How often do you come across a skilled female mixologist in Lebanon, an award-winning one to boot, executing perfect cocktails at a five-star hotel in the heart of the capital? Meet Natasha Abou Moghli, the poised yet personable mistress manning the chic watering hole Bar ThreeSixty on the roof of the Le Gray Hotel in downtown Beirut. At just 25-years-old, she is perhaps the youngest female mixologist in the entire city, but after sipping one of her concoctions - more like guzzling it down, it’s so good - you’ll quickly realize that age has nothing to do with finesse. In fact, Abou Moghli’s youthfulness is refreshing: she’s perpetually smiling, disarmingly approachable, and loves creating pleasurable experiences for her guests.

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Abou Moghli’s foray into mixology was pure serendipity. The eldest of seven children born to a Lebanese father and Pakistani mother, she grew up in Saudi Arabia and washed up on the shores of Lebanon in 2008 to major in marketing at AUST. Like any college kid, she began waitressing at Bob’s Diner in Verdun for extra pocket money. Abou Moghli quickly realized how much she loved being around people and serving them, but she found herself lured to the action behind the bar. She watched the bartender intently as he whipped up cocktails and prepared drinks, and she became entranced.

When Abou Moghli moved on to Kennedy’s Irish Pub in Hamra, her fascination grew deeper. She struck up a friendship with the bartender, and every evening after her floor shift ended, she’d stand next to him and shadow his techniques.

The leap from Kennedy’s to Le Gray wasn’t overnight. In fact, after Kennedy’s, Abou Moghli held half a dozen roles, shrugging off the garb of waitress and donning the apron of bartender. First at Neighbors in Hamra, then Chili’s Achrafieh, followed by a summer stint at BayView’s C-Lounge in Ain Mreisseh, and then a gig at Liquid in Mar Mikhael. At 9:30 Bar and Grill in Hamra she got her first real taste of bar management, where she’d been hired on to launch the bar, engaging in everything from cost control to menu creation and pricing in addition to actually crafting drinks.

But after some time, the lengthy hours and the lack of vacation time took a toll on her, and she reluctantly left the beverage scene to try her hands at an administrative job behind a computer. Three months was ample time to convince her she didn’t belong in an office, so as soon as she stumbled upon Le Gray’s online job post seeking a mixologist, she applied. The rest, as they say, is history.

At Bar ThreeSixty, Abou Moghli works solo, and that can be overwhelming on nights when she’s fashioning over 120 drinks. During the summer season, she shifts gears and venues, reigning over Cherry on the Rooftop with the help of a bar-back. And Cherry is in full blossom: with around 140 guests on weekends and 100 on weeknights, Abou Moghli hardly has time for a pause.

Her specialty is an espresso martini, which, together with a Physalis and herbs concoction, won her a merit award at Horeca’s Bartender Competition in April. She’s also developed a Gardenia drink for the hotel’s Cigar Lounge offered during the month of June, and her martini sampler is a perennial favorite. I can’t get enough of her ultra-smooth sangria, dosed generously with wine, fresh seasonal fruit, and a few other clandestine ingredients. Thankfully, it’s available year-round.

So what’s in Abou Moghli’s glass? Believe it or not, she’s a whiskey girl. Tennessee whiskey like Jack Daniel’s is her ultimate comfort drink. But how does a gal who craves the simplicity of a whiskey craft such expertly complex and tasty cocktails?

“Mixology is like baking,” Abou Moghli confides. “It puts you in a good mood, and it’s soothing.”

Is being female a plus or minus in her capacity? “Neither,” she says, after some thought. “I think I’m lucky. I’ve been fortunate to have had many helpful mentors along the way. No one’s ever eyed me quizzically or dismissed my motivation.”

It seems even the toughest character can be charmed with a good drink.

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