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By Maia Merrill Gosselin
What a difference a year makes. Twelve months ago, Liza Hoar was living in San Diego, working the bar at the exclusive speakeasy Youngblood. Then a chance conversation at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans in July led to an intriguing job offer in Boston. Her interest piqued, she came to visit, liked what she saw, and deciding to go with her gut, packed up her life on the West Coast and made the move to Boston, landing here a few months ago. Of course, this conversation wasn’t with just anybody and it wasn’t just any bar she was being wooed to. In fact, it was with the renowned Jackson Cannon of Eastern Standard fame and the offer was to join the team at their newest cocktail bar: Equal Measure. Talk about a whirlwind!

While this is Liza’s first stint in Boston, she hails from the Northeast and cut her teeth in the business up in Bar Harbor back when she was just out of high school. With the exception of a very brief stint doing credit card activation, she has made her career in the industry ever since. During her fourteen years in the cocktail world, Liza has worked at establishments in NYC, Colorado, and California, establishing herself as a noted mixologist in the industry. She is truly passionate about her craft, always seeking to be innovative and push boundaries. In fact, the first thing she ever said to me was “Hang on, I’m just finishing up pureeing these sugar snap peas.” That’s a first!

I caught up with Liza recently to find out how life in Beantown has been so far and talk about her plans for the beverage program at Equal Measure. With cocktails featuring ingredients such as lemon fig balsamic, raspberry beet brine, and honeydew, all I can say is: get ready for something amazing! Liza Hoar may be new to Boston but I have a feeling it won’t be long before her name is well-known and the patrons are flocking to Equal Measure.

MAIA GOSSELIN You’ve been in this business since you were a teenager. What is it about this industry that you fell in love with and drew you into it as a career?
LIZA HOAR I love the idea of hospitality and the moments you can curate for a patron. It is an industry where we can create a lasting experience for someone. We are giving them a break from what they have going on in their lives outside the walls of our bar. Being able to change someone’s day around or have them leave with a bigger smile than the one they arrived with is always a goal of mine. I also love how the industry is always evolving and growing. It is something that keeps you on your toes and hungry for more knowledge.

MG Welcome to Boston! You’ve had quite a whirlwind ride over the last few months. Talk a little bit about the experience uprooting from West Coast to East Coast.
LH Thank you! It has definitely been a wild ride. I was living in San Diego for the last few years. I met Jackson Cannon while I was in New Orleans at Tales of the Cocktail and we started to talk about hospitality and Boston. He invited me to come take a look at the new bar and when I did I just got this feeling that it was the right place for me to be. Two months later I packed my life up, put some things in storage, and hopped on a plane to Boston. Deciding to move here in November was certainly an interesting change, especially since I have dealt with California winters the last few years. To be honest, these months have been incredible, so I do not regret the move in the slightest.

MG How much of the Boston cocktail scene have you been able to experience so far? What has impressed you the most?
LH I have been able to see a little of the cocktail scene so far and I am very impressed. The use of unique ingredients and techniques has wowed me. I am positive that I have not even seen close to the bulk of what is going on but I am very excited to experience it and to be a part of it. The community has been extremely welcoming, which has made everything incredibly smooth.

MG Does anything stand out in terms of East Coast/West Coast contrasts?
LH I mean weather for one! But as far as the cocktail scene goes, I think seasonal ingredients are a huge difference. Overall, both East and West Coast have been pushing the envelope and it has been awesome to see.

MG What are you most excited about and what are you looking forward to?
LH I’m very excited for summer in Boston and really looking forward to what is to come at Equal Measure! We are doing some neat and creative things and I want to see how far we can take it. EM is such a fantastic space to work in and it is always fun to be creative with the team. We have some very cool ideas we plan to launch for special nights that we can sell as an experience. We want to bridge the gap between culinary art and mixology while maintaining an emphasis on service and conviviality.

MG You recently experienced your first Patriot’s Day complete with the Marathon and a Sox game . . . sink or swim! What was it like?
LH It was an incredible day. So glad I was here to experience it. The flood of people and being able to see the runners from the windows of EM was amazing.

MG How do you find inspiration and creativity with your cocktail program?
LH I find inspiration from lots of different things: people, movies, books, a phrase, or a single ingredient. I love bright-colored things, so the use of fresh colorful fruits and vegetables is very important to me. Recently I have been exploring techniques and equipment I have never used before. One of the chefs here, Andres Cruz, and I have been working together on cocktails that have a more culinary aspect to them and the results have been amazing. For example, pairing fresh turmeric, honey, and juiced local carrots. We have many projects in the works using ingredients that are not typically found on cocktail menus. Jackson sent me an article on martinis and after finishing it the gears started turning and I felt very inspired. I always keep a small notebook with me so I can write down ideas. Currently working on a duck fat-washed dirty martini riff as well as a few others.

MG I love your Instagram handle: @GinHoar! Is gin your spirit “spirit” (as in spirit animal…)?
LH It’s actually a funny story how that came about. I was a brand ambassador for a gin company and needed to change my handle. My friend Marina and I were sitting at a bar and she suddenly screamed it out loud. We checked if it was taken and low and behold, I was made into the “ginhoar”. Gin is definitely one of my favorite spirits, it’s such a fun category.

MG Your posts and videos are fantastic — how integral do you find social media to be in your career?
LH Social media is always changing the game. Now, everyone has stories and followers can know what you are doing at any given time; I think it is extremely important. It’s how we can tell our friends we are at work; show them something fun we are doing. It’s also how you can get in contact with people from around the world and ask them questions. It has been an incredibly useful tool.

MG There is no shortage of luminaries and legends in this business. Who are some of your mentors and role models?
LH My grandfather was actually the first person to teach me how to make a cocktail. It was a martini but the way the shaker sounded and the way the drink looked after it was poured . . . I was hooked. When I moved back to NYC and was at Empellon Taqueria I got to work for Mat Resler who taught me discipline and the importance of balance. From there, wow, there are so many incredible people who inspire me: Kate Boushel and Christine Wiseman are both powerhouse women that have moved mountains in the industry and are extremely badass. I have had the pleasure of meeting them both and really strive to do what they do for their teams. Sam Ross, I got a few lessons from and love his style. And my teams from San Diego and here in Boston are role models to me because they push me to do better. Frank Mcgrath who was the GM at my last spot in San Diego is one of the humblest people and is just a gem of a human. Jackson Cannon of course is on this list as well — I am very thankful for his belief in me!

MG There have been a lot of ups and downs in the restaurant industry over the past few years. What’s your opinion on the state of things today? What are some positives and what are some challenges?
LH People are definitely back out to bars and restaurants but aren’t staying out as late as they used to. So the late nights are certainly a lot quieter than I remember. I do feel that people are much more adventurous with their cocktails and trying new things. The home bartender is a real trend and I am here for it! It has been a lot of fun getting to nerd out with guests about different spirits and cocktails. Some things have changed with staffing and there is a whole new generation of bartenders that are so hungry to learn and create. It is something powerful to witness.

MG And finally, it’s the end of your shift or your day off . . . what’s your favorite libation to mix up for yourself?
LH Classic London dry gin negroni or a dirty gin martini (depends on how my week went).