How long have you been involved within the bartending community?
I’ve been involved in the restaurant and beverage industry since I was 16. I really began to focus on the bartending aspect in 2013. This focus inspired me to attend SDA Bocconi for my Masters in Management in Food & Beverage a few years later. Once I graduated, I took every opportunity to learn more about different aspects of the beverage industry. I came home and worked as a server at an Irish pub, interned for an Italian wine house, and was a food & beverage supervisor at a small hotel on Miami Beach all at the same time. Eventually I moved from server to bartender and left the wine company, which gave me more time to experiment with cocktails on my own at home. Fortunately in 2016, I was able to join the Ladies & Gentlemen of the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami as the lobby lounge supervisor and after a year and a half of overseeing operations, I was given the opportunity to lead the bar program at Lightkeepers, which is our signature restaurant on property.
How do you incorporate your style as the lead bartender at Lightkeepers of The Ritz Carlton, Key Biscayne?
My cocktail style has been described as “delightfully nerdy.” As a second-generation Miamian, I’m very passionate about the history and culture in the Magic City. (My brother and I actually named our cat, Henry, for Henry Flagler, who’s one of our city’s founders.) Being a huge history buff, I also love classic cocktails. French 75s, the Last Word, Corpse Revivals, Sazeracs – I appreciate a well-made classic, but I also love putting a unique spin on them, showcasing some local flavors. That being said, being in South Florida, we’re blessed with an incredible climate that’s highly conducive for growing a variety of exotic produce, which means I have a lot of materials to try out and sample in drinks.
What separates the Miami bar scene from most?
Miami itself is a loud and vibrant city built up of different neighborhoods – all with their own personality and energy – and I would have to say the same is true for our drinking culture. As a tropical destination, we’re known for frozen drinks served in carved out fruits with tiny umbrellas; we’ve also had this reputation of being a crazy party city full of nightclubs and bottle service with sparklers. Over the last few years, however, we’ve seen this emergence of the crafted beverage scene, whether it’s crafted cocktails, spirits, or beer. We have hundreds of brewers, bartenders, and distillers looking to create products that are uniquely local to our city and showcase the personalities of these different areas. Then aside from all of that, we also have plenty of room for all the classic dive bars. So it’s really a city made for people of all sorts of different tastes.
Do you incorporate any polyscience, fire, etc. into your cocktails at Lightkeepers?
I’ve always been a little apprehensive about using fire or dry ice in a cocktail given the level of safety we need while handling and serving it; however, we’ve offered a few featured cocktails at the bar that use different style of production methods. For example, we had one group stay with us recently and we create a cocktail using oleo-saccharum, which we prepped and batched with a sous vide. It cut preparation time for the cocktail way down. We also play around with dilution. So while normally a regular ice cube is going to melt and water down a cocktail, we offer a cocktail that has a lime juice-elderflower-coconut water cubes in it, so as they melt the flavor profile of the drink changes.
Photography courtesy of Alexa Christensen.
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