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Juan Tapia - Top Notch Mixers

Top Notch Mixers Creator, Juan Tapia, was always built for entrepreneurship. From working multiple jobs throughout his adolescence and adulthood to doing side projects, it was only a matter of time before one of Tapia’s endeavors became a sensation. Recently, Tapia, a bartender and liquor consultant, has actualized his ambitious goals and created his own business, Top Notch Mixers. Top Notch Mixers brings the best aspects of the bar experience home: quality drinks crafted with expertise, creativity, and love. Further, Tapia personally crafts these mixers and delivers them to communities throughout Miami-Dade County and Broward County, demonstrating his passion, dedication, and appreciation for his creations.  

How did you go from being a bartender to being an entrepreneur?

I have had a little bit of entrepreneurship in me. I was always trying to start businesses and come up with different programs. They weren’t very successful because I was young, inexperienced, and focused on other things. But, for the most part, this led me to learn from my mistakes and take my time. I learned to focus on one specialization which was bartending. I excelled in it and when it got to a point where I was getting compliments from big-name people, organizations, and owners, I had to take a step back, pause, think, and realize that I was doing something right. I thought that there was a way to make money out of this or at least start my own business and become my own boss…I’ve always followed social media influencers that were their own bosses and took mental notes. Most of these influencers have their pros and cons. I try to take the pros of everyone I meet. That is how I started this project, doing what I am doing now full, focus, and full throttle. 

What inspired you to create Top Notch Mixers?

Through the years, you go from being a “drink maker” to learning science, chemistry, tools to help you alter the cocktail creation experience that people expect when they walk into a bar. I started considering Mixology. I saw people choose the Mixology experience over the basic quick drink experience. Sometimes people want a quick drink. They want to get in and out but most people want an experience, so that highlighted my work. I felt like I was doing something right, something that was not average. I had something on my hands and I started wondering how to take these high-quality bar experiences home. I have a bar where I work and a company that pays for everything: the produce, the equipment, the tools. But when I want to bring the experience home or show someone how to make a drink at home, I wondered how to make that possible. That was the question I asked myself many times. Then, I started developing concepts that would work. Coronavirus happened and that forced us all to either figure it out or quit and figure something else out. For me, the pandemic put pressure on me to figure it out. I came up with Top Notch Mixers and it’s pouring the love of making something with fresh ingredients, craft, high-quality products, and effort. 

How do your mixers stand out from other mixers?

Top Notch Mixers does not offer alcohol. It’s just a mixer but the approach that I took towards it takes into consideration the bar experience. It’s called a “mixer” and people who usually think of mixers think about cranberry juice, pineapple juice, Sprite, or Coke. Top Notch Mixers are actual pre-mixed cocktail recipes that are just missing the alcohol. When I make these recipes, I take into account all types of ideas. I think: Is it exotic enough? Is it different? Am I opening their minds? Is it a new flavor that they have never tasted? Is it a flavor that they have never heard of? When the client reads the ingredients, I try to make their eyes open wide. I want them to think, “Wow, that sounds delicious!” or “I’ve never thought of those two flavors together, but I love those two flavors individually so I’ll try it.”

I also use fresh ingredients for these gourmet cocktails and we make our own garnishes. I do my due diligence to go around the city and get fresh ingredients that are 100% fresh. There is nothing artificial in anything that I put into these bottles. The mixers are also in glass bottling and since I am using fresh juices, there is a shelf life. My products have to be refrigerated and sealed tight. But what is the best part is the handmade feel to my mixers. There is a love that I pour into my mixers and you can tell when you look at the product because of its quality. 

You cannot get the same quality of product at my prices. Usually, you’re looking at $10-12 a cocktail at a bar. My first bottle is about 18 oz so it accommodates 3-4 people for $30.00 (delivery fee included). I also offer a 33.75 oz bottle, I call it a party size, and it accommodates 6-8 people for $55.00. I also started creating shots for $5.00. If you want to do a flight, a sample of all four flavors, that is $15.00. For someone who wants to try the flavor first, or if they want to buy a specific product but also want to try another one without committing to buying a whole bottle, they can get a sample. This helps people try different things without breaking the bank, especially during these times. 

