MIXOLOGY TALK PODCAST #186

If you’re a cocktail-watcher on Instagram, then it’s a sure bet you’ve come across Natalie Migliarini’s account, Beautiful Booze. Known for her gorgeous-yet-approachable cocktail photography and delicious recipes for the at-home enthusiast, Natalie is a super fun person to talk to regarding all things booze, social media, and cocktail photography. And just in time for the holidays, her new book (aptly titled Beautiful Booze: Stylish Cocktails to Make at Home) is out now and makes a great gift, if we do say so ourselves.

Click here to Subscribe on your Smartphone and never miss an Episode!

On your iPhone:

  • iTunes Podcast App IconLook for the iPhone’s default “Podcasts App”. It may already be there, or you may need to download it. It looks like this:
  • In the app, click “Search” in the bottom-right corner and search for “Mixology Talk Podcast
  • Click on the icon under the “Podcasts” section, and in the next screen click the purple “Subscribe” button.

Note:
Stitcher iconIf you prefer, you can also subscribe using the “Stitcher” app, also free & available in the App store.

 

On your Android Phone:

  • Stitcher icon AndroidDownload the “Stitcher” app from the Play store by searching for “Stitcher”
  • Click on the “Search” icon and search for “Mixology Talk Podcast
  • Click “+” to add the show to your Playlist.

Watch Now:

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS:

  • 1:55– Natalie’s background & the launch of Beautiful Booze
  • 15:40– Background on writing the Beautiful Booze book
  • 20:07– Natalie’s favorite standout ingredients
  • 26:05– Photography tips for creating the “wow” factor in your IG photos
  • 31:20– Natalie’s must-haves for photography
  • 37:10– Cocktail gift ideas to go with Natalie’s book

MEET NATALIE!

Beautiful Booze’s Natalie Migliarini is one of the most influential voices in cocktails today. She’s passionate about cocktails, education, empowerment, and sharing her journey with others through her drinkable moments around the world on her Instagram @BeautifulBooze. She has an aptitude for conceiving exceptional concoctions in unique and inventive ways. She began her journey as a home bartender yet has advanced over the years and developed additional specializations including cocktail-styling, journalism, social media consultation, event bartending, and so much more. an independent bottler of unique spirits (Kokoro Spirits).

NATALIE’S BACKGROUND AND THE BEGINNING OF BEAUTIFUL BOOZE

Natalie’s story is kind of a dream: After working in public health for many years, she left her job in 2013 to explore her creativity and make something of her own. And it has really paid off for her! Beginning as a blog, the Beautiful Booze website morphed into a dazzling Instagram account and eventually her newest adventure in the form of her book. 

Even before beginning Beautiful Booze, Natalie loved throwing themed dinner parties based on places she had traveled, and she was known for creating signature cocktails for each event that her guests would rave about. And that was the seed for what would become her new enterprise. She began her blog, and things grew organically from there.

But it wasn’t exactly an overnight success story. For anyone hoping to become a social media influencer, there is so much marketing, reputation-building, freelancing, and behind-the-scenes work that you don’t see. It’s not all social glam and sponsorships. A lot of influencers consult for other companies (without credit) while still maintaining their own social media presence, Natalie included:

“This space is really difficult because you work with a lot of alcohol brands who have their campaigns run through a PR agency. […] I make a lot of my money by making recipes for different alcohol brands and doing photography.” –Natalie Migliarini

NATALIE’S EXPERTISE IN COCKTAILS… WITHOUT BARTENDING EXPERIENCE

You’ve probably noticed that Natalie’s background is not in bartending, and yet she’s one of the leading voices on social media for at-home cocktail lovers. Natalie’s own distinction is that she can’t make drinks “at volume,” but she sure knows how to develop yummy, unique cocktails that are easy for everyone to recreate. For her, it’s a leisure activity that turned into a (really fun) job. So how did she get here, and how is her perspective original?

