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February 2020

Eric Tillis - The Traveling Bartender

   10 Q&A’s to the creator of The Traveling Bartender: Mixology and Flair Mobile Bartender Service

1 Tell us 5 words that describe you.

Intelligent, adaptable, humble, creative, intuitive

2. What made you venture off your own and create your brand “The Traveling Bartender”?

After doing my first private event I fell in love with the experience so I started educating myself hours on different concepts, traveling around the United States experiencing different styles of craft cocktails.

3. How would you better describe your service?

A Houston Texas-based bartender service with an emphasis on great service and hospitality. We specialize in giving a great show by providing hand shared ice, a showcase of fire and flair, our focus craft cocktails.

4. What do you enjoy the most as a bartender? creating the drinks, flair, or customer service?

I have to say customer service is first, the guest experience is very important to us. Following Japanese hospitality or omotenashi. The entertainment portion such as flair has taken years of practice.

5. What has been the best experience on the road so far?

Being on the road I have the pleasure of meeting great people from around the world, with a love for the craft of bartending.

6.  Where do you find inspiration to create the cocktails? are they customize to each event? or do you have a cocktail list?

As I travel I’ve learned many herbs, spices and exotic fruits can lead to an interesting story. With each event being different with custom menus or our seasonal menu that we prepare.

7. As an entrepreneur, you are not only a bartender but also a business owner, how do you manage to do it all?

God and a great team behind me.

8. What has been the most challenging thing about starting a new business?

Learning as I go without a manual, receiving and confirming leads.

9. What is the next step for you?

A line of Hawthorne strainers

10. If you were a cocktail, which one would you be?

My favorite, a cigar smoke-infused old fashion with handcrafted bitters.

 

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Miami Whiskey Mash 2020

MIAMI WHISKEY MASH 20120 will take place at The Cruz Building showcasing over 100 different expressions of whiskeys ranging from – Irish Whiskey, Scotch Whisky, Canadian Whiskey, Japanese Whisky & American Whiskey.

Attendees will be able to enjoy samples, live jazz, plus some light bites from local restaurants.

Live Music by Damian J Sanchez and Premium Cigars by Drew Estate.

“Whiskey is still the hottest spirit category in the World and the Miami Whisk(e)y Mash is the perfect way to celebrate this beloved class of spirits. The craftsmanship, authenticity, and traditions that are associated with Whiskey deserve its own focused event. The fourth year of this event offers exploration, education and most importantly enjoyment of Whisk(e)y.” – Frank Moreno, Miami Whiskey Mash Founder.

VIP ADMISSION MWM tickets will be available for $100. VIP Admission begins at 2 pm. VIP Admission includes: special whiskey pours NOT available to General Admission, a commemorative glass, whiskey samples, light bites, and one (1) cigar. Every ticket includes entry into a raffle for a bottle of special whiskey. A very limited number of VIP tickets will be available to the public.

GENERAL ADMISSION MWM tickets will be available for $75. General Admission begins at 3 pm and ends at 5:45 pm. General Admission includes whiskey samples, light bites, and one (1) cigar.

For more information on the Miami Whisk(e)y Mash, event schedules and other items please visit Facebook.com/MiamiWhiskeyMash

TO GET TICKETS, click here.

FAQs

Are there ID requirements or an age limit to enter the event?

ALL Attendees MUST be 21 and older. NO EXCEPTIONS.

What are my transport/parking options getting to the event?

THE CRUZ BUILDING is located at 3157 Commodore Plaza in Coconut Grove. There is plenty of off-street parking plus there will be valet parking at the building’s entrance for at a special rate. We STRONGLY suggest using UBER or LYFT for this special event.

Do I have to bring my printed ticket to the event?

No, the electronic version is perfectly acceptable.

Where can I get the most up to date information?

LIKE us on Facebook.com/MIamiWhiskeyMash for the most up to date information and special announcements.

How many exhibitors will be at the event?

We anticipate between 20+ different exhibitors with 100+ different whiskeys available for your enjoyment. Please go to www.MiamiWhiskeyMash.com for a complete list of our participating Whisk(e)y Exhibitors.

