Charles Heaton, also known as the “Auburn Santa,” was born in Georgiana, Alabama. Read More Charles Earl Heaton Sr. ’64
The man behind Jugo James Mixology Co. is stirring up Atlanta’s cocktail scene
Like many during the pandemic, Malcom Walker ’18 spent hours making cocktails to pass the time. Only a few years later, that at-home hobby has become Jugo James Mixology Co., Walker’s customizable cocktail catering service.
Since moving to Atlanta from Nashville in June 2021, he’s already carved his niche at weddings, birthdays, corporate events and the 2021 Black Alumni Weekend Awards Brunch last fall. Now, he’s using social media savvy and word of mouth to build a following, one drink at a time.
All this, despite no formal training beyond a few YouTube tutorials.
“My unofficial mantra is, ‘Come as a bartender, but leave as a friend’,” said Walker from his home in Atlanta. “That frames my mindset—making good drinks and really connecting with people—because when I leave, I want it to be a lasting impression.”
Way back in 2019, Walker tasted a cocktail so good—a Bourbon Blackberry Bramble at Seasons 52—he was compelled to replicate the recipe at home. Once he mastered that, he moved on to more.
By the time the Covid-19 Pandemic had forced everyone home, he had just begun his master’s program at Troy University and wanted to make some extra cash. He made a list of passion projects he could monetize, eventually narrowing the list down to music or cocktails.
“Music seemed like a very hard path,” he laughs. “So I went with drinks.”
Jugo James formally launched in April 2020, after Walker earned his bartending license in Tennessee. The name (pronounced HOO-go James), blends Walker’s middle name with the Spanish word for juice, “jugo”—a play on his high school nickname.
At the end of 2020, he got his first paying gig, a birthday party. The hosts loved it so much, they invited him back the next day. Over time, he expanded his repertoire to include lighter, spritzier cocktails for events, but also more robust drinks based on traditional recipes.
“One thing in particular I did was check out some of my favorite cocktail bars or restaurants, and look up ingredients I wasn’t aware of. If I didn’t know what it was, and it sounded interesting after I Googled it, I bought it and saw how I could implement it. That expanded my horizons pretty quickly, but it was a fun way to learn.”
In Atlanta, Walker works full time as an associate manager for digital guest experience at IHG Hotels & Resorts, so Jugo James events are limited to alternating weekends. But he stays active on social media promoting the brand, and his marketing degree from Auburn, in addition to his master’s in project management from Troy, provides Walker with a solid foundation continue building his business.
He’s also made time to have fun sharing his craft, like when he entered the Él Patrón Del Trap Mixology Competition hosted by Patrón Tequila at the Trap Music Museum, his first challenge against other mixologists. He quickly realized the difference between making drinks for industry insiders and people who simply love a good drink.
“Even though I didn’t win the competition, the judges said they loved the showmanship, and that boosted my confidence. I know I can belong with the industry, even though I don’t have any professional training or don’t work at a bar. I realized I could stick with the best of the best, and make drinks that people in the industry can also enjoy as well. Just to receive the affirmation was a big win for me.”
There’s been plenty of wins for Walker over the last two years, but it wasn’t until this past April that he was able to celebrate Jugo James’ two-year anniversary with a day party cohosted by Patron.
Even though had friends help decorate the venue, he still mixed and prepped all the drinks himself in his home kitchen. Now that business is taking off, though, he plans to hire more personnel in the future and potentially open expand the business.
But, regardless of how big Jugo James becomes, Walker wants to stay close to the clients and customers who make everything worth it.
“I’ve met all kinds of people from all walks of life,” said Walker. “I really enjoy the [events] where it’s 20 to 30 people and I get a chance to really talk and connect with every single person in the room.”
Winter Cocktails from Jugo James
Winter Forest Old Fashioned
2 oz Bourbon
1/2 oz Maple Syrup
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
1 Dash Black Walnut Bitters
Garnish with Orange Peel and Cinnamon Stick (optional)
Add all ingredients into a mixing glass with ice. Stir until chilled and strain into an old fashioned glass. Garnish and enjoy!
Jugo Signature Cranberry Lemon Drop
1 1/2 oz Vodka
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Orange Liqueur
1/2 oz Cranberry Juice
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
Garnish with Lemon Wheel
Add all ingredients into a shaker with ice. Shake until tin is cold to touch, and strain into a martini glass. Garnish and enjoy!