“I […] taught myself everything, and from the home bartender point of view, I felt that was beneficial to me when I was creating recipes because I have a different point of view […] where I’ve done a lot of traveling around the world and going to bars, showcasing bartenders and their cocktails on my account, too; so I understand the industry perspective, but I also understand the consumer perspective. So I think a lot of brands want to work with me because I do have those two things combined […] being able to marry those two voices together to reach those two different audiences.” –Natalie Migliarini

PHILOSOPHY AND TIPS FROM BEAUTIFUL BOOZE

Just go through Beautiful Booze’s Instagram account, and you’ll see gorgeous photos that still feel… real. This is completely intentional. Natalie’s whole motto is to make everything approachable so that her followers know they can make these drinks at home, too. As she explains,

“I try to stay true to the mission of Beautiful Booze from the beginning, which was not over-complicating and not having to have a background in bartending to make a cocktails because, just like in the food world, if you want to make something at home, you can teach yourself […] And just emphasizing that you don’t have to have a lot of ingredients, you don’t have to have a specific brand to make a cocktail. You can use whatever brand you like and the cocktail will be good.”

When you grab your copy of Beautiful Booze: Stylish Cocktails to Make at Home, you’ll note that there are no brands of booze mentioned in her book unless it’s absolutely necessary. Natalie’s philosophy? Using your favorite brand of spirit is going to make the recipe taste better to you. Now, not everyone agrees with this approach, but after making “cocktails with almost every freaking spirit on the shelf,” Natalie feels pretty strongly about this one.

And then there’s the really important piece of advice for moving forward in any industry or life pursuit: Always say “Yes.”

“You don’t want to limit yourself into a box. And that’s how you can make connections and find jobs that you never thought were an option.” –Natalie Migliarini

DEVELOPMENT OF BEAUTIFUL BOOZE: STYLISH COCKTAILS TO MAKE AT HOME

So how exactly do you get from consultant to social media influencer to author? Well, it’s usually quite a process. Over the years, Natalie was approached by publishers to write books about this or that, but the topics and timing were never right for her. (I guess in this regard, it’s also helpful to know when to say “No.”)

Natalie wanted her own book that represented her brand, rather than writing on a specific topic brought to her by a publisher. And, of course, there are a million other things to do when you’re running your own business, especially one that involves a lot of travel. But a book was always a goal, because– although Instagram is pretty useful– it’s nice to have a tangible book in your hand when you’re following recipes. 

Then, about six years, ago, the right opportunity came around: Natalie was offered the chance to create her book her way, and that’s when saying “yes” was very valuable! And let me tell you, this book is awesome and totally worth the wait.

NATALIE’S STANDOUT SPIRITS 

Alright, I’ve already mentioned that Natalie feels very strongly about being able to use pretty much any brand in your cocktail-making. But that’s not always possible, is it? Some spirits are simply too specific, so Chris picked her brain about her favorites that just can’t be interchanged:

A lot of these show up in Beautiful Booze, so I think I’ll be adding them to my growing collection. How about you?

PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS FROM BEAUTIFUL BOOZE: HOW TO MAKE YOUR INSTAGRAM PHOTOS POP

Now that we’ve covered the drink aspect, let’s talk about Instagram photography. As I’ve mentioned, Beautiful Booze’s mission is to be accessible. So while eye-catching photography is important, it still needs to appeal to everyone, as Natalie explains:

“I wanted to have an edge on the photography and make it enticing for people to want to make the cocktail. But at the same time, I didn’t want my Instagram account to look so necessarily like a magazine. You know, you flip through a magazine, you see food, and it looks beautiful and amazing, but it kind of intimidates you, so I wanted to come for an in-between level. […] I just don’t want it to look almost fake. I want it to feel approachable still.”

Natalie lives out of hotels and has to travel a lot for work; even now that she’s not traveling due to COVID, she still stays in hotels in Seattle where she does her own photo sessions of the cocktails she creates. And hotels do not provide the best lighting. (Believe me, as a wedding photographer for over a decade, I can attest to that!) For that matter, neither do dark, crowded bars.

So what are Natalie’s tips for photographing in inconsistent, cramped environments with potentially subpar lighting?

  • Natural light is best if you have access to it.
  • Be flexible: Like Natalie, the more you practice in a variety of crazy conditions, the more easily you’ll be able to shoot in all conditions.
  • As Natalie says, “You don’t have to have $10,000 worth of equipment to do something amazing.”
  • If you’re outside or near a window with lots of sunlight, you’ll find that direct sun is very difficult to shoot in because of the blown highlights and shadows it creates. If you can, find shade or photograph on a cloudy day, as clouds offer diffusion. I know, I know. It seems counterintuitive that you’d want the day to be overcast, but I promise you that this makes the lighting way more optimal for photography.
  • You may hear photographers talk about “golden hour” (around dusk) or their favorite time of day to have a photo session. But remember, Natalie has learned to photograph in all conditions. And when it’s for business or a wedding, you don’t always get to choose the time of day. Plus… Those dark bars and hotel rooms will work best during the day when you can get as much natural light pouring in as possible. So if you’re looking to be an IG influencer or any type of professional photographer, you’re going to have to learn to adapt and work with what you have!

