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  • Writer's pictureAlina Fridman

Crafting Culinary Cocktails: An Intimate Chat with Sarah Latin-Kasper of The Copper Key


Sarah Latin-Kasper
Sarah Latin-Kasper

Amidst the twinkling lights of LA, where Hollywood glam and culinary artistry converge, we find ourselves once again stepping through the luxurious doors of The Copper Key. Our taste buds still dance with memories from our rendezvous with Executive Chef Guus Wickenhagen in "Unlocking Culinary Excellence: Chef Guus Wickenhagen's Copper Key Catering Experience" Yet, as the saying goes, 'there's always room for more,' and this time, we’re not just satisfying our gastronomic whims – we’re quenching our thirst for cocktail artistry.


Enter the vivacious Sarah Latin-Kasper. From her roots in the Windy City to becoming a linchpin in LA’s swankiest events, Sarah has seen and sipped it all. She’s the kind of multi-talented professional you want on your dream team; someone who understands that the soul of an event can be captured in a cocktail glass just as much as on a plate. So, dear fabulous ones, fasten your seatbelts and prepare your palates; we're about to embark on a spirited adventure that's as refreshing as an Aperol Spritz.

Crafting Cocktails: The Art & Science

Crafting cocktails isn’t merely about mixing spirits. It's an imaginative dance between understanding a brand, embracing an event's theme, and delivering a visual and gustatory delight. For Sarah Latin-Kasper, the journey of crafting a cocktail begins not with a splash of gin or a twist of lemon, but with a deep dive into understanding a product, especially when it aligns with a brand's launch.


She notes, "My approach is very custom. I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with producers and brands that entrust us with their creative vision." But how does Sarah's process unfold? When tasked with concocting a cocktail for a skincare product launch, Sarah’s curiosity isn't confined to the liquid ingredients; she wants to unearth the very essence of the product. "I delve into the product's core ingredients. If it’s skincare, I want to know every element. Then, the packaging, the colors, the textures – they all speak to me."


Dermalogica Phyto Infusion Cocktail
Dermalogica Phyto Infusion Cocktail

Recalling a vibrant partnership with Dermalogica, Sarah reminisces about how the product's natural ingredients sparked her creativity. "They used purple sweet potato in their product and had this enchanting purple and white packaging. That inspired me!" With an artist's flair and a scientist's precision, Sarah crafted a mesmerizing concoction: butterfly blue pea flower-infused tequila paired harmoniously with purple sweet potato. And the pièce de résistance? An exquisite edible rice paper garnish that added drama, cascading elegantly off the glass.


In Sarah's world, the art and science of cocktail creation is always about echoing the brand's heart while delighting the senses. "I always ask, 'How can I highlight the essence of this event or company?' That's my starting point, and the magic unfolds from there."

The Balance of Beauty & Taste in a Glass

The allure of a cocktail is an intricate dance between sight and taste. Sarah knows all too well the art of finding this equilibrium. “Striking the balance between presentation and taste is paramount,” she shares. When sculpting a drink, it’s a meticulous affair. Sarah is known to immerse herself into the research and development process. “Even if they want a bright blue cocktail for the event’s theme, it’s my responsibility to ensure it’s a feast for both the eyes and the palate.”


“The soul of the cocktail is truly its ingredients,” Sarah professes.

Yet behind every great artist is a network of support. “The soul of the cocktail is truly its ingredients,” Sarah professes. While she's dedicated to every step, from pressing the juices during research to refining the final creation, the magnitude of The Copper Key events demands collaborations. “I have to give credit where credit is due. We have really amazing suppliers with whom we've developed strong relationships.” Among these partnerships, one stands out prominently. “My juice guy delivers the best juice in Los Angeles. His contributions are essential; without him, the flavors wouldn’t be the same.”


Every cocktail, in Sarah's perspective, tells a tale woven with dedication, passion, and team spirit. The mark of a great cocktail, after all, isn't just its aesthetic allure, but the harmonious marriage of its flavors.

Fresh Ingredients, Timeless Tastes: Sarah's Recent Experiments

Sarah's creative pursuits have taken her down some deliciously vibrant pathways. "Colors, different colors are very hip with clients," Sarah shares. "Beautiful striking colors matched with incredible flavors. That's what people love for events." While some might resort to synthetic means, Sarah has a penchant for keeping things organic and true to nature.


Pink Pitaya Natural Sun
Pink Pitaya Natural Sun

"I love playing with natural food powders," she enthuses. Her recollections bring to mind a vivid pink pitaya Margarita that, in the earlier days, would've seen her mashing fresh dragon fruit pieces into the cocktail. "Now you can use these really cool powders, like blue spirulina. It's really fun to create effects." Speaking of colors and a drive for authenticity, she recalls the launch of a Smirnoff drink, a blue raspberry lemonade vodka. The hue of the drink was vital, and Sarah's challenge was "how do I do that in a natural way? I don't want to add food dye, that's just not what we do."


