose him. While waiting on tables at what used to be Lineage Restaurant in Brookline, during college, he picked up a position behind the bar when the restaurant was in need. Chef-owner Jeremy Sewall later took him out for drinks and said this could be a new career path for him.

“I never intended to get into the beverage industry,” Lotz said. “I kind of fell into it. And I fell into it at the right place, at the right time.”

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Today, Lotz is the beverage director for Traveler Street Hospitality, “a family of South End-centric restaurants,” according to their website. The group operates coastal Italian restaurant Bar Mezzana, tropical bar and sushi spot Shore Leave, its hidden omakase sushi bar No Relation, and the American brasserie and raw bar Black Lamb. Lotz is also an operating partner at Shore Leave, known for its rum-based cocktail menu, which he directs. He describes parts of his journey, working at places like The Hawthorne and No. 9 Park, as “eye-opening” and like “a roller coaster.”

We caught up with Lotz in advance of his virtual event with Cocktail Club Thursday evening, during which he’ll be ringing in the new year with champagne cocktails. He’ll be showing us how to make the classic Champagne Julep and an elegant Jimmy Roosevelt Cocktail. Look below to read our Q&A with him, and learn about how the bartending scene continues to inspire him.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

What has it been like to work at Traveler Street Hospitality?

My role there is to oversee all of the bars and wine programs. Traveler Street Hospitality is a restaurant group that encompasses four concepts. We’re in three locations. We opened our first restaurant in 2016, which was Bar Mezzana, an Italian restaurant. I got my start there because I was working for the Barbara Lynch Gruppo [now the Barbara Lynch Collective], as the bar manager at No. 9 Park. The folks who owned the restaurant group were kind enough to ask me to come on board, because they all worked for the Barbara Lynch Gruppo as well, and we all liked working together. That’s kind of how I got my start with this group.

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… The unique thread between all of the spaces is that our goal is always to make very comfortable, neighborhood spots that people can go to and enjoy themselves, but then offer really delicious food and drinks that will bring people back, again and again. We offer a very unique take on warm, comfortable hospitality and gorgeous spaces.

What inspires the rum-based menu at Shore Leave?

The inspiration for Shore Leave being kind of a rum bar was something that I love. I love rum. It’s something that [host Jackson Cannon] and I have in common. It’s a spirit category that I love championing. I just think it’s really underrated and really misunderstood. It’s so vast and diverse, and it represents so many different really amazing cultures, food ways, and traditions. And it has a fraught history. I enjoy helping to steward the future of rum into the world. Because there really is no separating the history of rum from the history of enslavement and the slave trade. It’s a touchy topic to talk about that I have been learning to navigate over the years.

What do you think makes a great New Year’s drink, and what can you share about the cocktails you’ll be mixing Thursday?

When Jackson asked me to do New Year’s Eve, I knew he was going to be doing sparkling cocktails already, because that’s where people immediately go for New Year’s cocktails, and it’s easy to see why. Champagne has such a celebratory note to it. Just opening a bottle always feels like an occasion, whether it’s actually an occasion or not. When it is an occasion, and you get to break out the big guns and open the special bottles, it’s always really nice.

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Champagne and sparkling wine cocktails are everyone’s go-to. The other thing that I would say is a go-to of mine — the best way to entertain a crowd and make sure people can mingle and have fun and not have to worry about mixing themselves a drink, and the host of the party can not worry about having to mix drinks for people — is making big bowls of punch. And by that, I don’t mean sherbet with Sprite and vodka in it. I mean really classic, punch that you dote over when you make it. You carefully massage the sugar into citrus peels and dissolve that with something really delicious, and then add really nice alcohol and some sparkling wine. I think that can be the centerpiece of a great occasion and a great way to celebrate with friends.

The Champagne Julep is all Jackson. That one is his recipe. I do happen to love that cocktail. Juleps are underrated, as far as a category of drinks goes, in my opinion. Everyone knows the Mint Julep. But you can make a julep out of rum. You can make a julep out of champagne. You can make a julep out of sherry. It’s really just a nice way to highlight something that is tasty and delicious. The Champagne Julep is a really beautiful way to enjoy sparkling wine but have something that’s a little more interesting than just drinking a glass of wine all night.

… I was introduced to the [Jimmy Roosevelt Cocktail] by a friend of mine. It was not something that I discovered on my own. It was a couple of years ago now. It is just an embarrassment of a cocktail. You’re mixing cognac and chartreuse and champagne all together, these ingredients that are all very expensive and lavish. It’s a great occasion to mix all of these things together that you would probably never mix together for any other reason than New Year’s Eve.

If you were a cocktail, what would you be?

I would be a daiquiri. I think a daiquiri is just the perfect little pick-you-up. It’s a little bit acidic, tart, and bright, and depending on the different rum that you use, it can be light and refreshing or dark and brooding. It can be a little on the sweeter side or a little bit more on the tart side. Everyone has a different one, and I kind of love that about that drink. I think that would be me.


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