Lizze da Trindade Asher at Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute Ball (Photo Credit – Lizzie da Trindade-Asher)

From Philanthropy to Macchu Pisco – A Q&A with Lizzie da Trindade-Asher

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Peruvian-born philanthropist, activist, and entrepreneur Lizzie Asher graduated magna cum laude from Duke University and earned a degree with honors from Harvard Law School. She practiced law at a prestigious firm in Manhattan before launching successful beverage company Macchu Pisco with her sister, Melanie da Trindade, in 2006. Together the two have crafted an entirely new experience for discerning drinkers as they introduced the sublime spirit of Peru to the United States, Europe, and beyond. Macchu Pisco is a premium line made 100% from the quebranta grape. It is produced all naturally so, innately, it’s “all the highs without the lows.” Characterized by herbal, grassy, and earthy notes, it rests for one year before being bottled at the estate.

Lizzie dedicates her time to personal causes that showcase her breadth of interests. She has been keenly involved with social equality issues for women and is often featured in publications aiming to discuss women’s progress and equality. During the 65th anniversary of Harvard Law admitting women, she delivered an impassioned speech to women graduates about navigating career and life.

Lizzie serves on the board of Save Venice and dedicates herself to preserving the artistic heritage of Venice, Italy. She recently chaired Let’s Spritz! to relaunch Young Friends of Save Venice which unites a younger generation of philanthropists determined to reawaken the institution of charitable giving. Enamored by the beauty and history of Venice, invited guests rallied in support of Lizzie Asher and the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Save Venice selects restoration projects based on artistic merit, historical importance, and urgency.

Lizzie is the co-founder of the Asher-Ezra scholarship fund that provides financial aid to underprivileged Latino children in the Bronx. When Lizzie is not in New York spending time with her son, and balancing her business or philanthropic commitments, she can be found taking on even more challenges that ignite her passion for helping others.

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Lizzie Asher Lizzie da Trindade Asher at the Cooper Hewitt Gala. Photo Credit – Samantha Nandez/©BFA.

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1. When and how did you first realize that you wanted to work in the industry and business you are in?

It happened quite organically. My sister had graduated from Harvard Business School, and I started helping her with all the legal work of setting up the company. Little by little I started doing more work for her, as she needed to spend more time in Peru overseeing production of our Macchu Pisco, La Diablada, and Nusta Piscos. I was reticent to come on-board full time as I had much to learn about spirits, and yet today, I consider a cocktail on a woman’s hand one of her best fashion accessories!

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2. Any celebrity clients or memorable stories related to your business that you want to share?

Oooh, what you share and experience drinking the spirit of Peru, stays amongst those in the group – especially when that happens in Peru and in the presence of a shaman ceremony!

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3. What is a typical day like for you? And what do you like to do on a day off?

There is no typical day for me!  All days are different depending on whether we have events or whether I find myself in NYC or in one of our foreign markets. But no matter how the day unfolds, beginning the day with yoga is the most energizing way to make sure the rest of the day goes smoothly.

On my days off…what days off? My sister and I own our company, so there is no such thing as a day off. We love what we do, so even at a friend’s house for dinner, I will peruse their bar and ask why they bought any given bottle. It’s market research that I can do anywhere and everywhere no matter how far flung a place I might be.

But, if you did mean to ask what I enjoy doing with my downtime, I love to read, run, and travel!

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4. What is the next big thing in your industry? What are people doing differently today, compared to 10-15 years ago?

In the spirits industry and cocktailing, it is all about innovation all the time. I think this is the next area where we’ll find the superstars in our world. At one point, no one thought of chefs as the rock stars they have become. I think the same will happen with the incredible talent behind bars–unearthing lost cocktails, lost ingredients, and lost history. That is the case with Pisco. This is a spirit that first came to the US back in 1853 during the Gold Rush Era of San Francisco. Pisco’s history was lost once Prohibition got its stranglehold on the US, but unfortunately even when it was lifted, Pisco did not enter the US again for another 70 years until Macchu Pisco introduced its super-premium La Diablada Pisco.

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5. What are your three favorite restaurants in New York?

Must I only pick 3!?!?!

  • Well, for the longest time when people asked me what was my favorite Peruvian restaurant I would say, my aunt’s kitchen! There was just simply no one that could outdo her cooking.
  • That is until Erik Ramirez opened Llama Inn in Brooklyn. He is brilliant, the food is brilliant, and needless to say, so are the cocktails by Lynnette Marrero. When I’m not eating ceviche and drinking pisco sours, I’m indulging in sushi and sake.
  • Best sushi for me in NYC is Amane. It’s like being transported to Tokyo once you descend down the stairs and are ushered behind the curtained area with just eight seats – and I guess it is no surprise since Chef Uino came from a 3-star Michelin-star restaurant there.
  • Finally, my favorite opening of the year, it’s Atomix for opening my eyes that Korean food is so much more than just yummy BBQ or fried chicken – every bite of their prix fixe menu is mouth-watering delicious and witty!