Smirnoff Revolve Event
Smirnoff Revolve Event

Staying true to the ebb and flow of the seasons also finds a place in Sarah's menu creation ethos. "Everything we do, I don't want to use strawberries in December," she mentions, always eager to harness the taste of the current season.


But Sarah's craft isn't just about alcoholic concoctions. The rise of non-alcoholic drinks, or as she says, "not mocktails but elevated luxury," is something she's diving deep into. "There are some pretty cool local suppliers making fun stuff," Sarah notes. One such delightful find is a sparkling tea crafted in Copenhagen, a mesmerizing blend of jasmine, oolong, and white tea. Sarah describes it as a tea that's undergone a process resembling that of sparkling wine, resulting in "this complexity of flavor and depth, with beautiful floral notes. It feels like you're having a lovely experience, but it's healthy."



Sarah’s prowess isn’t just limited to crafting. She also takes charge of mammoth events. “The Smirnoff activation was actually just one part of a bigger event that we do every year called Revolve Festival- a two-day, curated VIP festival just outside the Coachella grounds. I developed the entire beverage program for this event this past year and batched over 14,000 cocktails with our team! My personal record. It is always an incredible experience and our bar team is top notch.” She fondly reminisced, even sharing a photo of the commendable team behind such a vast endeavor.


Copper Key Team at Revolve
Copper Key Team at Revolve

This never-ending passion to experiment and evolve is what sets Sarah apart. Every ingredient she adds, every twist she brings, it all underscores her commitment to the craft, making each sip a journey in itself.

Trends on the Horizon: Cocktails to Look Out For

Sarah views the world of cocktails as a constantly evolving landscape of flavors, aromas, and experiences. As trends change and flourish, she remains at the cutting edge, eager to embrace the newest innovations. One observation she's especially thrilled about? "Classic cocktails are making a comeback," Sarah shares with enthusiasm. While LA's love affair with tequila is still prominent, with "seven to one requests for cocktails being tequila," she observes a delightful diversification.


Consider an event that celebrated the allure of Japanese whiskies. "We did a really cool whiskey event focused on Japanese whiskies," Sarah reminisces. The centerpiece? A curated old-fashioned smoking bar. Guests could immerse themselves in a sensory journey, choosing from an array of herbs, smoking woods, and aromatic elements to create their own customized old-fashioned. "We have these beautiful smoke enclosures," she adds, evoking an air of refined elegance.



Floral notes also take center stage in current trends. From using edible flower garnishes to the incorporation of "an orange blossom mist or Rose-infused agave," Sarah highlights the prominence of such elements. The butterfly pea flower, with its enchanting hue, has become a favorite for crafting visually captivating layered drinks.


Floral Cocktails
Floral Cocktails

Yet, it's not just about the ingredients; it's about the experience. One particular standout is the playful yet sophisticated bubble gun. "We create these infused aroma bubbles that sit atop the drink," she describes. As guests pop these bubbles, they're treated to a burst of fragrant aroma, elevating the simple act of sipping into an interactive delight. But she cautions with a hint of grace, "mastering the bubble gun is a skill; it's not as simple as it appears.



Sarah's guiding principle, and by extension, The Copper Key's, is about weaving narratives. "For us, it's definitely about creating a story for our clients," she articulates. Be it harmonizing flavors between food and cocktails or designing standalone, immersive experiences, the aim is to enchant and captivate. They've masterminded events with bespoke mocktail bars, smoking sections, and dedicated food activations, ensuring every detail is meticulously crafted.

In Sarah's perspective, a cocktail is more than just a drink; it's a narrative, an art form, and an embodiment of a unique blend of flavors, aromas, and unforgettable experiences.



Local Love: How Sarah's Sustainability Mission Transforms the Cocktail Scene

Behind every tantalizing drink lies a story of responsibility and dedication. For Sarah, this tale is painted with vibrant strokes of sustainability. This unwavering dedication isn't merely about creating breathtaking drinks; it's about crafting them responsibly and conscientiously.


Sarah's commitment to local sourcing and sustainability isn't a mere checkbox in her mission; it is central to how she crafts her art. “I'm really lucky that I work with some top local vendors,” she asserts, emphasizing the tight-knit relationships she has cultivated. Sarah reflects on her partnership with Jason, her go-to juice supplier from Mixolo Juice. Not only does he source everything locally, but he also freshly presses daily, ensuring quality and freshness. “He has such a passion and commitment to what he does. And he comes from a bartending background. So that's really great,” Sarah fondly notes.


But it's not just about the juice. Everything, right down to the ice, has a narrative and a local supplier behind it. Casa de Hilo, a small local ice vendor based in Boyle Heights, emerged during the pandemic, and Sarah is particularly fond of them. Their close proximity to downtown LA means they're just a phone call away, always ready to adapt and deliver even with the most last-minute requirements.