Top Notch Mixers LineUp scaled
Image by Blazin Visualz

What has been the most memorable experience so far?

The most memorable experiences have been the mistakes and errors I had to overcome as well as the walls and obstacles that I had to jump through. I experienced everything from finding a company that would deliver produce to me to figuring out how to manage a business. We’re a small business and usually, most businesses require a minimum amount of ordering so it was a process to do that. Then, we had to figure out a delivery schedule, figuring out the customer base, and coming up with a product. We also had to put our products together, make them look nice and authentic because they’re all done by hand. There’s no factory pumping out the product. That’s been the most prideful thing. I notice myself as I’m doing it and I’m excited. I’m cooking stuff and I’m excited as I look at all the ingredients. I look at my orders and the sales keep growing. It’s humbling. I didn’t think it would go as well as it has. I’m also eager to have strangers that don’t know about Top Notch Mixers find us and give our products a try. I want people to give it a try and if it’s not for them, it’s not for them. I’m very confident that the moment they try it, they’ll realize the product’s high quality and over the top taste. If this unmatched experience is something they’re looking for, Top Notch Mixers will be the company for them.

What has been the biggest challenge/reward of creating Top Notch Mixers?

The biggest challenge is staying consistent, especially during these times. Look at this week alone. We have a pandemic going on. We have even more requirements. Now, they’re fining people for not wearing masks. Then, on top of that, we just had a hurricane scare. I can’t take time off. I have responsibilities to do every week. Staying on top of things is one of the hardest challenges. The challenge is to stay consistent and consistently deliver the same product, the same taste, the same everything, which is difficult considering that everything is handmade. But the biggest reward has been all of the testimonials. People give me great feedback. Everyone’s telling me how incredible the mixers are. There’s nothing more rewarding than an authentic compliment. I’ve never once asked anybody to repost anything about our product and every single person is reposting. They’re taking amazing pictures and tagging us. I’ve even had a Tequila brand approach us. They wanted to work with us and do a giveaway for a bartender which we did. 

What’s next for Top-Notch Mixers?

Every month, I am bringing in a new flavor. We already have something spicy, something that is fruity, something sour, and something exotic. I’m going to bring a new mixer that’s going to reflect a feel for the holidays. It’ll be something more dark and sweet. I cater to the client’s specific drink preferences. I suggest what liquor would go well with the mixer that we make. For example, the Funky Fresh goes better with Rum or Vodka. You can do Tequila with it but there are specific spirits that will match better. You don’t see the dark liquors as much in Miami but I don’t want to ignore the people who like those either. I’m always coming up with a new mixer for people who might not be a Vodka, Rum, or Tequila drinker. I have something that goes well with Scotch, Cognac, whiskey…The mixer that I am releasing soon will be good with either of those. I want to keep growing in that sense. As well as the evolving menu, I want Top Notch Mixers to grow to the point where we can start, shipping out nationwide and then internationally. 

What’s another service you offer?

In addition to individually buying the mixers, Top Notch Mixers also offers a service in which small businesses, bars/restaurants, can buy wholesale from our company. Through the procurement service, Top Notch Mixers will provide small, private businesses with mixes every week to create a more elevated experience. These recipes can be offered however in another form of business if they want. If these businesses want to make the experience a step further, I also offer menu curation as the consultant and I will sit down with businesses to create an exclusive mixer recipe just for that establishment. If businesses want to pursue consulting, Liquid Chef Hospitality is the company that umbrellas Top Notch Mixers. 

www.topnotchmixers.com
Mixers Menu

How do we order your product? 

You can order our product on Instagram or our website: www.topnotchmixers.com 

To contact Juan or follow his journey:

Instagram: @TopNotchMixers @juan_in_a_million_5 @liquidchefhospitalityllc

**All the images credits goes to @blazinvisualz

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Helen Kim - Oori Bakeshop

Image by Blazin Visualz

A flair for business runs in Helen Kim’s blood. The local bartender, baker, and businesswoman grew up watching her parents work in their restaurant so it is only fitting that she has now started her establishment. After the pandemic hit, Kim, like many people around the world, took to baking as a labor of love. However, unlike new bread baking fanatics, Kim used her passion to open up Oori Bake Shop––Oori which means “us” or “our” in Korean. Although it may seem like Kim wears many hats (bartender, baker, businesswoman), there is a lot to learn about the way she pursues her passions and continues to infuse joy in all aspects of her life. 

