The mixologists behind the official drinks of the Emmys share how to make each at home

·7 min read
The official drinks of the Emmys include a take on an espresso martini an alcohol-free mocktail. (Photos: Ketel One)
The official drinks of the Emmys include a take on an espresso martini an alcohol-free mocktail. (Photos: Ketel One)

While millions of viewers tune into this year's Emmys, a team of creatives will be busy behind the scenes preparing a blow-out celebration for winners and nominees. It's not a party without cocktails — and the Emmys has its very own signature drinks that change every year.

Mixologist Charles Joly, the only American to ever be named World Class Bartender of the Year, has been creating unique cocktails for the Emmys for five years. This year he's joined by Lauren Paylor O'Brien, a nationally-ranked bartender and DMV Black Restaurant Week cocktail competition-winner.

The pair have different palates and techniques, which makes them a great team to develop cocktails for an event as large and diverse as the Emmy Awards. Together they created four unique drinks designed to be approachable to anyone lucky enough to get an invite to a post-Emmys party, from household names to the unsung heroes who work behind the scenes making television great. By the time the Emmys wrap up, they will have made over 10,000 drinks.

Joly and Paylor O'Brien's inspiration doesn't come from a particular show or television star. Not only would it be too hard to choose a favorite, but both mixologists want everyone who's part of the Emmys to feel honored and have fun. "For so many people, the Emmys represent the culmination of their life's work," says Joly. "We want to be democratic." Instead, the pair takes their inspiration from the vibe of the Emmys itself, down to the color scheme.

The process of developing the official cocktails of the Emmys takes about five months. The mixologists share different iterations of the drinks with their partners to get feedback. Joly stresses when creating cocktails, it's important not to focus solely on what the mixologist likes, but to also consider who'll be drinking the cocktails. The sheer size of the Emmys means the official Emmy cocktails must appeal to a wide variety of tastes.

Charles Joly and Lauren Paylor O'Brien, the mixologists who created this year's official Emmy Awards cocktail menu.  (Photo: Danny Moloshok/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images)
Charles Joly and Lauren Paylor O'Brien, the mixologists who created this year's official Emmy Awards cocktail menu. (Photo: Danny Moloshok/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images)

Paylor O'Brien notes there's an element of chemistry that goes into making cocktails for the Emmys. For example, she had to develop the right combination to get the blue matcha in The Butterfly to turn the shade of purple she wanted. "We are all a little bit scientist," says Paylor O'Brien. "It's the details that elevate the experience," Joly adds, "even if the guests don't notice."

Although Joly and Paylor O'Brien do most of the work crafting the cocktails, including coming up with names for and ideas for how to best present their drinks, the final result is always a collaborative process.

Paylor O'Brien wanted to incorporate the scent of the ubiquitous oranges that grow in California where the Emmys are held. The Breakfast for Dinner cocktail, made with orange bitters and garnished with an orange twist, is the result. She also made it a point to ensure this year's cocktails are inclusive. The Butterfly, is a pretty pink nonalcoholic drink everyone can enjoy. The sophisticated flavors, including Seedlip Spice 94 and butterfly pea powder tea, ensure anyone who isn't drinking (or wants to slow down) doesn't need to resort to plain soda.

Joly says he's always thinking about how unique flavors can be combined in new and interesting ways. The Waking Dream uses Ketel One vodka from Holland, aged Chinese tea with caramel and vanilla and a dash of espresso. Presentation is also very important to Joly. "We taste with our eyes first," he says, and the Emmy cocktails are all beautifully presented." The Starlight, a tall beautiful fuchsia drink with plenty of effervescence, combines watermelon and mint for a cocktail that's cool and refreshing while being black-tie appropriate.

Although most tune into the Emmys for just one night, it's actually a weeklong event with awards and parties that take place for days before the main event. This means Joly and Paylor O'Brien have already served thousands of cocktails. So far, no favorite has emerged, and many guests are tasting all four, which thrills the mixologists who designed the cocktails to work well together. Paylor O'Brien, who is bartending at the official Emmy parties along with Joly, has says she's enjoyed the experience of being involved with the Emmys. "We get to have the best job and meet the best people," she tells Yahoo Life, adding that she really hopes Zendaya tries one of their cocktails.