Where can I contact the organizer with any questions?

miamiwhiskeymash@gmail.com

*NO REFUNDS. ALL SALES FINAL. THIS IS A RAIN OR SHINE EVENT.

 

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JC Santana - Beverage Director of L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon and Le Jardinier

JC Santana – Beverage Director of L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon and Le Jardinier:

Puerto Rican-born, Miami-bred Juan Carlos Santana started life as a music event production while cultivating a side passion for craft beers and spirits.  After experiencing all the highs and lows of life on the road, he went back to school to study hospitality, with the idea of eventually opening a bar. After graduating, he applied to jobs in a brewery and a wine restaurant, leaving it to destiny to choose his path.  The wine restaurant made the first offer, which set him on an illustrious and fast-paced career journey. A year and a half later, he would obtain his certification as a Sommelier along with a job at Juvia. This led to an offer from the Zuma Group for the position of Head Sommelier at Coya.  After Coya closed, he continued to grow with the parent company Dream as the US Beverage Director, spending two years opening new restaurant concepts nationally, creating beverage programs and educating incoming staff. With such an exemplary resume, it’s no wonder Santana was tapped for the Miami Design District concepts: L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon and Le Jardinier. 

What are your current and long-term goals when putting together a wine list?

I’m glad to say that the present wine lists contain a lot of things that are a priority for me, while still offering viability for the business as a whole.  My focus is to work with producers who are taking care of the earth, growing sustainably at the very least, if not organic or biodynamic. I look for small producers and people who farm responsibly, that’s the most important thing for me. The other part is making sure there’s gender parity so that we’re working 50-50 with male and female winemakers.

What do you enjoy the most about your job?

I love to do it all.  For the wines, I was able to personally curate them and put them on the list, which is always a great professional challenge that builds your knowledge and discernment.  On the bar side, I get to flex my creativity, play with flavors and make something out of infinitely different possibilities. To have an outlet where I can create is the reason I love my job. But I also enjoy the education side—training people and teaching.

How do you work with the chefs to prepare the beverage program?

I’m very lucky that my chefs love when I’m there and give me stuffs to taste all the time.  I focus more on the ingredients they’re working with and I try to include those in the cocktail program or I taste the sauces and think “this needs such-and-such wine.”  I’m happy to say that I have a good relationship with them and we all earnestly want to offer the very best to our guests.

What was the inspiration behind the cocktail menu for Le Jardinier?

It’s largely influenced by the season.  In the summer, I make it lighter and fresher.  For our so-called “winter,” we offer a few more stirred drinks.  When I design a recipe for a drink, I try to be mindful of classic cocktails that I know people love.  For example, El Chile Vasco is a spicy take on the margarita. Margaritas are the number one drink sold in the country.  We infuse our tequila/mezcal with Espelette peppers and through a little mamey in for good measure. The sweetness helps balance out the spice. We also have a drink called Le Pistolette that’s essentially a Revolver, but we do it with cognac. We paid a little homage to the French roots of the restaurant there.

Any ideal beverage and food pairings?

I like traditional food-wine pairings.  There’s an acidity you get out of wine that is hard to find in cocktails or beer.  I enjoy pairing beer and cocktails with food but I think food and wine are really made for each other, while beer is best experienced on its own and, generally speaking, cocktails are more for having a good time or two. 

Can you describe the greatest wine experience you’ve ever had?

I had many, but there are two memorable ones.  One was a very personal experience I had in Slovenia while visiting a small, family-owned restaurant, headed by a winemaker who produced the most incredible wine—truly unbelievable, packed with flavors, freshness, and acidity while respectful of the traditional process.  To be there was very special because he also embodied true hospitality, offering a generous tour with sampling out of barrels, even showing us the room where he curated his pig legs! The smell of the place…it’s a difficult thing to fully express what that experience was like. 
The other was on the educational side.  It’s those times when maybe you’ve spent a week or two relaying difficult concepts to someone and they start to embark on it, following all the steps, even if they don’t fully understand yet.  Then suddenly there’s that moment when a little light bulb clicks on in their eyes and they are like “Oh! This is what you’ve been talking about all this time!” Seeing that smile and epiphany happen is truly awesome.  I would say those little moments are addictive to me.

