Lucas Maley, mixologist at Salt City Market in Syracuse, New York. Photo courtesy of Lucas Maley

Mixologist Lucas Maley’s drink concoctions tell stories. They’re stories of famous cities, of historic events and of time periods combined with nostalgia. 

And since the pandemic, the Boston native has been telling those stories in cocktail glasses to his Syracuse customers. 

Maley will be co-hosting a collaborative event this Thursday at Salt City Market with Anirban Acharya, a professor of political science and economics at LeMoyne College, for the taste of cultures event in recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month. 

“[Acharya is] telling a story with the spices and getting people to try new things, and I just really like that aspect of it,” Maley said.

The event will be a blind taste test to encourage all guests to try something new and get out of their comfort zone. But this isn’t the first time Maley will help Syracuse-area patrons get outside their comfort zones. 

Maley relocated to Central New York during the pandemic to evade the high cost of living in Boston, especially for bartenders, many of whom were furloughed from their jobs due to the mandated business lockdowns. 

Maley admits his calling to become Salt City Bar manager was unexpected. 

“I knew the recipes for the drinks,” Maley said. “And, honestly, I think most people who bartend have a similar story like that — it’s just kind of like you get thrown into the thick of it because of some weird circumstance.”

Now approaching his third year in CNY, Maley has worked as the manager at Salt City Bar for the past two years. But his half a decade’s worth of mixology experience and knowledge is depicted in his creatively themed drinks, often influenced by historical events or zodiac signs — just to list a couple. 

“I like creating drinks with a story behind them, and it kind of varies what that story is,” Maley said.

Take, for instance, a Manhattan-style cocktail with Mezcal as the base spirit. It’s called the “French Intervention.” The drink’s name was historically influenced by the French’s failed attempt to conquer Mexico City.

“The idea behind the cocktail is that four of the ingredients are French, but the one that kind of dominates and dictates, the base spirit of the drink, is Mexican, kind of referencing that historical event,” Maley said. 

On creating cocktails during COVID:

During the pandemic, Maley put his idle time to the test by creating innovative cocktail ideas, transforming them into drinks to serve to close friends. In an effort to recreate the bartending scene, Maley brought the bar to his home, serving drinks for his guests to try. 

“With the unemployment, [I] had money, but then nothing to do, but I did come up with a lot of interesting recipes,” Maley said.

The effort was short-lived. Maley found himself spending exorbitant amounts of his money in comparison to having direct access to a bar filled with an assortment of drink options. 

“I did come up with a lot of drink recipes over COVID, but I had to cut myself off at a certain point because I realized I was spending all this money at the liquor store,” Maley said.

On creating drink recipes:

The most popular drinks at Salt City Bar are the bar’s signature sangria and a margarita called “Welcome to My Island” that features tequila with a kiwi puree, lychee liqueur and lime juice with a Hawaiian black lava salt garnish.  Maley invented both recipes. 

As the summer quickly approaches and people overflow at the Salt City Bar, the team is gearing up to present its new summer menu on June 28, filled with nostalgic 90’s-themed drinks and featuring some pop culture references from the era, like a drink named the “Legends of the Hidden Temple.”

At Salt City Bar, themes serve as great conversation starters for inquiring bar guests and as a  blueprint for the staff.

“I think the worst thing for creativity is unlimited resources, unlimited time. Limitations create creativity,” Maley said. “When you have a framework to work off of, all of a sudden, you start coming up with stuff instead of just thinking ‘Well, if the possibilities are endless, what do I do?’”


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