Renowned mixologist Christiaan Röllich serves up creative cocktails with a focus on fresh ingredients.
From presidents to movie stars, mixologist Christiaan Röllich has served his inspired cocktail creations to some of the most famous people in the world.
Röllich grew up in the Netherlands and began his bartending career working at nightclubs in Amsterdam. He moved to Los Angeles in 1997 where he did some modeling and got a bartending job at the hip Les Deux Cafes, making lemon drops and cosmopolitans for Hollywood’s elite.
In 2006, Röllich began working at Lucques, one of the top restaurants in Los Angeles at the time. He was inspired by the people he worked with including acclaimed restaurateurs Caroline Styne and Suzanne Goin, a James Beard Award winning chef. “Everyone at Lucques had a drive to be the best,” Röllich says. “It was an amazing environment that inspired me to really start honing my craft.”
Röllich worked 80-hour weeks and learned how to make bitters, syrups and liqueurs from scratch. He was responsible for the bar programs at Lucques and its sister restaurants A.O.C. and Tavern.
“I found it exciting to create farm to table cocktails with fresh ingredients and everything made in house,” Röllich says. “It put me on the map as a mixologist and I was doing cocktail parties for celebrities, fashion houses and presidents.”
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MAKING ARIZONA CONNECTIONS
Photo by Carlye Klick
In 2019, Röllich was thriving in his career, released his book, “Bar Chef: Handcrafted Cocktails,” and was building a great life in Los Angeles with his family–and then the pandemic hit. Like many workers in the hospitality industry, Röllich’s professional life came to an abrupt halt as restaurants closed down due to COVID.
In 2020, Röllich and his family moved from California to Arizona where his wife is from. Röllich didn’t have any professional connections in Arizona, so he reached out to Jason Asher, one of Arizona’s most prolific mixologists, on social media. Asher, who owns several award-winning cocktail bars in the Phoenix area, told Röllich about an opportunity at Sanctuary, a high-end Scottsdale resort. Röllich worked there for two years.
In early 2023, Röllich accepted a job as bar director creating cocktail programs for some of Scottsdale’s most popular restaurants, including Zinc Bistro, a French restaurant that has been a Scottsdale favorite for more than 20 years; the Mission, which serves upscale Mexican food with two locations; and Fat Ox, offering a modern take on Italian food.
RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
Röllich started his new job by creating a cocktail menu for Fat Ox inspired by the ingredients used in the restaurant’s upscale Italian dishes.
“I look at the ingredients the restaurant uses and incorporate them into cocktails,” Röllich says. “It’s a creative and collaborative process with a lot of experimentation. I like the idea of creating something that wasn’t there before, and I love working with chefs who are passionate about food.”
When designing the cocktail menu for Fat Ox, Rollich took ingredients from the kitchen to create cocktails like Green Gold which features tequila, pistachios, cucumber and chimichurri. The menu also includes Röllich’s spin on a gin and tonic with lemongrass and grapefruit, and Big River made with mezcal, pineapple, saffron, turmeric and peppers.
“I used bell peppers so the heat doesn’t dominate and the peppery flavor is complemented by the smokiness of the mezcal and the sweetness of the pineapple,” Röllich says.
Now that the Fat Ox cocktail menu is complete and being enjoyed by customers with rave reviews, Röllich is doing research for the cocktail menu at the Mission to complement the restaurant’s Mexican cuisine. “Right away I thought about chips and salsa and how to incorporate those flavors into a cocktail using tomato water and other salsa ingredients like a cilantro jalapeno syrup,” Röllich says.
Beyond the cocktails he creates, Röllich is focused on the customer experience. “It’s all about hospitality in the end,” he says. “Restaurants should offer a full experience to their guests, from appetizers to the main course and dessert complemented by excellent wine, creative cocktails and stellar service.”
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In more than two decades in the bartending industry, Röllich has seen an evolution in mixology. “Through social media and the internet, the public is exposed to a lot more knowledge and diners are much more informed,” he says. “As the cocktail scene continues to grow and mixologists become more innovative, it’s an exciting time to be in this business.”