Reserve Ambassador Paulo Figueiredo takes us on a trip to explore more of the cocktail and bar industry in Latin America…

Travel, exploration and people’s desire to uncover the undiscovered has helped the bartending scene explode with flavour and flair. However, in Central and South America we are still trying to establish ourselves as leaders in the cocktail making world. What people don’t know is that Latin America truly is a diamond in the rough and over the next few years we expect to see the cocktail industry boom as more and more hospitality professionals collect the fruits of their hard labour (quite literally!).

Back to Basics

To get you up to speed, we’ve gone back to basics.

As it stands, we don’t really have a reputation for cocktail expertise in Latin America.

Only a handful of our World Class bars make an appearance on the Top 50 bar list as produced by the experts but yet our standard and skill really is second to none. So I hear you asking the question…how come? Well, there are a couple of reasons...

We love our food (who doesn’t!) so many of our leading bars are within restaurants and don’t get the chance to build their own, stand-alone reputation.

In most of our Latin American countries the economy is still growing.

Due to social and cultural circumstances, the bartender was simply just serving drinks - there was no Professor Jerry Thomas or Harry Craddock around to inspire creativity and a movement towards a bartending revolution.

But with more online communication, a smaller global community and better informed professionals we are…

Moving With The Times

Thankfully, we can safely say that Latin America has caught up with the ever increasing trend for unique cocktails and has firmly made its mark. But unfortunately, it isn’t recognised globally…yet.

The demand for quality spirits and sophisticated cocktails is growing fast, consumers are getting more and more educated about spirits themselves and we are certainly racing to keep up with the demand.

Our ‘generation Ys’ are more often than not trying different spirits and concoctions which has allowed our bartenders to express themselves…And truth be told, it’s about time!

Of course there are exceptions. Places like Argentina and Cuba have already established a strong bartending scene. Their bartenders are well respected and are regarded as industry influencers. However, this isn’t the case in most Latin American countries. The bartender tends to be seen as someone to simply just serve the drinks and isn’t there to communicate or interact with guests.

But this is no more…

We are…finally

…moving with the times!

And you can imagine that the whole profession has embraced this opportunity to show their skills, knowledge and creativity.

Behind the Bar

Latin American bartenders have been pushing the boundaries like never before. In the past, in Central America and some countries in South America, guests didn’t like to sit at the bar, they preferred to go out in groups and spend the night talking to each other, not interacting with the bartender. Bar stools were a no-no but with the recent push towards a progressive bar scene, bartenders have broken down these barriers and have encouraged people back to the proverbial bar stool. They are proud of what they do. They want to create an atmosphere and experience for their customers and it’s these game changers who are paving the future of the bartending scene in Latin America.

Top Three Hotspots

Now we’ve got to the good part - here are my top three ‘diamonds in the rough’.

Limantour, Mexico City

Since 2011, Limantour has been making its mark on the designer cocktail scene in Mexico. It was recently named no. 47 on the ‘World’s Best Bars’ list and there’s no doubt it deserve its place.

Limantour’s philosophy of mixology materialises in ‘gourmet beverages’ - yes you read it right. They’ve put a unique spin on the classic cocktail and in doing so Limantour has stormed to the top of our bar charts!

You'll find about ten different cocktails for every type of liquor. Not only is their selection great but their bartenders have won multiple awards between them.

The head bartender, Ricardo Nava, won first place in Mexico’s World Class competition back in 2012. His skill and technique has inspired his colleagues and this detail goes into everything they do!

La Factoria, Puerto Rico

Homemade ingredients…artisan cocktails…dubbed the ‘best mixology bar in San Juan’…need I say more?

La Factoria opened its doors in April 2013 and has since established itself as the happening place in Puerto Rico. It’s quirky and understated appearance is what makes it unique. If you ever pay it a visit, watch out for the unassuming red building on the corner of San Sebastian Street, with only a chalkboard drinks menu identifying its existence to passers-by.

With mixologists Roberto Berdecia and Leslie Cofresí (previous winners of Puerto Rico’s World Class Bartender competition) working behind the bar you will only ever experience the best. They truly understand that cocktail making is much like crafting a 5-star meal - the precision and artistry of the serve needs to be just right.

Gastrid & Gaston, Peru

‘Memory, the most powerful kitchen ingredient’ - that’s the motto at Gastrid & Gaston and the reason they’ve created a reputation which is second to none. With ingredients that have come from every corner of Peru they create inspiring cocktails which, as clichéd as it sounds, you really can’t get anywhere else in the world.

Aaron Diaz is doing some really incredible work at Gastrid & Gaston.

This year particularly there was a huge boom on the cocktails scene in Peru and Gastrid & Gaston lead the way. I have been fortunate enough to have tasted some of the best cocktails in the world and I can safely say Gastrid and Gaston exceeded my expectations.

The flavour of their cocktails and what they do with them is exceptional and it’s a must visit if you ever travel to Peru!

Paulo Figuereido is an expert mixologist and bar management specialist for Diageo Reserve brands based in Latin America and the Caribbean.