Twitter time – describe your job in under 140 characters:
A daily thrill pushing the boundaries and creating experiences.
How did you get into bartending? What was the inspiration for your career route?
I started off in the industry 10 years ago by washing dishes for a catering company. It was tough at first, as the head chef didn’t like me and was open about it. I put it upon myself to change his mind. I worked for the company for 6 years, as well as in various styles of restaurants and bars that ranged from small pub to night clubs. Within that time, I managed to gain his respect and became a beverage manager, thus running small- and large-scale events. The years so far have been fun. I originally aspired to become a flair bartender, but once I gained an understanding of cocktails I knew it was something that I wanted to stick to. I had also previously thought of becoming a chef, but being able to make custom cocktails on the fly was an extra rush for me, as is the open nature of talking to people from all walks of life.
Is it barrels, carbonation or cocktails on tap? What’s the latest trend you see in bartending?
Tap cocktails are fun. I’ve played around with the idea, and it can be tough but it’s just like making a large-scale punch. I think themed menus are a trend that’s been brewing for a while. I think it’s great to have interaction with people through a common interest or “theme”. Back in New Zealand, I worked at a great little bar in Wellington and we changed the theme to our menu every 8-10 weeks. It was tough because of the high volume that we did, but it was also fun and exciting to see people’s reactions with their bizarre garnishes, ingredients or both. Keep an eye out for rotating menus at the diamond. Another trend I see is respect. Gone are the days where certain products get left behind. So many liquor companies are aiding people in this industry to grow in their careers, and in return these people show loyalty. Beyond products, I also see more respect being given to the whole team behind great things, rather than a few individuals behind the bar or kitchen pass. It is a team that works together to get to the end result, and people in and out of the industry will start to appreciate this more.
What’s the best part of what you do? And what’s the most challenging part?
The best part is teaching. The most challenging part is not having enough time to help people learn more. Growing up in this industry, I never had a single person mentor me. Instead, I had a lot of people. It was great; it gave me insight on how to approach situations from different views. As I get older, the advice that perhaps didn’t make much sense at the time is now starting to make sense, and I’m glad I can pass on what I have learnt.
What is your favorite spirit to work with behind the bar?
It’s hard to say. It really depends what I’m trying to get out of it. Everyday I come across different combinations and I always try and push the boundaries to see what can come out of it. I do love gin though. Do you have a definitive cocktail style? Exploring new flavour combinations is definitely something I love doing. I think about classics when I come up with drinks, but I also like being spontaneous about what I make. Before I even make a drink, I think thoroughly about how I can combine flavours together.
What’s the most memorable moment you’ve ever had working behind a bar?
Well I once had Sir Ian McKellen sitting at the bar in front of me. My work mate and I didn’t want to ask for a photograph or autograph, but just before he left we poured a round of shots and cheersed with him. That was pretty legit.
What’s the next step for you when it comes to tending bar?
It’s a tough job and it’s definitely not for everyone. I quickly realised early in my career that I wanted to do bartending for some time to come, so I stopped complaining about the late hours and got on with cleaning the mess I created during shift. I would ultimately like to own my own bar. I like the idea of going back to my birth place, Peru, and opening up a bar by the beach, or going to live in Oaxaca and working at a small Mezcaleria to talk about mezcal on a daily basis. As I said, I love to help others learn, because I get to learn at the same time, so working with brands is also definitely something I’d love to do. Get paid to travel and talk about booze? Yes please!
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