Rachael Robbins, the bubbly mixologist better known in the beverage industry and on Instagram as the “Chickologist,” pours all her passion into shaking up inventive concoctions to the delight of thirsty patrons. In the first edition of our new column, The Chickologist, learn how this aspiring actress was enticed by the effervescent, fast-paced world of mixology and the secret behind her MO of “mixing drinks that make the whole world sing.”

DiningOut: Were you formally trained in bartending and if so, where?
Rachael Robbins: Yes, at The School of Hard Knox. I blackmailed my way into my first bartending job which was at a NYC Leviathan night club, where the main bar serviced a room that held thousands of people. It was all about speed and endurance; there was zero finesse required. The bar was six people deep for hours, so customers knew they were lucky to just get the bartenders’ attention. If they complained, they’d get snubbed. The bartenders controlled the room. I was hooked.

How did you get interested in mixology?
I spent over a decade just slinging drinks at numerous types of venues for the sole purpose of making good, fast, easy cash to support my acting career. My world got rocked when I got a job at a bar where the beverage program was run by the uber talented Raymond Keane. He was the first mixologist I worked with. I was totally uninterested in making his cocktails, but I watched in awe of everything he did. While I was at that job, I was offered the opportunity to open my own lounge, and that was the tipping point. I swapped industries, entertainment for hospitality, and never looked back! I’ve also never been more fulfilled. Ray continues to mentor my career, and I couldn’t have done any of this without him.

Where are some of the places you have worked?
I’ve worked in every type of bar in numerous cities! New York, Miami, Los Angeles, and New Jersey, giant clubs, tiny bistros, sports bars, dive bars, strip clubs, catering venues, Latin restaurants, and speakeasies. Since selling the lounge and starting my own cocktail consulting company, Chickologist, I’ve been behind hundreds of bars.

What are your signature cocktails?
I like to create cocktails that are easy to drink, repeatable, and accessible, but with a surprising twist. My philosophy is: you shouldn’t have to struggle through your cocktail. We fight through everything in life, to make money, with our boss or coworkers, our spouse, kids, traffic, etc. That 20 minutes, when you sip on your drink of choice, should be smooth and easy. I also like to add levity to my cocktails. The current market is controlled by social media. Food and drinks are the new supermodels. They have to be “Instagram-able.”

You are also a well-respected consultant. How can you help restaurants and bars who need a boost, or even successful bars who want to vitalize their business?
One of my favorite things to do is revamp or create a cocktail program. Liquor is almost pure profit, so a successful bar business can support the entire establishment. My process is simple: I visit the bar, see their strengths and weaknesses, check out their current cocktail options, and talk to management about their clientele. After I’ve assessed their needs, I prepare a tasting of 10-plus cocktails for the bar to choose from. Then, I train the staff on how to properly execute the drinks, and the management on how to source, order, and make the specialty supplies.

What are your favorite drinks?
I love an icy cold dirty martini,usually with vodka but sometimes with gin. The Negroni is my favorite classic cocktail. If the bar offers premium tonic and new world gin (Hendricks or Brockmans), then I’m G&T’s all night! Right now I’m on an espresso martini kick. If I do a shot, its overproof rye.

You are somewhat of a Renaissance woman who has also been a pinup model, Playboy bunny, and film actress. Can you tell us a little about that and if you have ever considered getting back into any of these areas?
I have amazing memories of my experiences in the entertainment world. During my pursuit of fame I had every poker in the fire: cabaret, stand-up, theater, on-camera, commercials, writing, pin-up, and yes, PLAYBOY! I’m really glad to put that world behind me. However, I would love to be back on camera if I was hosting a show about mixology or talking about cocktails.

How does a mixologist differ from a bartender?
Everyone has a different opinion about this. My theory is that a mixologist is like the executive chef and a bartender is a cook. A mixologist creates and a bartender executes their vision.

How does a “Chickologist” differ from a mixologist?
There’s no difference (laughing). I called my company Chickologist and made it a women-centric business because I wanted to help educate people that mixologists weren’t all dudes from Brooklyn with tattoos and interesting facial hair. That chicks could be bad ass mixologists too.

What are some upcoming projects we can expect from the Chickologist?
You’ll just have to follow me on Instagram and see. Or you can call my mom, she keeps a log of my activities.

We are so excited to collaborate with you as a contributing columnist! What can DiningOut’s readers expect to see from the Chickologist in upcoming issues?
I always get asked where my favorite places to go are. I’m really looking forward to sharing my discoveries and favorite haunts. With this cocktail renaissance, the biggest difference I’ve noticed is that being an at-home hobbyist mixologist is a huge craze, exemplified by the numerous monthly cocktail boxes available, the bar cart styling websites, and the selections of bitters and mixers at liquor stores. I want to encourage people to experiment at home with some of the techniques I use.

The Chickologist’s Holiday Picks

Peter Arnone of Cellar335 {335 Newark Avenue, Jersey City; 201.222.1422; cellar335.com} is the brilliant captain of this tiki mega ship. He created an autumn cocktail in true tiki-style with multiple rums and booze, tropical juices, and a housemade pumpkin syrup—the secret ingredient being rich, roasted pumpkin seeds. He even spoofed a well-known coffee chain’s cup to give you the full Basic Beach experience. Don’t miss the holiday pop-up, Sleighs and Leis. The entire restaurant and drink menu is transformed into a winter wonderland complete with Rudolph tiki mugs.

For a taste of “Christmas in a glass,” try the Secret Santa Stocking Stuffer at The Kitchen Step {500 Jersey Avenue, Jersey City; 201.721.6115; kitchenstepjc.com}. It’s mixed with oat, cocoa, walnut, and mint, blended with Champagne.

An hour from Jersey City, is the Asbury Park Distilling Co {527 Lake Avenue, Asbury Park; 732.455.3935; apdistilling.com}. On the holiday menu, you can find “Christmas Beets” made with the namesake gin, housemade amaro, and festive flavors like clove, ginger, black pepper, and fresh beet juice. Merry and bright!

By Paul Turpanjian