Audrey Saunders is world-renowned as one of the pioneering leaders of modern mixology, and is also the owner of the award-winning Pegu Club in New York. Pegu Club is the globally recognized as the bar that catapulted the modern craft cocktail movement into gear in the United States, forever changing the way America drinks. Pegu is a 2x James Beard Award finalist, and through Audrey's mentorship, also responsible for spawning a number of America’s finest mixologists. Many of Audrey's innovations have been pivotal in advancing the beverage industry into the 21stcentury, and since opening in 2005, Pegu has set the gold standard for cocktails. Cited by the New York Times as “The Harvard of Mixology”, the award-winning Pegu Club has established itself for its beverage program and high level of service. Prior to Pegu Club's opening in 2005, American bars were carrying 20+ vodkas on their back-bar, and had not yet progressed beyond the Cosmopolitan or an Apple Martini. Audrey changed the entire landscape of cocktails in America-- from the moment she opened Pegu's doors, her program revolutionized the American Bar business with 27 gins and only 4 brands of vodka. Audrey is not only responsible for resurrecting the gin and rye whiskey categories in the US, but also responsible for reviving forgotten (at the time) ingredients as Chartreuse, Benedictine, Amari, rye whiskey, applejack, aquavit, eau de vie, and artisinal vermouth...she placed these ingredients directly into her speedwells, and taught bartenders who had never touched or heard of them how to work with them. She is also responsible for bringing Luxardo cherries into the country, and for the trend away from neon maraschino cherries. She also been recognized as one of the 25 most influential cocktail personalities of the century by Imbibe Magazine, won the very first "Best Worldwide Bartender" from Tales of the Cocktail, along with best "Best Mentor", "Best American Bar", "
Here is a list of some of the bartenders that Audrey mentored. You won't find any of her proteges working at chain restaurants-- her goal has always been to provide her staff with the skills and confidence to open their own craft cocktail establishments as one can see below. Most of them have gone on to win major awards (including JBF) and each has each gained world-wide recognition within the industry:
- Jim Meehan / Owner, PDT (New York) (Pegu '05 opening team)
- Brian Miller / Owner, The Polynesian (New York) (Pegu '05 opening team)
- Phil Ward / Death & Co & Partner, Mayahuel (New York) (Pegu '05 opening team)
- Chad Solomon / Owner, Midnight Rambler (Dallas) (Pegu '05 opening team)
- Sam Ross / Owner, Attaboy (New York) (Pegu '05 opening team)
- Kenta Goto / Owner, Bar Goto (New York)
- Yael Vengroff / Beverage Director, The Spare Room (Hollywood)
- Naren Young / Owner, Dante (New York)
- Jim Kearns / Owner, The Happiest Hour & Slowly Shirley (New York ) (Pegu '05 opening team)
- Toby Maloney / xxx, (Pegu '05 opening team)
- James Tune / Owner, Katana Kitchen & Boilermaker (New York)
- Eric Simpkins /xxx (Atlanta) (Pegu '05 opening team)
- Alistair Burgess / Owner, Happiness Forgets (London)
- St. John Frizell / Owner, Fort Defiance and Gage & Tolner (Brooklyn)
- Del Pedro / Owner, Tooker Alley (Brooklyn)
Through hard work, Audrey has been earning recognitions since very early on in her career. While in her role as Beverage Director for Bemelmans Bar at The Carlyle Hotel in 2004, New York Magazine deemed her "Best Cocktail Genius", and the Village Voice proclaimed her to be New York's "Best Mixologist". In 2006, Esquire magazine awarded the newly-opened Pegu "Best Bar in NY", and also won Time Out New York's "Best New Cocktail Bar". In '07, Audrey was named "Wine & Spirits Professional of the Year" by Bon Appetit Magazine, won "World's Best Bartender" and "World's Best Bar" at Tales of The Cocktail and decreed "Top 10 American Bartenders" by Playboy. In 2008, Pegu won the Benchmark Award by Cheer's Magazine. In 2009, the NY Times named Audrey's Gin-Gin Mule cocktail as the most significant cocktail of the decade, and Pegu went on to win "Best American Bar" at Tales of the Cocktail. In 2011, Audrey won "Best Bar Mentor" at Tales of the Cocktail. Many of her original cocktails are globally recognized as modern classics, and you can find them on menus around the world.
Audrey is also the Beverage Chair for New York charity Citymeals-on-Wheels Annual Chef's Tribute to James Beard since 2004. She created the entire beverage component for the event, and through that, has personally fundraised over $800k for Citymeals to date. Prior to that Audrey was also the Beverage Chair for Share Our Strength / Taste of the Nation charity from 2001 - 2012, implementing a similar fundraising program until passing it onto one of her proteges.