What are your thoughts on wine education in Miami?

I think there’s a lot of potential for growth in this arena. In my mind, Miami has always been a spirits and cocktails town first and wine has always been second to that. It’s nice to see that there are more options now and more people pursuing careers in the wine industry.  As far as building a clientele, that would require more information and education, I suppose. In the restaurant scene, what I’ve noticed is that a lot of people tend to stick to what they know or have been told is good. Big brands sell here like crazy so it can be somewhat frustrating when trying to present a new product that could really be a game-changer.  But that points to an opportunity, too. 

What do you do outside of your work scene?

I was very big into mountain biking for a long time.  I took a 10-day trip to actual mountains and, once you do that, it sort of spoils the fun of doing it here, unfortunately.  Going down the mountain is that exhilarating!  But going to the beach is also a lot of fun. In my perfect living space, I’d have both mountains and beaches.

If you were a wine, what kind of wine would you be?

I guess I’d feel differently about this at different times…I’m a Gemini after all!  But if I had to pick a wine, probably it would be a northern Rhone Syrah, with the purity of fruits but still with a lot of funky stuff going on in there and many layers of it.  I have good intentions but, at the same time, I’m a little rough around the edges. I’m not super-polished by any means. 

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Blood Moon at Le Jardinier

Which drink would you highly recommend we try when visiting Le Jardinier?

We have a new drink coming out on the menu called the Blood Moon, which has wine in it.  It’s has Charbay blood orange vodka, blood orange juice, lemon, homemade spice syrup (clove, allspice, anise, etc), topped off with Lambrusco.  That would be my first suggestion.

What’s next in store for you? 

I need to submit our new wine list to the spectator by the end of the month.  So my priority right now is to make sure that’s perfect. On the personal side of things, my goal is to eventually open my own place here in Miami, maybe a wine bar, we’ll see!  

 

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Alexa Iacovelli - Encantadora Mexican Spirits

More than any other major US city, Miami could best be described as ‘the little engine that could,’ in terms of its mega-watt growth over the last few decades.  No doubt this is due in large part to the trailblazing entrepreneurs and visionaries who set their sights on the heart of the Magic City. One such visionary would be none other than Miami native Alexa Iacovelli, who is set to launch her new ‘Encantadora’ brand of Mexican Spirits on February 8th, 2020. 

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Alexa Iacovelli

Thanks to Iacovelli’s impeccable stewardship, the ultra-premium tequilas and mezcals promise to break the mold of what you ever thought tequila or mezcal could do, with the company’s perfectly balanced focus on authenticity and innovation. A highly visible figure within the community, Iacovelli wears several hats: socialite, philanthropist, entrepreneur and world traveler.  But her latest venture speaks to an impulse dear to her heart and roots—namely, to initiate changes that help bring about a vibrant new face to Miami. For this reason, Iacovelli will be proudly rolling out the brand in her hometown before taking on other nightlife hubs such as New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas. With Iacovelli’s high standards and pioneering stance as a female owner of a spirits brand, we are sure that Encantadora will stand up to every evocation of its name.

Alexa welcomed us to her home for a tasting and a chat about her new line of Spirits.

How did your passion for tequila/mezcal begin?

I was traveling and pretty passionate about gin when we ran out on a long trip to Mexico. The only option for the remainder of the trip was tequila or sobriety, so I gave it a shot; no pun intended. My friends started serving it to me with a lot of soda to dilute it and I realized that I actually loved the intricate flavor profile, it was just masked by my previous perceptions and the strong burn associated with taking a shot. After a few days, it was like drinking water, and I slowly started decreasing the amount of soda as my palate became accustomed to the taste, now I only drink it on the rocks. 
After that trip I was obsessed, and only drank tequila after that, up until about a year ago when I got into mezcal. Today, Mezcal is my drink of choice and that came as a progression from my appreciation for good tequila. 

What makes you pursue business in Mexican Spirits?