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Lizzie and Melanie of Macchu Pisco (Photo Credit – Macchu Pisco) THIS ONELizzie and Melanie of Macchu Pisco. Photo Credit – Macchu Pisco.

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6. What are your three favorite bars in New York?

Oh god, questions keep getting harder! I would have to break it up by neighborhood.

  • If I find myself in the Upper East Side, there is only one place I would go to have a cocktail, Bar Pleiades. Daryl Chan heads the program there, and he cuts this dashing tall figure with pristine hospitality and can concoct anything that your mind can imagine. He takes amazing advantage of having Café Boulud next door and the kitchen there makes daily his juices, tinctures, and mixers.
  • Heading downtown, whether on the East or West side, if I want to impress friends, I always choose any bar that Meaghan Dorman heads, whether Dear Irving or the Bennet; the classics are always on point, but be up for a fun ride to discover new cocktails like the Andean Dusk.
  • Last but not least, La Contenta Oeste. It just opened this Summer and Alex Valencia has taken his obsession with tequila and mezcal to another level. If you live to imbibe agave, no better place to go!

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7. What are your three favorite locations to visit in New York?

  • Governor’s Island for sure is my number one spot! Being there is like having an out-of-body experience. You are just across the tip of Manhattan, so you see it and feel it, but you are surrounded by serenity and greenery – and no traffic! And now that a glamping hotel has opened, I can’t wait to try it.
  • Speaking of hotels, one of my other favorite locations is the Nomad Hotel and its bohemian glamour. The main area of the restaurant is like a greenhouse and there isn’t a more picture-perfect place to sit following a snowstorm right when the sun begins to peek through. You have the light permeating through while you sit warmly and indulge in crazy scrumptious food by the team from 11 Madison! And then as if that wasn’t enough, there is the insanely gorgeous library where you can order any of the Elephant Bar’s cocktails – – and if you’re in the know, ask for a slice of their Kouign-Amann and prepare for a week’s worth of butter and carbs that are so worth all the guilty feelings. If you want something more casual, you can just snake through the hallways and cross over to the NoMad Bar next door and gorge (yup, I said that!) on the best bar food in the planet while drinking Leo Robitschek’s and his team’s expansive cocktail menu that features even some of the rarest spirits in the world.
  • Gosh! As my third option, I would say the pool at the Baccarat Hotel. I know it’s just a pool, but the design transports you to the Art Deco era and the poolside service at the cabanas is surprisingly 5-star (even if you’re only ordering a truffle grilled cheese!)

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8. Which three events on your annual calendar will you absolutely not miss?

  • Without a doubt, I would never miss Save Venice’s Masquerade Ball…there’s a reason it has been called the new Met Ball!
  • And, since I have been raving about the Nomad, if you’re in NYC for Halloween, you at one point should make it to their Halloween Party. The entire hotel becomes part of the evening that is transformed to fit the theme of that year.

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9. What was your best New York moment? Your worst?

The first time the iconic Bill Cunningham photographed me and I appeared in the New York Times Style Section while attending the Winter Wonderland Ball at the New York Botanical Gardens was memorable – and the only thing that trumped that experience was him shooting me out & about during the daytime. He chronicled the fashion trends of New York and there was no sharper eye – – even Anna Wintour has been rumored to have said “We all get dressed for Bill!”

My worst…I don’t believe in holding to anything you would label as the “worst,” so I can’t think of anything!

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10. Tell us something that people do not know about you. (And you cannot say it is a secret!)

I don’t much believe in secrets, and I often seem to make people laugh with how open I can be. I was just attending a reunion dinner, and everyone went around the table saying what wonderful spouses and children they had. When my turn came, I said, “well, I guess I’m the only one who hasn’t succeeded personally cause on any given day I wonder how I am still married!” Everyone chuckled.

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Ashlee Harrison, Lizzie Asher
Lizzie da Trindade Asher with Host Committee at Let’s Spritz! Photo Credit – Vladimir Weinstein/©BFA.

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11. How would you describe your personal style? 

Utterly eclectic! I love to assume the persona of the place and circumstances I find myself in. If I’m headed to a board meeting, then I make an effort to look the role as I tend to be one of the youngest with a seat at the table. If I’m visiting a client at a bar or restaurant, especially if I’m in Brooklyn, I let my imagination fly mixing not just high/low but European and American designers, with finds from markets in Peru, Guatemala, or anywhere else in the world (I love rummaging at these markets!)

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12. Who is your style icon? Where do you find your style inspiration?

My style icon is my grandmother. She is 103, and every day when she wakes up, she does her hair and makeup (her eyebrows are perfection!) – and is all about her weekly manicures and pedicures! She has a timeless style from which I can still borrow – imagine that Dolce’s spring/summer collection had amazing knits that looked exactly out of my grandmother’s meticulous closet. I wore them all summer, accessorizing them to make them my own. I also follow a rule she taught me, whenever possible, buy sets – not only for clothes but for jewelry (and I mean, any type of jewelry, even from H&M!). Yes, it sounds like you would look matchy-matchy, but on a 5-foot-tall petite frame, it is a look that screams “polished”!

