Introducing Happy Hour Agency, a LA based conceptual pop up cocktail party that combines all of our favorite things: art, booze, and design. Every Happy Hour event follows a different theme and is hosted in what is basically a three dimensional art piece, with cocktails and snacks to match. From the green astroturf and soft pastels of Gordon’s Garden, which featured a cocktail served in a flower pot (!!!), to the neon roasted beet hummus and delightfully playful drinks of Chilligan’s Island, each party is meticulously thought out and executed to create an unforgettable experience. We were lucky enough to interview three of the folks behind Happy Hour Agency. To see the full interview, check out issue three.
What inspired you all to start the Agency? Was it started before or after the “Those People” project? Do you think the two have affected or intersected with each other in any way?
The agency was born out of about 6 months worth of conversations that Irene, Eliana and I had been having about a project where food and art intersected. We wanted to have this crazy big dinner, but after a while decided that we would just start doing these cocktail parties and sort of work our way up to bigger and more complicated events. Josh and I were doing Those People stuff before Happy Hour Agency formed. During the process of trying to figure out how to translate my paintings and drawings of food into real food and experiences, we did some photo shoots. Doing those shoots challenged me to figure out ways to translate my work into a different medium. Making those crazy images also inspired us and sort of set a standard for just how crazy we could make the cocktails. They have to be completely edible and delicious, and just as over the top as the conceptual photos.
When you started did you plan on it being a repeated pop up? How have you chosen each theme and location?
The location is always the same. I think we started it just wondering if it would work, and then when Chilligan’s Island, our first pop-up, worked, we decided to do it again. Now it is very much a repeating event, and we are already starting to talk about the trajectory of the next 4 or 5 events. The themes so far have been seasonal. Chilligan’s Island was kind of summer tiki, The Cozy Castle was winter, and Gordon’s Garden was spring. It’s really challenging to try and make these extremely cliche themes work in an unexpected way; to find unique and interesting ways to illicit a very common mood.
How long have you known Ben and Irene and how did you become involved with Happy Hour Agency? Are you involved while they brainstorm and design each event, or do you come in to document it after everything has been planned out?
I knew of Ben but didn’t meet him until I moved into the studio with him and my buddy Edward Cushenberry. Ben and I hit it off right away and started fooling around with some fun picture ideas. We were sitting around drinking beer at the studio and we decided to have a party. I think it was at the studio party that I first met Irene and her girlfriend Eliana. I’m not sure how it happened but Ben said he was working with Irene, Eliana, and Connie on this food/cocktail party and asked if I would like to shoot some stuff. It sounded like fun so we got together and played around for a couple of days shooting these crazy concepts. By this time Ben and I had already started Those People and this was just an extension of that.
My role varies depending on the event but for the most part I am not really involved until the end. I am mostly indirectly involved because I share the same space with Ben. He keeps me up to date in passing, usually when we are having coffee in the morning, so it’s really chill like that for me. When it comes time to shoot is when I really get involved and I listen to everyone’s feedback on what needs to be photographed. Then Ben and I really sit down and look at the space and talk about what we want to see and I just have fun.
What is your mindset when going to photograph each pop up; do you approach it pretty similarly to your commissioned projects? Do you feel more connected to or invested in certain types of projects more than others?
It is similar but different. HHA is its own thing; there is nothing like it so there is no real way to get ready for it. I feel like I have found my flow with it now. I know everyone’s wants and needs so I make sure I do my best to get that stuff. But just like any other shoot, there are the unexpected serendipitous things, which is why I love photography. I love the things you can’t know, like how it’s going to look until you get there and take the pictures. My investment is different from project to project but I work equally as hard on a commission project as I do a personal project. For me it really comes down to who I am working with. I know when people ask me for my help based on my other work that means a lot to me and I appreciate how lucky I am and try my best to deliver stuff that makes them happy. So whether it’s a Those People thing, Happy Hour thing, or a personal thing I really just try and be as professional I can.
Looking at your background as founder of Craft Events Services, Beverage Director at Pez Cantina, and now the mixologist for Happy Hour Agency, it is clear you have a major talent for working with liquor and cocktails. When did you first realize your interest in working with alcohol and how did that lead you to your current creative projects?
I’ve been bartending for nearly 12 years now. I’ve always enjoyed it, especially the hustle and bustle of a busy bar, but it wasn’t until about 5 years ago that I decided to make it my career. I love being in the kitchen, probably because of my mom, and I get most of my inspiration from cooking. Experimenting and using new ingredients is my favorite part. I make all my own syrups, tinctures, bitters, and shrubs, and I always try and use only the freshest and most seasonal ingredients. And then there’s a whole other world of flavor profiles in the spirit you choose. It’s fascinating to me to go from a smoky mezcal to a spicy rum. As for running my own cocktail company, It just felt like a natural next move and, of course, the perfect venue to showcase what I love to do. Happy Hour Agency was an opportunity for us all to collaborate, be wacky, and just have fun.
Happy Hour Agency is touted as a mutual celebration of art and alcohol, with attendees experiencing the event with multiple senses. do you consider the mixing of a cocktail to be a form of art?
I absolutely do consider mixology to be an art form. There can be so many components to a cocktail. Vessels, ice, spirits, infusions, bitters, jams/marmalades, shrubs, fresh pressed juices...the list goes on. Not to mention the garnish; is it fresh, pickled, candied, dehydrated? There are endless combinations. Sometimes the work that goes into making these cocktails is overlooked, but when it’s appreciated, it’s just a reminder of why I do what I do.