In 2004, if you asked Izzy Ramos Foster where she’d be in 10 years, she definitely wouldn’t have expected to be at the western edge of the United States in Grays Harbor County.
At the time, the now 31-year-old was just about to enter bartending school in Miami. After moving from San Juan, Puerto Rico, when she was 14, Ramos Foster had graduated from high school and spent some time in college studying television and film.
Not being inspired by work in the TV industry, she tried her luck at ABC Bartending School, enrolling in the two-week course after receiving a $500 loan from a friend. The experience paid off and ever since, the newly transplanted Washingtonian has centered her career around making the perfect cocktail.
Ramos Foster operates Mixotica Cocktail Design, a bar consulting company that has created seasonal cocktail menus for Rediviva in Aberdeen and Mill 109 in Seabrook.
Ramos Foster’s inclination to attend bartending school wasn’t completely random. She remembers that when she was younger, she would make drinks for her friends after secretly making her way into her dad’s liquor cabinet in Miami.
“It’s funny because the bartending school wasn’t anything I ever had in mind,” she said. “But I do remember anytime I had a little gathering or party or went to someone’s party or gathering, somehow I always ended up being the one making the drinks … and people liked them.”
Driving by ABC while she was in Florida, Ramos Foster got to thinking that being a full-time bartender might be a career to pursue. Although it’s not the most common occupational path, growing up in Miami, she knew there were plenty of gigs in the industry.
Ramos Foster completed the program and started working at bars and restaurants, taking a number of different jobs in the service industry. Eventually, she came full circle, landing a job teaching at ABC.
A former instructor hired Ramos Foster, even though he told her he was “taking a chance” on the deal because of her tattoos and piercings. She liked the job, and she became good at it.
“You stand in front of a group of students for two weeks and you have to teach the same stuff,” she said. “It gets repetitive and you get really good at it.”
The gig was a good one for Ramos Foster, allowing her to work at the school while still holding other jobs to supplement her income. But, after meeting her future husband, her plans changed. She met Neil Foster, now her husband, in 2011 through a mutual friend while he was stationed in Louisiana in the military. Foster is originally from Shelton and toward the end of his time in the military, the couple decided they wanted to live together. They moved to Grays Harbor.
Ramos Foster says she wasn’t attached to Miami, but making the move across the county definitely proved to be a cultural shock.
When she first came to town in 2013, Ramos Foster worked for Rediviva. On top of the transition from a major metropolitan city to Grays Harbor, she realized she wasn’t making as much money serving food and cocktails as she was in Florida.
“At Rediviva, my best night was $200, non-stop running food, making cocktails for servers, customers; it was crazy,” she said. “Maybe $800 minimum in Miami. (It was) a huge pay cut.”
Since moving to the Harbor, Ramos Foster has designed seasonal cocktail menus for Mill 109 and Rediviva. She puts her own twists on traditional drinks like daiquiris and Manhattans, as well as creating original cocktails.
Her “bar consulting” company is Mixotica Cocktail Design. For now it’s just supplemental income, but it has to the potential to be more than that, she said.
Ramos Foster has a wide variety of different concoctions she puts together, from a bourbon drink garnished with a banana to a Douglas Fir Daiquiri to which she adds an ounce of Douglas Fir syrup.
What’s more is that not only does Ramos Foster think up a wide array of drinks, she also picks a number of the different ingredients she uses herself, using fruits and herbs from around the area to add to her cocktails.
When working with local bars, Ramos Foster says she asks management what they want in a cocktail menu and then makes decisions on what products to get to spice up classic drinks or put together original libations.
“If they are a basic bar and they want something simple, I work with what’s already in stock,” she said. “You can really be creative with anything you carry. You just have to think outside of the box.
“There are very simple things you can do. I can work with a very minimal inventory of something and just kind of teach (the bar staff). Sometimes you can go back to the classics, sometimes you can rework them and make them very good.”
At Mill 109, for example, Ramos Foster said she added marmalade to a margarita, putting a twist on a famous drink.
For Ramos Foster, making interesting cocktails is a way to give locals and tourists alike a chance to order a drink that falls outside of the norm.
“I want anyone who comes from out of town to walk into a bar and be able to get a decent cocktail,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be just a whiskey shot or a Jager shot or a Rainier in a can.”
In the future, says Ramos Foster, she hopes to expand her consulting company by reaching out to more bars in the area to provide her services.
Izzy Ramos Foster
Mixotica Cocktail Design