Leyenda, a Pan-Latin cocktail bar ranked 97 on the World’s 100 Best Bars List in 2018, is credited for some of the best libations in Brooklyn. Head Bartender Shannon Ponche has a deep knowledge of Mexican and other international spirits and ingredients, which makes her a great fit for Leyenda because of her preference for savory drinks and signature sangritas. Shannon created the Rizzo (a la head pink lady Betty Rizzo from Grease) with a house-made sangrita featuring The Perfect Purée Mango Puree, yellow bell pepper and lime juices, chiles, salt, pepper, and water.

A native of St. Louis, Shannon started working behind the only cocktail bar in town as soon as she turned 21. Lucky for her that bar was Taste, a Niche Food Group concept dedicated to hand-crafted cocktails and thoughtfully-prepared dishes.

Taste’s renowned bartender, Ted Kilgore, gave Shannon the solid foundation in mixology she needed to work in New York City at Phil Ward’s Mayahuel, a trailblazing tequila and mezcal bar in the East Village. Other influences included Dave Arnold, Natasha David and Leo Robitschek.

In 2013, Shannon competed in the Speed Rack bartending competition, earning first place and a job offer from Julie Reiner of the Clover Club and Flatiron Lounge. From there, she helped Reiner and partner Ivy Mix open Leyenda, where in 2018 she became head bartender and part of the bar crew nominated for awards by TimeOut New York and Tales of the Cocktail.

“I like to make most of my sangritas with The Perfect Purée,” she says. “The consistency makes for a great base and the range of flavors gives me lots to be inspired by. The first sangrita I made with The Perfect Purée was with the Tamarind Purée, coconut water, lime juice, pineapple, chile de arbol and star anise. Our standard sangrita at Leyenda uses the Papaya Purée with fresh carrot juice, lime and orange juices, chipotle and arbol chiles. It makes a great michelada and goes well with agave spirits in a cocktail.”

When not behind the bar, Shannon enjoys rock climbing, bike riding and sherry, almost always separately.

Cocktail photo by Emma Janzen; headshot photo by Shannon Sturgis.