For those who aren't on the VIP list, Joly and Paylor O'Brien want to be sure the Emmy signature cocktails can also be enjoyed at home. They say the cocktails can be replicated by anyone, even those who don't have a full set of bar tools. The Emmy cocktails start with a base of Ketel One vodka, which both like for its smooth texture and good quality at a reasonable price point. Joly stresses making cocktails is a creative endeavor rather than an exact science, and shares he and Paylor O'Brien will make micro-adjustments up until the night of the Emmys — so no one should shy away from making their own version of the official Emmy cocktails.

Waking Dream

Courtesy of Ketel One, Lauren Paylor O'Brien and Charles Joly

(Photo: Ketel One)
(Photo: Ketel One)

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ ounces Ketel One vodka

  • 1 ½ ounces fresh espresso (chilled to room temp, or fresh-ground brewed coffee)

  • ½ ounce chocolate-black tea infused syrup (1 part sugar : 1 part water)

Instructions:

  • Combine all ingredients in a shaker, shake well with plenty of ice and strain into a chilled martini glass.

  • Grate fresh chocolate over the top.

  • To make infused syrup: Simply combine 1 cup sugar with 1 cup water in a pot. Heat gently and stir to dissolve. Infuse with 4 tea bags on lowest heat for 15 minutes (don't boil). Strain and cool for use.

Breakfast for Dinner

Courtesy of Ketel One, Lauren Paylor O'Brien and Charles Joly

(Photo: Ketel One)
(Photo: Ketel One)

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ ounces Ketel One Vodka

  • ¾ ounce white vermouth

  • ¾ ounce wine-based aperitif

  • 2 dashes orange bitters

Instructions:

  • Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice.

  • Stir well and strain into a chilled martini glass.

  • Cut an orange peel and mist the top of the cocktail with orange oils.

  • Garnish with an orange twist.

Starlight

Courtesy of Ketel One, Lauren Paylor O'Brien and Charles Joly

(Photo: Ketel One)
(Photo: Ketel One)

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ ounces Ketel One vodka

  • 1 ½ ounces fresh watermelon juice

  • ¾ ounce fresh lemon juice

  • ½ ounce mint simple syrup

  • 3 ounces chilled soda water (or rosé sparkling wine)

  • Muddled mint

Instructions:

  • Combine Ketel One, watermelon juice, lemon and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice.

  • Shake very briefly and strain over fresh ice in a tall glass.

  • Top with chilled soda and gently stir to combine. Garnish with fresh mint bouquet.

  • To make Watermelon juice: Roughly chop fresh watermelon; use a blender, smoothie maker, food processor or stick blender to puree. Strain away the pulp and you'll be left with delicious, fresh watermelon juice. (Use the pulp in a refreshing gazpacho or freeze it into cubes.)

The Butterfly

Courtesy of Ketel One, Lauren Paylor O'Brien and Charles Joly

(Photo: Ketel One)
(Photo: Ketel One)

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces strawberry-infused Seedlip Spice 94

  • 2 ounces pineapple juice

  • 1 ounce lime juice

  • 2 ounces strong butterfly pea flower tea

  • 1 ounce coconut syrup

  • 3 ounces soy milk

Instructions:

  • To make strawberry-infused Seedlip Spice 94:

    • 13 ounces Seedlip Spice 94

    • 4 frozen strawberries

    • Combine and infuse overnight. Strain out strawberries.

  • To make coconut syrup:

    • 2 parts granulated cane sugar

    • 1 part coconut water

  • Place Seedlip, pineapple juice and lime juice into a container.

  • Add milk to the Seedlip mixture.

  • Let sit for one hour, then strain with a coffee filter.

  • Add tea and coconut syrup and stir. Place the batch into the fridge and serve over ice.

  • Pour over large cubes in a rocks glass. Garnish with an edible flower.

Wellness, parenting, body image and more: Get to know the who behind the hoo with Yahoo Life's newsletter. Sign up here.