Lindsay Shea Bolster

Lindsay Shea Bolster, General Manager, Presidio, Chicago, IL

Award-winning Chicago mixologist Lindsay Shea Bolster has firm ground rules for creating outstanding cocktails. First, make sure the drink is balanced.

“There should be the right amount of acidity, sweetness, bitterness and savoriness and it should never be too heavy in one direction versus the other,” says Lindsay, whose experience behind the bar ranges from Miami’s iconic Clevelander Hotel to the celebrated Underground Chicago nightclub.

Second, always consider your audience. The cocktail menu at a hotel bar with international travelers should not necessarily have the same type of beverage program as a cocktail bar in a trendy urban neighborhood, Lindsay says.

Finally, keep it simple. A good cocktail shouldn’t take 10 minutes to make and it also shouldn’t have so many complex, unfamiliar ingredients that it makes a guest feel overwhelmed or discouraged from re-creating the drink at home.

Formerly the general manager at Freestyle Food + Drink at the Dana Hotel and Spa in Chicago, Lindsay recently accepted the same position at Presidio, a restaurant inspired by the culinary traditions of Northern California and the San Francisco Bay area. Lindsay is already putting Presidio’s bar on the map with glowing reviews for the intricate flavor profiles of its craft cocktails — and that’s before introducing The Perfect Purée.

She said she swears by the brand and plans to incorporate it into Presidio’s beverage program starting with Ginger, Tamarind, Blood Orange and Carmelized Pineapple.

Lindsay discovered The Perfect Purée when she was the general manager at Chicago’s Dragon Ranch (now closed), where the mixologist used it in the cocktail program.

“Ever since, The Perfect Purée has inspired numerous drinks simply by trying samples of the different flavors and experimenting by mixing them with my favorite spirits,” she says.

Her first creation was a margarita for Cinco de Mayo using The Perfect Purée’s Red Raspberry. Her Raspberry Margarita was such a hit it earned a permanent spot on the Dana’s menu and became a top-seller. From there, Lindsay created seasonal margaritas using The Perfect Purée flavors as the base of each drink. “It continued to boost sales and receive great feedback from our guests,” she says.
Lindsay is a 20-year veteran of the restaurant, nightclub, and bar industry, starting with her first job as a dishwasher in a small, family-owned restaurant. By the time she was in her early 20s, she was bartending at Underground Chicago, a see-and-be-seen spot for drinks and dancing. Since 2009, Lindsay has worked on the management side of the business, first at the Clevelander on Ocean Drive in Miami then as the general manager of two Rockit Ranch productions, Dragon Ranch and Ay Chiwowa, both in Chicago.

It wasn’t until she started working at the Dana and noticed its cocktail menu needed an overhaul that she became seriously interested in mixology. She found she was surprisingly good at it and started entering competitions, winning the People’s Choice award for Best Manhattan in Chicago at the 2014 GQ Magazine & Woodford Reserve contest and being recognized as a contender for the Casamigos Tequila Star of the Bar competition.

Lindsay approaches mixology with a sanguine, self-assured attitude and doesn’t take it too seriously if her drink isn’t an instant hit. “Every guest is not going to like every drink,” she says. “Everyone has a different palette so one can never be offended if someone does not like a cocktail. The response to my cocktails is usually quite favorable, however!”

Recipes by Lindsay Shea Bolster

Whiskey Smash
Blackberry Basil Spritzer
Hibiscus Margarita