Audrey Saunders

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Audrey Saunders is world-renowned as one of the pioneering leaders of modern mixology[1], 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 two times James Beard Award finalist, and through Audrey's mentorship, also responsible for spawning a number of America’s finest mixologists.[2] Many of Audrey's innovations have been pivotal in advancing the beverage industry into the 21st Century, and since opening in 2005, Pegu has set the gold standard for cocktails. Cited by the New York Times as “The Harvard of Mixology”[3][4][5], 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 dozens of 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[6]. 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[7]. She is also responsible for bringing Luxardo cherries into the country, which set the trend away from the neon-red imitation maraschino cherries[8]. She also been recognized as one of the 25 most influential cocktail personalities of the century by Imbibe Magazine[9], won the very first "Best Worldwide Bartender" (2007)[10] from Tales of the Cocktail, along with best "Best Mentor" (2011)[11], and "Best American Bar" [12] (2009)

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 from the James Beard Foundation) and each has each gained world-wide recognition within the industry:

  • Jim Meehan / Owner, PDT (New York & Hong Kong) - 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 / Partner and Head Mixologist, The Violet Hour - Pegu '05 opening team
  • James Tune / Owner, Katana Kitchen & Boilermaker (New York)
  • Eric Simpkins / Owner, The Lawrence (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 recognition 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.



  • Waterfront Ale House (New York)


  • Rainbow Room (New York), working events for the Rainbow Room with Dale DeGroff


  • Blackbird (New York), with Dale DeGroff


  • Beacon (New York)
  • Tonic (New York)


  • The Carlyle Hotel (New York): Beverage Director in charge of reopening their legendary Bemelmans Bar[13]


  • The Pegu Club (New York)


  • The Tar Pit (Los Angeles)

Original Recipes

Awards, Recognitions, and Achievements


  • Cocktail Kingdom: Released a custom designed "Sour Glass" as the first offering of "The Audrey Saunders Collection" [14]


  • Tales of the Cocktail: Helen David Lifetime Achievement Award [15]


  • Inducted into Les Dames d'Escoffier, New York Chapter


  • Mixologist, Dan Barber's wastED program series (March 20, 2015) [16][17]


  • Mixologist, James Beard Foundation, "Women in Whites" (Nov 15, 2013) [18]
  • James Beard Awards: Pegu Club Nominee


  • James Beard Awards: Pegu Club Nominee [19]


  • Tales of the Cocktail: Best Bar Mentor


  • Went head to head with the NY DOH to clarify legalities for use of raw egg in cocktails
  • Imbibe Magazine: 25 Most Influential Cocktail Personalities of the Century


  • Opened the Tar Pit with Chef Mark Peel / Los Angeles
  • Offered the Head Bartender position at The American Bar at the Savoy, London
  • Lectured with Harold McGee at Flemish Primitives, Bruge
  • New York Times: Gin Gin Mule cocktail named most significant cocktail of the decade
  • Tales of The Cocktail: Best American Bar


  • Cheers Magazine: Benchmark Award


  • Tales of the Cocktail: World’s Best Bartender
  • Tales of the Cocktail: World’s Best Cocktail Bar
  • Bon Appétit Magazine: Wine & Spirits Professional of the Year
  • Playboy Magazine – Top 10 American Bartenders


  • Time Out New York: Best New Cocktail Bar
  • Esquire Magazine: Best Bar in New York


  • Opened Pegu Club


  • New York Magazine: Best Cocktail Genius
  • Village Voice: Best Mixologist

External Links

  • In Conversation with Audrey Saunders Part 1, Part 2 (The Cocktail Lovers: May 2011)


  1. 14 Bars That Changed Cocktails Forever in America (The Robb Report, November 19, 2019)
    "With the craft of cocktail making largely lost to time, bartender Audrey Saunders was a pioneer in re-establishing how to make great drinks."
  2. Love Your Happy Hour Cocktail? Thank Audrey Saunders. (The Daily Beast, March 7, 2019)
    "Pegu, which has won numerous Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards and been nominated for two James Beard Awards, became a de facto bartending school. Numerous famous bartenders came through the bar and then opened their own establishments, including Jim Meehan, Kenta Goto, Brian Miller, Phil Ward, Chad Solomon, Sam Ross, Naren Young, St. John Frizell and Toby Maloney."
  3. 5 easy chef secrets for upgrading your cooking and cocktail skills The Today Show, April 23, 2016
  4. 13 Most Influential Craft Cocktail Bars in the USA ( via Archive.ort, July 2017)
    Why it matters: Although owner and self-described “cocktail mom” Audrey Saunders has decamped from New York to the West Coast, this is still the bar where countless well-known bartenders (and barflies) cut their teeth. It’s with good reason Pegu is sometimes called the Harvard of Mixology. Pegu, named for a storied late-19th-century British officers’ club in Burma, is also noted for helping re-popularize gin and for bringing forth such cocktails as the Gin-Gin Mule and Earl Grey MarTEAni.
  5. Tales of the Cocktail Names DeGroff and Saunders 2017 Ambassadors Tales of the Cocktail, 2017
  6. The Power 20 - Behind The Menu: Audrey Saunders (Restaurant Business, April 11, 2019)
    "To launch the revolutionary bar program, she filled the shelves with 27 gins and only four brands of vodka, adding bottles of rye whiskey to the mix. She also resurrected forgotten ingredients such as chartreuse, benedictine, amari, aquavit, artisanal vermouth and eau de vie, teaching bartenders how to craft them into cocktails."
  7. How Pegu Club Forever Changed the Cocktail Game, APR. 7, 2015
  8. America Almost Ruined Cocktail Cherries, But Italy Is Bringing Them Back Food & Wine, November 16, 2018
  9. Imbibe Magazine: The Top 25 Most Influential Cocktail Personalities of the Past Century
    Audrey Saunders: Not long ago, housemade cocktail ingredients like bitters and tonic water where a rarity behind the bar. Then in 2005, Audrey Saunders opened Pegu Club in New York, a bar that helped put the “craft” in the classic cocktail movement. By using housemade ingredients to update old-time recipes, she brought long-forgotten drinks into the 21st century’s spotlight.
  10. Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards for 2007 Mixologist/Bartender of the Year: Audrey Saunders, Pegu Club, New York, New York
  11. Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards for 2011 Best Bar Mentor: Audrey Saunders
  12. Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards for 2009 Best American Cocktail Bar: Pegu Club, New York, New York
  13. Bemelmans (Edible Manhattan, December 3, 2011)
    "Before finding fame at Pegu Club, cocktail-world doyenne Audrey Saunders ran the liquor program at Bemelmans from 2001 to 2005."
  14. Make a Pisco Sour in a Glass Designed by a Cocktail Legend (GrubStreet)
  15. Spirited Awards Archive (Tales of the Cocktail)
  16. Here's the Food Waste-Focused Menu for Dan Barber's WastED Pop-Up (NY Eater)
  17. Trash-to-Table: New York's Most Ethical Chef Goes Dumpster Diving (GQ Magazine)
  19. 2012 JBF AWARD NOMINEES (James Beard Foundation)