Mixologist of the Month: Michael Lay

This Monterey Bay-based cocktail innovator finds inspiration in his surroundings.

Michael Lay, mixologist at Restaurant 1833 in Monterey, California, likes to utilize his surroundings, especially the seasons’ bounty.

A farmer’s market is held on Tuesdays year round a few blocks from the eatery. Inspired by the offerings, Lay decided to make the bar’s Tuesday happy hour “Market Day.”

“I’ll base the cocktail menu on what I’ve found at the market,” says Lay. “The local produce here is amazing.”

He selects ingredients that are well-suited for a cocktail menu that has groupings like Pain Killers, Stress Relievers and Elixirs, which all fall under the umbrella of House Remedies.

“The idea was the restaurant was a pharmacy years ago, and we’re playing with that 1800s, Old West apothecary thing,” says Lay. “In those days, the medicine that was prescribed to you often contained booze. It wouldn’t do anything, but it would intoxicate you and you’d walk away feeling better.”

Lay, 27, has been working in restaurants and bars since he was 16, when he was a dishwasher at a small barbecue joint. He moved from Seattle to San Diego in 2007, taking a job at the now-shuttered Modus Supper Club.

Today, Lay’s formative days at the barbecue eatery still creep into his creations. His So Apropo cocktail is a case in point: a Bourbon-based drink in which the liquor is smoked with blackberry tea and hickory vapors. Prepared tableside, the cocktail is assembled within a smoke-filled bowl.

His Hot-Buttered Rum is another tableside act in which Lemon Hart 151 Rum is ignited to warm the butter. With Lay’s preference for playing off his surroundings, it’s no wonder the drink, which is associated with winter, is on the menu year-round. “Monterey is pretty cold all the time,” says Lay.

Fend off a cold with Lay's Homestead cocktail. Get the recipe.

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