Cocktail Queen


“People can have whatever they want” the artist insists with a laugh as she pours out the last strands of an herbal original cocktail—“Ro’s Merry Baby.” Rohini Moradi has stepped out from behind the bar after ten years serving among San Francisco’s most revered watering holes to give us an intimate taste of her philosophy. We’re eager to sip as fortunate guinea pigs in her “live lab” sessions.

“All I care about is how someone is going to feel drinking my cocktail” she says, “and how they feel afterwards.” Moradi has an outsider perspective on the current curly-mustachioed wave of cocktail crafting, which frees her to create based on pure inspiration. Whereas some bar pros become their own cons by following trends and toasting egos, Moradi has honed a sharp focus on substance and sustenance.

This past year, Moradi founded the San Francisco Bartending Academy (SFBA) with partner and instructor Jeremy Vassey. The Academy holds comprehensive classes in an actual bar with real alcohol, providing students with the world-class bar knowledge that allows them to skip wading through industry hoops. According to Moradi, “[SFBA] is for those who want to go straight into bartending…and they’ll do so knowing more fundamentals than the average bartender.”

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Meanwhile, Moradi’s mission also gracefully extends to us cocktail enthusiasts. While trying out a series of her libations, she makes it crystal clear that all contain a simple, sweet ingredient in the recipe: her very own Stevia-based simple syrup, Roya Spirit™. The syrup blends into her cocktails in a way that is balanced to perfection and surprisingly refreshing. “Stevia has a naturally bitter flavor. I’ve figured out a way to neutralize it.” While she won’t reveal exactly how, she has indeed crushed any hesitation amongst us sippers.

Everything down the palette is as sugary-sweet as one could imagine, only it comes with the unexpected and seemingly impossible benefit of actually minimizing hangover. As Moradi explains, “Stevia helps the body process sugar, which essentially means it breaks down the alcohol you’re consuming.” Roya Spirit’s Stevia-based syrups are 100% organic and contain zero calories, which make them safe for diabetics and friendly to the health-conscious as an addition to coffee, cocktails, baked goods, and just about anything. Beyond this, Moradi’s dedicated spirit for healthful concoctions is getting people excited about drinking again. After witnessing the hard knocks of the imbiber both first and secondhand, the artist took it upon herself to find a way to apply alcohol to better outcomes. Researching their earlier uses at the base of nearly every medicine, a revelation came to mind. Alcohol thins the blood and allows your body to absorb nutrients at a faster rate. So, as Moradi puts it, “If you’re going to drink, why not make it something healthy?”

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Born in Iran and raised in a culture where “nearly everything was hand made from scratch,” Moradi’s childhood travels through parts of India also exposed her to a technicolor array of flavors, all of which lend to the multifaceted display of herbs and spices that lay before us on the table. “This Earth truly does provide everything our body needs…all we have to do is figure out what we need and seek it,” she says.

From this, Moradi has compiled a book of her fondest and finest creations, due for publication this year. The idea is to provide us with a healthful template to follow our own inspirations. It might read a little complex on paper, but it’s actually about simplicity and balance…and really, it could be whatever we want.

Text by Luke Sweeney
Photography by Sean Yokomizo