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Glass act

Inside Philbrook MIX 2019

A great cocktail is a work of art. It’s a science, too, but anyone who’s had their hair blown back by the complexity of a perfect craft concoction knows mixology is about more than getting hammered: It’s a delicate dance requiring the touch of a thoughtful creative. That’s why, each year, we partner with our friends at Philbrook Museum during their annual MIX competition to celebrate the art of the cocktail during one of the most anticipated booze blowouts of the year. 

In keeping with tradition, we’re debuting portraits of this year’s competitors before they battle for glory to benefit Philbrook’s educational programming on Sept. 21. You’ll also hear from Philbrook director Scott Stulen about the changes ahead, along with MIX guest judge, New York Times drink columnist Robert Simonson, who offers simple advice for competitors: “If you’re reaching for your eighth ingredient, start over.”

Tickets and more information can be found at mix.philbrook.org.

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Q&A with Philbrook director Scott Stulen

TTV: Can you walk us through the changes in store for MIX this year? 

Stulen: The biggest difference, the really big one, is we’re changing locations. MIX has been [at Cain’s Ballroom] since its beginnings—except for the first year, which was in a parking garage. [Laughs.] Cain’s is super cool and a lot of fun, but we thought it might be interesting to actually bring it back here to Philbrook’s main campus. We’re going to kind of riff on the history of the Museum [with] a speakeasy theme. We’ll have MIX spread out throughout a lot of locations here throughout the campus—both indoor and a couple outdoor as well. We’re going to kind of play off the whole Great Gatsby vibe. It’s going to be exciting. 

TTV: Can you talk more about that history?

Stulen: Well, Philbrook was built in 1927-28, and the Phillips family lived here until 1938, when it became a museum. The era people always kind of harken back to here is when the Phillips were here—and that’s kind of that Roaring ‘20s into the ‘30s … that kind of speakeasy era. And we’re going to go with that. There’s a lot of little hidden parts of the museum—the villa itself, and also different parts of the campus here that I know people don’t even know exist. So we’re going to have these surprises hidden throughout little areas and alcoves that people probably didn’t even know were there. And a lot of things people normally don’t have access to. 

TTV: What can people who’ve never been to MIX expect from the festivities? 

Stulen: It’s a really casual event. A lot of fun. People get into the spirit of it. The core of it is having bartenders create a unique craft cocktail for this, an original creation. They’re given a base spirit and they riff off that. We have eight of the top bartenders in town as part of this event. People are encouraged to go around and try all the drinks, if they’re up for that. [Laughs.] And then they vote on it. So we have a people’s choice vote and we also have an expert judge … We’ll have music here. I’m going to be DJing a portion of it at some point in the night. It’s really just a fun [way] to come hang out and support the education programming at the Museum, which is super important, but also be able to come and be with your friends in this fun and festive way. We’ve never done it here at the Philbrook, so we’re excited. It’s going to be an adventure for our staff, too. 

TTV: What kind of impact does MIX have on your educational programming?

Stulen: It’s significant. This raises over $100,000 for us, that goes into our education programming and helps us reach a lot of people who can’t come to the Museum—so everything from tours here to different types of education programming and lectures …  also bringing music here, and programs for little kids up to retirees. It really is a wide-spanning [benefit] because the type of education programming we do is so diverse. 

TTV: Anything else readers should know about MIX 2019? 

Stulen: Tickets are selling really quickly this year, because of the new venue. People are excited to check it out. So don’t wait ‘til the last minute and expect to walk up and buy them. [Laughs.] But really, it’s a great time to support all the work we’re doing at the Museum. The big focus, since I’ve been here for three years now, is trying to make Philbrook welcoming, inclusive, and really fun for everyone coming here to engage with the art and the gardens. This event is that, squarely. 

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