Take 5: Raegan Wong of IMI Agency
An in the Mix Feature Interview
Project Manager, IMI Agency
If you love sweet treats and also enjoy a nice cocktail, today is your lucky day. I’m here to tell you that your dream dessert exists. Turns out you can have your drink and eat it too!
While desserts and libations harbor their unique pleasures, Raegan Wong, Project Manager with IMI Agency, combines the two to produce alcohol infused treats everyone is sure to love.
In this in the Mix feature interview she shares her journey into the beverage and hospitality industry and reveals her favorite alcohol infused dessert recipes.
in the Mix: Hi Raegan, thank you for taking the time to speak with in the Mix today. To start, would you share a bit about your journey into the world of beverage and hospitality?
Raegan Wong: Of course! My time with IMI really marks the start of my adventure into beverage and hospitality. I’ve been working with IMI since May of 2021. I started as an intern working part time while completing my degree in Hospitality Management at the University of Alabama and eventually came on full time once I graduated in May of 2022. I have now been with IMI for over a year, and it has been a really interesting journey. I’ve learned so much and I’m excited to continue my growth within both IMI and the beverage and hospitality industry.
itM: Please describe your position with IMI Agency and touch on the accounts you work with primarily. What does your day-to-day role with IMI look like?
RW: I am a Project Manager, I work directly on accounts including IHG Hotels and Resorts, Sonesta Hotels, and Aramark Sports + Entertainment. As for day-to-day, I work with my IMI Managers and with each account on tasks, timelines, research, and design development. I provide data insights when determining specific changes that may be needed across each account and assist properties in the sourcing of beverages within specific programs. Depending on the time of year, the responsibilities of my role can vary based on which account is taking the most pieces of my day and how many projects they have at any given time.
I am also a member of the IMI Events Team. We coordinate several events each year and recently finished up another exciting year of events and activations at Aspen Food & Wine!
itM: Let’s get to the good stuff, word on the street is that you are a very talented baker and dabble in the culinary art of alcohol infused desserts… can you share what inspired this hobby?
RW: I started baking when I was little, I learned from my grandmother. She tends to go very by the book and that’s how she makes all of her recipes. I started baking heavily during the summer of 2020, found some time on my hands and found a great way to fill it and my stomach.
When I came of age and started dabbling in cocktails and mixology, I realized that both can be fun together. I started primarily making some cheesecakes that featured alcohol infused toppings. So not so much alcohol in the cheesecake itself, but bourbon whipped cream, amaretto whipped cream, or a Jameson ganache.
itM: Please share a few of your favorite treats to bake.
RW: I really enjoy baking my Peach Bourbon Cheesecake. It features a ginger snap crust, peach center and a bourbon whipped cream on top finished off with fresh sliced peaches. It pairs well with a bourbon cocktail I call ‘Not So Fuzzy Peaches.’ My berry amaretto cheesecake is one of my favorite summertime treats. It has a lemon cookie crust, blueberry lemon center and is topped with an amaretto whipped cream. My go-to for a quick, easy dessert that is sure to impress anyone are my bourbon meringues.
During the holiday season I tend to make my Irish coffee cheesecake. I’m a big fan of an Irish coffee in the winter. It has an Oreo crust and then a coffee cheesecake topped with a Jameson chocolate ganache or Irish whiskey ganache.
itM: There are numerous ways to use alcohol in desserts and baked goods and the effect can range from subtle to highly dramatic. When baking, how do you go about marrying the flavor profiles of the spirit with the cake, pie, cheesecake, etc.?
RW: I tend to stick to classic pairings. For example, when baking with something like an amaretto liqueur I typically pair it with cream and berries. Bourbon and peaches are another classic pair with flavors that complement each other perfectly, they are my personal favorite.
The biggest thing when baking alcohol infused desserts is that it can go wrong in ways that you don’t expect. Every time I make the Jameson ganache, it is a gamble on whether or not it will break. I do not have the science of it down just yet, but the trial and error when baking is worth it. Even if it may not look the best visually, it still tastes delicious.
itM: Do you feel that alcohol infused baking is rising as a trend within the industry?
RW: Looking at alcohol infused baking specifically, I can’t say much to whether or not it is rising as a trend, but I definitely see people using beverages in different ways. We’ve seen it coming up as a piece for inclusion and treats or the resurgence of the early 2000 trend of sweeter dessert-like cocktails that people saw when mixology was really on the rise.
In terms of alcohol infused desserts, I think it is something we will see eventually. We are not quite there yet in a venue sort of capacity, at least from the accounts that I’m working on directly, but it’s something that I think will be on their radar, especially with newer brands like Screwball that are coming up that really lend themselves to that dessert application.
Raegan Wong, Project Manager at IMI Agency
Raegan Wong first found a love of hospitality through special event design and management in the world of theater. After pursuing her bachelor’s in hospitality management at The University of Alabama, she has been honing a focus in beverage since coming on board with IMI in 2021. As a Project Manager with IMI, she works to support several client accounts as well as assisting in the planning and execution of industry events as a member of the IMI Events team. When not working, Raegan can be found in her new hometown of Huntsville, Alabama, learning more about Rocket City USA with her husband, Joshua.