Outside of my passion and appreciation for Mexican spirits, as that is the number one reason I got into this, as a consumer, I recognize the rapidity with which the categories are growing and evolving. It’s a great business with a lot of potential in Europe and Asia, and it is an incredibly exciting business to be a part of. 

As a business owner, what is the most important aspect of creating a company for you? 

For me, the most important part of this journey has been the development of the product and the ability to start from the ground up and learn every aspect of the industry. While branding and marketing are such a huge focus in this industry, that will only get you to buy a product once. If you don’t like it, you won’t buy it again. Quality is the absolute most important aspect of this business in my perspective. Throughout the development process I always reminded myself at every step, “this is the last tequila and mezcal you’re ever going to drink, you can’t be caught drinking the competition”. If it wasn’t the best, and there was anything lacking, I would have abandoned the project. Obviously, included in the importance of quality is not just taste, it is also the health factor, I wouldn’t allow it to be adulterated or artificial like a lot of the competition. I knew I wouldn’t be able to drink it if I knew there was something artificial about it.

As a woman in the spirit business, do you think you have had more challenges?

t’s no secret that the spirits industry has been predominantly male-driven to date, but I would be lying if I said that I had found pitfalls in that capacity throughout my journey. The truth is that the men and women with whom I have had the pleasure of working with have been supportive and uplifting since the get-go. And in today’s day and age, I think women-run businesses are thriving more than they ever have. I am so proud to be a woman in the spirits industry, now. 

What has been the most challenging experience you have had starting Encantadora?

Seeing the brand come to life and trying the product for the first time. I remember being scared the first time I tried the finished product during bottling. I was terrified as lab tests in small batches can never compare to the actual distillation/fermentation/filtration process, and in mezcal, every batch is subject to a lot of change. It was such an amazing experience to try the six finished products one by one, and feel the excitement build as each one turned out to be even better than my greatest expectations.  Watching the reaction of the wise men and women in the beverage industry has also been very rewarding—it has been the nod to a lot of hard work that fuels my fire to keep moving forward.

How is Encantadora different from mass-market Tequila/mezcal? What makes your spirits so authentic and innovative?

Innovation and authenticity are the cornerstones of Encantadora. We are based completely on the premise of providing unique products of great quality. The products we have created do not exist, the process we use is patent-pending and artisanal, I don’t think there is another company in this space doing as much as we are as far as innovation and authenticity are concerned. 

How would you describe the Encantadora spirits consumer?

We think there is something in our range for everyone in the sense that the products can be enjoyed by those just starting to explore their love of tequila and mezcal but also for those with a refined palate who know what to look for in a product of quality. I love that I can be the brand that makes you fall in love with Mexican Spirits and the brand that makes you stay in love. We always aim to enchant. But while our products can, and do, appeal to a vast range of consumers, I think our main consumer is avant-garde, the type of person who wants to be ahead of the trends and always looking for the boutique brand with the coolest and most high-quality products; that is who I was before Encantadora. 

How would you describe yourself and how do you identify with the brand?

Encantadora is the physical representation of some years of working to create a line of ultra-premium and innovative products in the agave-based spirits space. The way that I feel I am most reflected in the brand is that I wanted to make sure that the flavor profiles that I have come to appreciate in tequila and mezcal were accurately expressed. I’m proud to say that I think I was able to develop just that in these six products. I would definitely describe myself as discerning when it comes to what I like to drink and so far the feedback reflects that I was able to achieve that quality.

Right now, we know Tequila production is breaking records due to the increase of demand, how do you intend to scale Encantadora?

You would be surprised how hard it is to find good tequila, or any mezcal, in Europe. I spend a lot of time overseas, and that fact that I could never find what I liked, and was constantly checking bags filled with tequila and mezcal, is one of the reasons I started the company in the first place. In the US there is plenty of room to grow in mezcal, and in Europe and Asia the possibilities are currently endless. That’s not even to mention that we will also be introducing a sotol product soon, which is a tiny category currently, but I think will be the next big thing after mezcal.  We know there’s only going up for Encantadora from here on out and that makes me proud and excited about the possibilities for the future. 

