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Bite or Beverage? Meet Vegas-Based Cocktail Creationist Jo Twiford

Feb 14, 2020  ·  5 min read

Something is stirring in Queenstown. ‘Blurred Lines’ is shaking up the dinner and drinks scene this weekend, with an edible cocktail degustation on 15 February that’s anything but typical.

While both shaking and stirring are non-negotiable in the cocktail world, the evening will also involve ballooned cheese, chocolate liqueur foam and green fairy dust – all inventive techniques developed by Vegas-based cocktail creationist Johanna Twiford and our very own Reds team, in the name of blurring the lines between bites and beverages.

A former Reds bartender, Jo can now be found practicing her mixology masterminding behind the bar at Laundry Room in Las Vegas, a reservation-only speakeasy sufficiently hidden in the back of another popular bar. To give you a sense of her epic skill set that’s temporarily returning to Reds, she’s accustomed to making inspirational custom cocktails with requests such as:

“I’d like a cocktail that feels like standing on a mountain of ex-boyfriends shooting a bazooka off filled with glitter and rainbows.”

Yes, this is an actual request Jo received.

Not only is she used to granting these seemingly impossible wishes, she welcomes them with enthusiasm. While at Reds, Jo developed a passion for experimental cocktails, spending hours developing new ideas with QT Queenstown’s Food and Beverage Director Gethin Curtis.

Back in her old haunt with Gethin and the Reds team, the vision is coming to fruition. There are still limited tickets available to experience these ‘Blurred Lines’ creations – like a mozzarella balloon with tomato, Zuwbroka vodka and watermelon gazpacho. Yeah, it’s going to be good.

If we needed to hype ‘Blurred Lines’ even further, we asked Jo about her career and how she harnesses inspiration. Here’s what she had to say:

When did you work at Reds and what did you love most about it?

I worked at Reds from February 2017 to February 2018. My most favourite memories are working with Gethin developing Blurred Lines. We often spent hours behind the bar prior to starting service, brainstorming and developing. We were in a bubble where nothing else mattered. Ideas bounced back and forth until we were both happy with the concept. And then the hard part came – bringing the concept to fruition! And you know this is an honest answer because I don’t work for Gethin anymore.

What are you up to these days?

I currently work at Laundry Room in Las Vegas. We’re known for our custom cocktails, and some nights the majority of cocktails that I make are custom. There’s one bartender, one hostess and only 20 seats for guests. For the custom cocktails, I ask the guest to name some of their favourite flavours and base my cocktail creation on this.

What’s your favourite cocktail you’ve made?

One of my favourite guests is a regular who comes over from Los Angeles every few months and she thinks about her custom cocktails between visits. This particular time she came in with three other guests and they had three rounds. On the last round she perked up and said ‘I’ve been saving this one for last: I want a cocktail that reminds me of standing on a mountain of ex-boyfriends shooting a bazooka off filled with glitter and rainbows.’

I love the creative outlet and opportunity to create something the guest has never experienced before. We ask the guest to step away from aversions to certain spirits that they might have to allow us to have complete creative freedom. I love expanding the guest’s palate and opening their mind to new things they might not normally want to try. I look forward to challenging myself as well as my guest’s palate.

Where do you pull inspiration from for your cocktail creations?

Inspiration comes from everywhere. It can be found in a simple meal, an overnight hike, reading a story, and simply dreaming. When I have complete creative freedom, I find my mind has no limits and can go to new places.

What elements make the best quality cocktail?

Balance is the first element that I feel is most important in a quality cocktail. The other thing that I love about serving a quality cocktail is watching the guest’s face when they take that first sip. You immediately know if you’ve created something worth writing to home about… or writing to Gethin back in Queenstown about.

How would you describe the types of cocktails you’re creating for Blurred Lines?

The cocktails for Blurred Lines are unlike anything I’ve seen or created before. It’s pushing the limits of creative boundaries in order to give the guest an experience they will never forget. If at least one guest walks away speechless I know we’ve done our job.

 See you 15 February at Blurred Lines! 

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