Rachael Robbins is no stranger to the spotlight. She began her career in modeling in 1997, scoring attention by appearing in Playboy three times and even getting her own Playboy trading card. She made her film debut in the 1999 Troma cult classic “Terror Firmer” and became a blond scream queen favorite with her roles in the low-budget/high-energy horror romps “Screaming Dead” and “Dr. Horror’s Erotic House of Idiots.” Robbins’ photogenic presence was so strong that she was featured on the DVD cover of the 2010 indie comedy “London Betty,” even though she only had two minutes of screen time in a guest appearance as a too-eager neophyte model.
In the course of her 40-plus film career, Robbins also found herself in notable independent films, including the 2010 drama “An Affirmative Act” with Charles Durning and the 2013 crime thriller “Real Gangsters” with Robert Loggia and Margot Kidder. While enjoying a healthy run as a working actress, Robbins also began to branch out into stand-up comedy in New York-area clubs.
Then, her career hit a major bump in the road. “About three or four years ago, the entertainment industry kind of dried up for me,” she recalls. “I was in a weird age range where I was too old to be an ingenue, but I was also not at the age to be playing a young mother.”
As one door closed, however, another opened. Around this time, Robbins and her then-boyfriend opened their own cocktail lounge in New Jersey, and she realized a new spotlight was available.
“In the hospitality industry, the bartender is the star of the show,” she observes. And while her relationship and the cocktail lounge did not last, she recognized she could craft a promising career that blended her performing skills and her ability to connect with audiences.
“Working in a bar, I would be stuck in the same place every day,” she says. “So, I started a cocktail consulting company, which takes me to a different place every day.”
Based out of Jersey City, New Jersey, Robbins’ Chickologist LLC provides restaurants with a professional consideration of how they can spice up their cocktail menu by moving outside of the comfort zone of the old tried-and-true drinks with a lineup of bold creations that offer an intoxicating challenge to the imagination. “It is like ‘Bar Rescue’ but without the theatrics,” says Robbins, who also consults on liquor brands and price points to ensure that restaurants enjoy versatility and profitability when servicing their imbibing customers.
One of Robbins’ most invigorating assignments involved Halifax Hoboken, the restaurant/bar in the luxury W Hotel in Hoboken. To underscore the restaurant’s focus on northeastern North American cuisine, Robbins fine-tuned a cocktail lineup that reflects both the distinctive tastes of the region and ingredients that can be sourced locally. Coming up with these creations requires more than a little ingredient testing, with Robbins recruiting a squadron of friends to offer their opinions.
“If it is just me alone in the kitchen, it can be nerve-wracking,” she acknowledges. “I might like what I create, but I don’t know if other people will like it. I do my testing with friends who have really great palates. And it is definitely a science to engineer cocktails — you have to keep tweaking it to get it right.”
Robbins also strives to create cocktails that can be assembled by both professional mixologists and people eager to recreate the drinks at home. “I want to make drinks that are very accessible,” she continues. “I don’t use crazy things like liquid nitrogen. When people taste them, they can be able to go home to make them.”
Alas, this creates a new problem — claiming proprietary ownership of her cocktails. “It is near impossible to copyright a recipe,” she says, noting that she has gone in the opposite direction and granted permission for online sites to run her recipes with proper credit. “If you can’t copyright it, you might as well share it with as many people as possible.”
That strategy seems to be working. Robbins’ calendar is busy for the foreseeable future, with consulting work across the metro New York area plus hospitality trade show appearances lined up across the country. Robbins’ talents have been spotted by New Zealand’s VDKA 6100 vodka brand, which named her as its in-house mixologist in its U.S. rollout.
If that’s not busy enough, she is also in talks about a potential TV show related to mixology — which would bring her back in front of the cameras after several years off the screen. And more than a few people who recall her Playboy photo shoots and scream queen flicks will gladly raise their glasses to cheer the glamorous mixologist’s latest venture.
Recipe for “Summer of ’69”
- Two ounces of vodka
- One ounce of Meyer lemon juice
- One ounce of mint simple syrup
- One ounce of blackberry purée
To make mint simple syrup, add 2 cups sugar, 2 cups water and 1 cup tightly packed fresh mint to a saucepan and bring to a boil for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool overnight and drain mint. Refrigerate. (It will last for about a month or can be frozen.) Mix mint simple syrup and other ingredients together and serve over ice.