How meaningful is it for you personally to be part of the Women of the vine and spirits? 

Women of the Vine and Spirits is a wonderful organization that offers great tools and support in the industry. Being part of this network is an honor for sure, especially as a majority owner of a brand where there are so few.

What would be your advice for someone who wants to start out with the production of spirits?

I would say that you need to have the bandwidth to wear all the hats. You need to learn every aspect of the business, from production to legal, and you can’t trust anyone else to do it for you. You need to produce a product that is the end-all for you, if you can’t say you are happy to only drink that and never any competitors product, then the product isn’t good enough.  You need to be incredibly passionate, there’s a lot of barriers, and if you don’t have the fire in your soul pushing you to break the barriers down you won’t make it. Trust your gut and stay the course of what it is that you set out to accomplish, but also to lend a careful ear to the artisans who have been crafting quality spirits for generations. They have so much to share and the history is inspiring.

Where can we find Encantadora here in Miami?

We are at some of the top restaurant accounts in Miami and are very proud to be there. From Novikov to Casa Tua, Cipriani, Juvia, Sushi Garage, Naiyara, Doma, Le Chick, 1-800-Lucky and many more. We have a link on our website https://encantadora.com/location where you can see all of our locations. You can also purchase at A5 Liquors, Vintage Liquor, and Gulf Liquor, or online through our website  https://encantadora.com

 

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Amanda Fraga - Head Sommelier at the Genuine Group

Miami born-and-raised, Amanda Fraga grew up with a yen to travel and dive deeply into the mysteries of the foreign culture.  “It was not long before I discovered that wine was the one lens through which I could peer extensively into a variety of cultures, given its strong relationship to the soil and local cuisine,” she says.  “So I started developing a keen interest in wine, joined wine clubs and took some wine-tasting courses, all for the sake of enhancing my travel experiences. Eventually, I realized that wine was actually the industry I wanted to be part of.”

She currently oversees the wine programs and manages the sommeliers for all three restaurants from the Genuine Hospitality Group: Michael’s Genuine, Amara and Tigertail & Mary. 

What do you enjoy the most about being a sommelier?

A small part of it is the hours.  I habitually work best in the evening and would not at all consider myself a morning person, so the off-kilter schedule works for me. I also love that I get to talk to people about the thing I’m most passionate about.  I enjoy just being in the wine community, which has some amazing people who really bond over this shared interest. 

What would you say defines the role of a head sommelier?

It’s a difficult question as it ultimately depends on the group you’re working with. The way I’ve interpreted it is that it’s important to nurture the sommeliers within their respective restaurants and to constantly offer the support and guidance needed to help them devise a very cool list or to challenge them to be certain they are selecting the very best wines.  For example, if someone tells me they want to add a wine to the list, I might end up saying ‘I want you to spend more time looking into this because I’m not yet convinced that wine is the BEST wine for that particular price point.’ Because, at the end of the day, they are the ones selling wines on the floor and they need to be 100% behind the product they are selling.  In short, we push the program, train the staff to push themselves and increase sales. Primarily, ahead sommelier needs to ensure the program is viable and that the business is profitable.

What’s the focal point of the current wine list for each restaurant?

At Tigertail and Mary, we have an American-focused wine list and this is what I wanted it to be.  I was already working with the group prior to its opening and knew the owners favored Old World wines.  But I felt there were a lot of excellent American wines to be had at a favorable price point and this new restaurant was a great opportunity to bring them to light—also because they happen to pair very well with the menu.  In order to convince them to go this route, I presented them with the selection directly. At Amara, we have the South-American influence so we maintain that theme, which always presents great options.  But at Genuine it works so well not to have a theme.  Some days the menu swings more German and Austrian and other days we might explore lesser-known Hungarian wines.

What’s your personal favorite wine region and why?

It always depends on how you are feeling. Right now I’m really into the northern Rhone valley.  How that happened was because I watched the Somm movie and they mention the hill of Hermitage in the northern Rhone.  There’s this story about a man that lived on the top of the hill who didn’t want to be around people, kind of like a hermit, and that’s why it got the name ‘Hermitage.’ This came up in a conversation with my fiancé about this region and I think the story sparked his interest to go and investigate those wines.  So that’s been my exploration these days. Last year I was more about Austria and Germany. Those are what I consider my home base, but I guess I’m veering into northern Rhone right now.