NATALIE’S LIST OF ESSENTIAL CAMERA EQUIPMENT FOR COCKTAIL PHOTOGRAPHY

Since Natalie lives in hotels and AirBnB rentals, it makes sense that she’s really had to pare down her photography equipment. So what’s in her kit these days?

  • Sony A9 camera: This mirrorless camera body is slimmer than a standard DSLR and therefore great for travel. It also gets Natalie’s seal of approval for low-light conditions.
  • ZEISS 40 mm lens: Natalie didn’t mention this in her interview, but we picked her brain after the fact. Having a shorter lens in a tight space is really beneficial, and this one produces crisp photos for Natalie. 
  • Profoto flash: An external flash is great for helping with shadows and providing extra light in dark environments.
  • Travel tripod: A good tripod with an easy detachment latch will help keep things steady, especially in low-light conditions. A travel version is lighter and more compact as well. 

You’ll notice her equipment is minimal but still provides professional yet realistic-looking photos.

NATALIE’S LIST OF ESSENTIAL CAMERA EQUIPMENT FOR COCKTAIL PHOTOGRAPHY

Since Natalie lives in hotels and AirBnB rentals, it makes sense that she’s really had to pare down her photography equipment. So what’s in her kit these days?

  • Sony A9 camera: This mirrorless camera body is slimmer than a standard DSLR and therefore great for travel. It also gets Natalie’s seal of approval for low-light conditions.
  • ZEISS 40 mm lens: Natalie didn’t mention this in her interview, but we picked her brain after the fact. Having a shorter lens in a tight space is really beneficial, and this one produces crisp photos for Natalie. 
  • Profoto flash: An external flash is great for helping with shadows and providing extra light in dark environments.
  • Travel tripod: A good tripod with an easy detachment latch will help keep things steady, especially in low-light conditions. A travel version is lighter and more compact as well. 

You’ll notice her equipment is minimal but still provides professional yet realistic-looking photos.

HOLIDAY GIFT IDEAS FOR YOUR FAVORITE BARTENDER OR AT-HOME COCKTAIL ENTHUSIAST

OK, now that we’ve covered the logistics of being an Instragam cocktail influencer, let’s switch to the topic at hand: Holiday gifts. Obviously, the Beautiful Booze book should be on your list for any cocktail enthusiast. But what to pair it with?

  • Bottles of unique liqueur that come up in Natalie’s recipes: the aforementioned Plantation Stiggins’ Fancy Pineapple rum, Créme de Banane, or Giffard’s Banane du Brésil 
  • A good bottle of sweet or dry Vermouth
  • Mixing glasses (We have some gorgeous ones for you!)
  • A nice shaker for cocktails

Now that you’re an expert on cocktails, photography, and gift-giving, we’d love to hear from you on all these topics! Swing on over to our Facebook page and let us know what you’re serving up this holiday season and what gifts are on your wish list. And we’ll always say “yes” to lovely photos of cocktails as well! Of course, make sure to follow Beautiful Booze if you don’t already, and pick up Natalie’s book through her website. We have sales of our barware going on right now, so you are sure to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list this year. You won’t be disappointed!

Was this Podcast helpful? Click Here to Give us a Rating in iTunes!

Then click “View in iTunes” under the Podcast Image on the left and enter your rating on the “Ratings and Reviews” tab in iTunes.

Thanks!

Your reviews really matter – they help more people find us in iTunes and help us improve this Podcast!

Thanks for Listening!

Melanie Tornroth

A former English teacher, Melanie optimistically embraces the struggle that is work-from-home parenthood as the in-house writer for A Bar Above. When not responding to “Mom” and writing articles for ABA, she also runs Goodnickels Photography, loves to cuddle her cats, and is perfecting the art of keeping her pandemic “fermentation babies” alive.

Subscribe to our YouTube Channel and you'll catch all new episodes, as well as other great videos about cocktails, techniques, and more!

Follow the link in the button above to go straight to iTunes, or just search your favorite podcast app for "Mixology Talk Podcast"

Click the button to subscribe to the podcast in Stitcher!

We love getting your questions and answering them on the air! Submit your questions here and we’ll answer on an upcoming episode.