How did you go from being a bartender to becoming an entrepreneur?

Baking is not my first endeavor. I own a consulting business called Liquid Culture as well. I consult with any service industry related item: beverage programs, hospitality training, product training, branding, etc. I have been in the bar industry for a long time. I started in restaurants. My parents had a small restaurant and then I started bartending when I was about 19 or 20 years old. I’ve been doing this for a very long time. Then, about three or four years ago, I realized that I didn’t want to be a manager or work for someone else. I wanted freedom. I like doing events and I wanted to do more events. I wanted to have the freedom of doing the nerdy cocktail stuff but also the fun events. Forming my own company was my way of trying to appease both sides of my life. 

How did you start Oori Bake Shop? What’s your baking journey?

To be honest, I was just doing the bakeshop as a hobby since March. I was like, oh, I’m at home. Why not? I started baking and doing little projects and then it took over my life. I would schedule my entire days around baking. I would schedule it around dough making and fermentation. I would wake up and start baking. A lot of my close friends, who I used as my guinea pigs, told me that I should sell my products. People would message me and ask if I sold my products and if they could buy them from me. I did a little here and there but nothing serious. One day I just woke up and I was like I should just do this. I’ve grown up in the kitchen my entire so I was like, why not? My family owned a small deli bakery. We did like Brooklyn style water bagels. My dad baked all the bread so we did hoagies and croissants. He did all the baking and I loved it.  I like the early mornings and the smell of fresh bread. Then, remembering all those aspects of life that I enjoyed while doing my hobby, I could see myself doing it for a living. Here I am three-four months later.

So you are a bartender, a baker, and a businesswoman. How do your passions inform one another?

It’s a full-circle thing. I started in the food industry with my parents. Then, I started working as a server because there’s more money there. There’s always more money in front of the house. I was cocktailing at a bar and I wanted to start bartending. I wanted to learn. It just seemed so fun. I started as The shot girl. From there, I started bartending and I’ve been doing that since I was 20. Now, I am back into food. I construct cocktails the way that I would construct food. I am always thinking about my base flavor or the main component of something. It’s like a layer of flavors. That’s how I do cocktails and now that’s how I do food. It’s like one full circle.

What are your favorite aspects of the job? What are some challenges?

I’ve been in the bar and restaurant industry for quite some time.  I love being a bartender.  I love the culture, the people… I get to meet awesome people. It gives me so many opportunities and it’s such a people industry. But there is the flip side to it. It is a booze industry. As I’m getting older, I’m thinking about the late nights and the constant drinking. Although the mindset is changing and becoming more health-conscious, I am starting to look at other things. I’m working on my yoga certification right now. For people like myself, and I think a lot of people are in this position, I feel like the pandemic has allowed me to just try to change my life without having a schedule to abide by. I have all the time in the world. Why not? Let’s just try it and see what happens. 

How has COVID-19 affected you personally and professionally?

Professionally, I’ve been officially unemployed since March. I am now self-employed. I guess I was always self-employed…I still have my other company, but it’s event and hospitality-based, so there is not much work coming in right now. But personally, it’s been great because I was working as a brand ambassador. I covered all the southeast. I traveled a lot so personal time was very little. Even if I did go out, like dinner with friends, when you work in accounts or for a brand, it doesn’t ever turn off. The pandemic has allowed us to be able to do different things. You can say to yourself, “You know what I’m not working right now, like literally not working, and I am just not gonna look at social media for like two or three days” and be totally okay with it. I love that. At first, it gives you anxiety but once it settles in, I love it. I love doing my own thing. I love making my own schedule. I don’t answer to anyone. It’s awesome. 

What, if anything, do you hope a Post COVID-19 Word resembles for you as a person and as a member of the hospitality industry?

