For some, a good cocktail means the beginning of a good night. For Natalie Migliarini, the beverage fanatic behind Beautiful Booze, it was the beginning of a new life.
In 2013, Migliarini, born in North Carolina but living and rooted in Seattle, was known for her themed dinner parties. She was inspired by her biannual international trips to make dishes and cocktails for her friends, who inevitably asked for the recipes.
“I was very interested in the cocktail and wine experience,” she said.
However, full-time employment did not provide the space to devote themselves to their artistic interests and culinary endeavors in detail.
Then Migliarini was released. When looking for a job, she took the opportunity to return to her creative roots. Inspired by the Seattle craft cocktail renaissance and the fast-growing rule of food bloggers on Instagram, Migliarini envisioned a cross between the two: “I was wondering why no one is doing this for cocktails.”
So she started Beautiful Booze, a cocktail Instagram account (@BeautifulBooze).
“I wanted to do something with my time that wasn’t work-oriented. I wanted to be fun,” said Migliarini. “Teaching photography and developing recipes got me through the day. I didn’t think it would take off like this.”
Since then, it has developed a huge following, establishing Migliarini as a cocktail influencer. It has grown into a website of cocktail recipes and bar recommendations from Seattle to Island, a recent cocktail book by Beautiful Booze, and a career that has enabled her to embrace the nomadic life and travel the world (despite her COVID temporarily returned to Seattle).
Migliarini is self-taught, equipped with passion, motivation and a good sense of taste.
“I really focused on putting together flavors that tasted good, not so much on method,” she said. “If I’ve broken a bartender rule, I’ve broken a bartender rule.”
With no formal training, she had the freedom to experiment and focus on creating what she liked, with what time and what ingredients she had on hand, something she had learned during her childhood in North Carolina.
She wanted to create recipes that others could easily emulate, regardless of their schedule.
“I wanted to find different ways to use what I currently had in my kitchen,” she said. “When I think about when I was working, I think about what I would actually do then. If I didn’t do it then, it’s hard to expect other people too.”
After two years, determined to help Beautiful Booze achieve its full potential, she tossed away her apartment and major expenses, grabbed a suitcase and drove to Antigua, Guatemala.
“I thought I would do this for six months. It’s been five years,” she said.
Now she is constantly on the move and has traveled to 31 countries. Only two months of last year were spent in the United States. From everywhere Beautiful Booze took them, Tokyo and Kyoto are Migliarini’s go-to cocktail getaways.
“Japan as a whole, when you think of its culinary scene, you think of the perfection and time they put into a skill or type of meal – the same goes for cocktails,” she said. “Going to bars there and watching bartenders is an art form.”
With everything she learned from bartenders and what inspired her, she integrates with the philosophy that Beautiful Booze created: simplicity.
A good home cocktail starts with a liquor you’d like to drink alone – it doesn’t have to be top notch, but Migliarini suggests investing in a slightly better bottle than the cheapest. You want to use your ingredients to enhance the best properties rather than masking the flavor profile. Take, for example, the Beautiful Booze take on a margarita.
“Tequila, lime juice, and agave syrup, it’s so simple,” she said.
For the first three years of Beautiful Booze, Natalie only used mason jars and continues to recommend them for shaking cocktails that contain juice or making a protein cocktail as this creates a good foam. For high-alcohol cocktails like a Negroni, all you need is a glass and something to stir.
The only less common tool she thinks is essential? A citrus press.
“Fresh citrus fruits take cocktails to the next level,” she said. “I use the juicer every day.”
And what does a cocktail maven order? Migliarini’s point of contact is a daiquiri. Not only is she a time-honored favorite – and another ode to simplicity – but she also learns about specific cultures and cocktail trends in every place she visits.
“When I go to different bars, I let the bartender make me a daiquiri using an ingredient from this country or town or a local spirit,” she said.