"You get to grow your businesses together, and you develop really meaningful, long-lasting relationships," Sarah says.

Such adaptability came in handy during a particularly hectic stint for Apple TV, where Sarah had to design a myriad of cocktail programs for 21 events over 14 days. It was her local connections that saved the day, as she recalls, “...my ice vendor was able to come through the day before... they're like, no worries, we got you.” She expresses that working with local vendors is exciting. "You get to grow your businesses together, and you develop really meaningful, long-lasting relationships," Sarah says.


However, it's not just about relationships. Sustainability is about responsible choices. Sarah is conscientious about her carbon footprint and endeavors to manage waste effectively, emphasizing the need to be "mindful from prep to execution." She mentions, “Don't be wasteful is a huge thing for me and something that I drill into the training of my bartenders.”


Acknowledging the inherent wastefulness of the events sector, it's heartening to see Sarah's endeavors. She avoids plastics and leans heavily on recyclables and compostables. The straws they use? Biodegradable wheat straws. Sarah's sustainability mission doesn't halt at her immediate circle; she actively promotes it with her clients, underscoring the significance of making informed, responsible choices.


Indeed, while achieving sustainability in the events arena might be challenging, Sarah remains hopeful and proactive. She emphasizes the need for continued advocacy and education, rounding off with a thought many in her industry resonate with: "It's time everyone starts thinking about it." Sarah's passion isn't solely reserved for her intoxicating concoctions; it's about sculpting an industry, championing sustainability with every choice.




Beyond the Buzz: The Atmosphere Amplifiers in Events

Amid the bustling scene of any event, beyond the shimmering lights and foot-tapping music, there's a subtle art that often goes unnoticed, yet deeply influences the entire atmosphere: the art of mixology. For Sarah, crafting a cocktail is much more than just mixing drinks; it's about creating an experience that resonates with the core of the event.


“But with cocktails, I think it's right on the same level as food.”

Sarah believes that cocktails have the power to “add another exponential element that is engaging for the guest of the event.” They're not just about the immediate buzz of alcohol; they're an exploration of flavor, texture, and artistry. “Everybody loves food and loves the flavors and tastes that come with it, and the experience,” she points out, drawing parallels between gastronomy and mixology. “But with cocktails, I think it's right on the same level as food.”


But what sets apart a good cocktail from a great one? Sarah delves into an anecdote that many might find familiar. “It’s common for me, when I go to an event, to see a lot of focus on food programs. But then you approach the bar and find they’re using store-bought sweet and sour mix for a margarita.” This disjunction, according to Sarah, points towards a skewed prioritization that undermines the potential of a good beverage program. For her, beverages should be on par with food, and she ardently champions this sentiment, especially given her advantage of working with a luxury catering company.


Sarah's conviction stems from her unique background in culinary arts. “I come from a culinary background, and I’m super thankful for that,” she shares. It's this experience that allows her to understand the intricate dynamics of flavors, how they interplay, and how they can be best paired together. “A lot of things lend itself to cocktail curation and mixology, like learning about what flavors pair together, the subtlety of flavors, and how important the ratios are,” Sarah muses. The hallmark of a true mixologist, she suggests, lies in this culinary insight, where every ingredient, every flavor, is treated with respect and importance. “That's why our beverage program is the way that it is. We think about it the same way that we think about food, down to every last detail.”

When stepping into a gathering catered by Copper Key, it becomes immediately evident that it's not just about serving food and drinks. Instead, it's a holistic experience where every detail is thoughtfully crafted. This meticulousness, combined with Sarah's relentless passion, ensures that the drinks don’t merely quench thirsts – they amplify the atmosphere, making events memorable in every sense. The dedication on display transcends the ordinary, offering attendees an enriched ambiance that lingers long after the last toast.



Sarah's Signature Sips & Stirred Insights

In the vibrant arena of mixology, everyone has their go-to drink, a signature sip that captures their essence and taste. For Sarah, that drink is the Aperol Spritz. "I love the bright citrus flavor, slight bitterness, and how refreshing it is!" she shares with an undeniable enthusiasm. But Sarah's take on this classic isn't bound by tradition. "I also love that you can skip the prosecco and make it a low-abv aperitif with some club soda or, my personal favorite, Pamplemousse La Croix. Such a good patio drink. Instant relaxation."


Aperol Spritz
Aperol Spritz

As we wrap up this deep dive into the cocktail world with Sarah, it's clear that her passion extends beyond just serving a drink. It's about the experience, the stories, and the memories that each cocktail can create. So, to our fabulous readers, may this serve as a refreshing send-off and an inspiration. Dare to experiment, revel in the joy of discovery, and always seek to elevate your cocktail experiences. Cheers to crafting memories, one sip at a time!


 

Instagram: @thecopperkeyca Photo credit: John Kiefer


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