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13. Who is your favorite fashion designer, artist, or architect – and why?

It would be simply impossible for me to pick just one favorite fashion designer, artist, writer, architect, or composer. Art to me is surrounding yourself with how you feel and who you are at any given moment. Yes, there are artists that I will always love like Georgia O’Keefe, but I love discovering new artists that grip me, which is why I love going to the Biennale in Venice. It’s the best way to have your brain scrambled and see the world anew.

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14. Name your favorite… and tell us why:

a. Outfit.

I don’t have just one fave outfit. A couple of years ago my mom advised me to stop buying pretty things and just buy pieces that screamed “wow.” She thought it would be the best way to keep my closets from bursting – and she was right. And the best thing about it is that just when I think I’ve created my favorite outfit, something else materializes from my closet that makes me smile even more.

b. Perfume/Fragrance.

Acqua di Parma during the summer (it’s amazing how often I have men compliment me on it), and during the winter I stick with the citrus notes but in Annick Goutal’s Eau d’Hadrien.

c. Movie.

Star Wars – A New Hope. It was the first movie I saw when I learned English and I was just completely mesmerized. So much so, even years later, I walked down the aisle in my wedding ceremony to the theme of Star Wars. When I was shopping for my wedding everyone kept saying whether I felt like a princess – and the only princess I ever wanted to be was a bad-ass one that could keep up with the boys!

d. TV show.

I just finished watching Handmaid’s Tale – everything about it is sublime, the acting, the writing, the directing – and most importantly, the message.

e. Book.

I’m a voracious reader – there is no way I could pick one. And, my list of books to read is so long that I never re-read a book. Otherwise I would never get past the two-foot-tall stack of books at my bedside table.

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15. What is your favorite restaurant in the world? What is it you love about it and what is your favorite dish?

My absolute favorite restaurant in the world is in Lima, Peru, called Costanera 700. It’s incredibly difficult to find, and you certainly don’t go for the atmosphere. You do go to dine at the temple of Nikkei cuisine which is a strain of Peruvian food that Japanese immigrants have created there. Chef Sato is in his 70s now, but he is at the restaurant every day – and he will gladly share tales of training with Nobu Matsuhisa when he lived in Lima and they trained together to become chefs. If you are lucky enough to find it, make sure to order langoustine meatballs. It was the opposite of the flavor profile I expected but surpassed anything my imagination would ever have thought possible.

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Macchu PiscoMacchu Pisco. Photo Credit –Vladimir Weinstein©BFA.

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16. Name your favorite vacation spot and hotel? What makes these places so special?

Arghhhhh, hate to just pick one. Hmmmm, one of my very best vacation and hotel stays were at Amanjiwo in the island of Java in Indonesia. The hotel sits facing Borobudur and its architecture mimics the temple. Most people head to Indonesia to go to Bali and fly right over this part of the country, but they are missing a gem.

Closer to home and just as spiritual, although there are no temples involved, is Hacienda San Antonio in Mexico. Most think of Mexico for its beaches, but this property is cradled between mountains at the foot of a volcano. It is thousands of acres long and you can run through the trails or just hike them – and if you love to ride, this is where you can climb a horse and make your dreams of being a jockey come to life. The hotel is also an organic working farm and the chef can customize all your meals – indulgence is the name of the game here from fresh pressed juices to gluten-free meals, and you can choose to have a table set up anywhere you want on the property!

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17. Which three items can you not live without?

  • Water, not just because it is a basic requirement for my work to stay hydrated when tasting cocktails, but because I believe that it’s the key to my skin.
  • That is along with moisturizers from Biologique Recherche – I rotate often so my skin doesn’t get used to any one routine.
  • Also, a bright lipstick, no matter the color, always MAC. I love their crazy bright shades for summer and I transition to darker hues for winter, but it’s my instant pick-me-up trick to pull myself together.

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18. What song, meditation or mantra can you listen to on repeat? And why?

I can be totally obsessive, so I can play a single song for an entire day if that’s what I’m into. This summer I spent a lot of time in Europe, so it was Austrian musician Parov Stelar 24/7!

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19. If you could meet anyone in the world, who would you like to meet? And why?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg or RBG without a doubt! Yes, I guess this is my lawyerly geeky self peeking out, but her steely determination is awe-inspiring. My sister and I happen to be in an industry that is male-dominated, but in today’s world we have more freedoms that she lacked as she ascended in her legal career. How did she do it? How did she do it gracefully? How did she manage to excel professionally and continue to have an enduring relationship? And, you have to respect a lady who manages to make a blob of a black robe stylish by always accessorizing to the hilt with her necklaces and earrings!

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Lead-In Image (Lizze da Trindade Asher at Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute Ball) Courtesy of Lizzie da Trindade-Asher