What’s your take on global warming’s impact on the wine world? 

It’s really tough to see what’s happening and how quickly.  Ironically, some regions are actually doing very well with it—regions that needed a little bit of ripeness are finally getting it, that is.  So it’s interesting to see how normally cooler regions are now able to produce very drinkable wines. At the same time, it’s really scary because it’s happening so fast and might soon pose a real threat to production in southern regions. 

What would you say is your favorite food & wine combination?

I always love pairing expensive wines with something that is very simple, like fried chicken with champagne.  It’s fun to observe that good wine doesn’t necessarily require a luxurious setting and a $500 meal.

What is the best way for people to learn about wine without having to spend a fortune buying bottles?

What I always say to people is to get a journal and write about every wine that they taste and then Google it because there’s a lot of handy information available.  When you buy bottles, try to buy 2 or 3 from the same region so you can gain a more in-depth understanding. Also, Miami is doing an amazing job lately with wine events.  For example, Stazione has events on Mondays and Nave on Thursdays. We are doing some events as well, we started a friendly pairing competition with other sommeliers and they are sold out every time.  There are lots of budget-friendly opportunities to learn. 

What would you recommend for a “wine by the glass’ option here at Tigertail?

I would say the Chenin blanc from California.  Chenin blanc is originally from a region in France called Loire, so it’s really cool to see it coming from California and it’s actually very well made. Another great option would be the Barolo from Italy that I personally love.

Do you ever go for beers and cocktails? 

I love to go to Boxelder to try different types of beers. My fiance and I can easily go there and try 4 different kinds of beer or we often go to Bar Alter and have some cocktails and a soft egg and piece of bread. Those two are my favorites.

If you were a wine, what kind of wine would you be?

I know it will probably sound silly, but I think I’d be champagne just because it’s super-versatile so it pairs perfectly with almost any food.  I like to think I can get along with a lot of different personalities.  

Where do you see your path going in the future?

I love what I do right now and I want to continue to grow so I can take it to the next level.  I’m learning a lot more about the business side, for now, I feel I can put my passion and knowledge about wine together with business and grow that way. 

The Genuine Group is currently doing a fun pairing event through their restaurants called the “Last Somm Standing” styled as a friendly competition between Amanda and a guest sommelier. You will savor 3 courses and wines pairings by Sommeliers where the judges aka guests get to vote for their favorite pairing. All at an affordable price of $85. The next event will be at Amara Paraiso. on March 16th, at 7 pm. For tickets information visit https://amaraatparaiso.com/

You can also follow Amanda at @quepasamanda for daily wine recommendations, upcoming events and tips.

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For the first time ever in the US, acclaimed wine critic James Suckling presented The Largest Wine Event, which chose Miami as its host city this past January 24th, at the Moore Building. 

Featuring 120 wine producers from the top wine regions in the world, the event showcased an extraordinary selection of more than 200 top-scoring wines.  Celebrated owners and winemakers representing the world’s most iconic wineries gathered and shared their valuable insights while presenting their two top vintages to attendees.  The mood of the soiree was perfectly set with music by award-winning DJ Surahn Sidhu.

Tickets for the grand tasting were sold out weeks prior to the event, but other opportunities abounded, such as exclusive pre-events, a gala dinner, and the “Happiness is Wine” show and after-party. 

“What I like about the event is the ability to put a face to some of the bottles of wine you are drinking on a daily basis and to interact with and get descriptions from the people who crafted it, helping you to develop a new level of understanding and appreciation.  It really enhances the experience of trying other products as well,” commented one attendee.

We saw it as an amazing initiative for the growing body of Miami wine lovers and a much-needed opportunity for international aficionados to educate the community on this art form.  It also provided an industry-wide networking resource for local sommeliers, restaurant owners, and retailers, which means we can look forward to future Miami stop for James Suckling and his event.  

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