I’d like to continue doing what I’m doing. I just started. I am in my first week and let me tell you there are a lot of learning curves. Hopefully, my baking becomes a profitable business where I can sustain myself without having to work the late nights. That’s what I’m trying to avoid. I was working at jobs where I was up till 5:30 in the morning. Now, I’m getting up at 5:30 in the morning to start my day. It’s opposites and it’s an amazing feeling because I get so much done. I feel good. When you live the vampire life, even if you don’t drink, it takes a toll on your body and your spirit. It feels very weighing. I don’t want to go back to that so I’m in a really good space right now.  I want to keep this energy and take it forward and see where it goes.

What are your favorite pieces of bread to bake and why?

I love a true sourdough loaf.  That is my favorite thing because it’s so technique-driven. I wouldn’t say that I’m a master sourdough baker but I am just obsessed with it. Sourdough is one of those things that is ever-changing. You’re constantly learning new things. Then, your environment changes and that changes your bake. It’s just like when life throws you a pandemic and you have to pivot. Sourdough does the same thing. Somehow, for some reason, it is five degrees warmer in my house and now everything is proofing so much faster and now I’m doing this, and this all at the same time. It’s fun. The Japanese milk bread that I have on the menu right now is also one of my favorite things to bake. It just reminds me of childhood. In Asia, most of the breads that we eat are fluffy, soft, white breads. For me, it’s very nostalgic and the little loaves are pretty. 

How may we order your product?

You can order mainly through Instagram. I’m handling all my orders through direct messages on both my personal and the big shop account.

Oori Menu
Helen Kim - Oori Bakeshop 164

To contact Helen or follow her journey:

Instagram:  @helenkimchi, @ooribakeshop, @liquidcultureco

**All the images credits goes to @Blazinvisualz

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Anthony Lopez - Bar Consultant

Image by Karbannation

Local Bartender Anthony Lopez is no stranger to innovation, hard work or curiousity. These three characteristics are the pillars of his success in the service industry. After working unfulfilling jobs, Lopez decided to enter the world of food and beverage services. His first job was at The Raleigh Hotel in Miami Beach where he was noticed by Carlos Moreno Rossi. Rossi, who is currently an event Coordinator and Beverage Director at The Delano Hotel/SLS South Beach, approached Lopez because of his unparalleled work ethic. Rossi was so impressed with Lopez that he welcomed him as a part of his bartending team. Lopez began working with seasoned bartenders who trained him and got him interested in the craft. 

What do you enjoy about bartending?

Bartending is an ever evolving industry. I love seeing new takes on the craft. Some bartenders are doing the same thing that I’m doing but, in other parts of the world, they have access to different ingredients, different spices and different spirits and so there is always something new coming up. People are always coming out with new techniques and so you can never say that you know how to do everything. Bartending constantly challenges you so it is something that is always changing and I really like that. 

As a bartender, what have you learned from people in this industry?

In the industry, people can tell whether or not you’re motivated. People can tell whether or not you like what you’re doing or if you’re just doing it as a job. People noticed that I started paying attention to what they were doing. I would ask certain questions. I constantly tried to figure out more about my craft and I wanted to continue to expand my knowledge. Those around me saw my passion and realized, “This kid actually cares about what’s going on and we’re gonna show him everything.” The bar would close around three or four in the morning, but I would often stay after we closed to learn. Back when I worked at The Raleigh, I hung out with another bartender named Peter Bocskor who had been bartending for over 14 years. He took me under his wing and showed me how to make different drinks. He would show me how to make cocktails, like Manhattans Vieux Carre and Rob Roy’s. I told him that these are the best drinks and I asked why no one ever asks for them. He let me know that not a lot of people know of them. 

What are your favorite drinks?

I like Manhattan and Brooklyn cocktails. They’re both take on classics and they’re honestly some of my favorite drinks. The Brooklyn cocktail is not something everybody appreciates because it’s a little on the stronger side. It’s very spirit-forward and very straightforward.

Do you have any remarkable opportunities/ stories that have happened because of your job? If so, what are some of these experiences?

There are many stories that I take with me and that I’ll probably never forget. Some of my favorite events have been when I was bartending at The Raleigh. I’ve done a lot of events like food and wine festivals. I’ve met high-profile Michelin Star chefs and I’ve worked alongside the clientele that they’re catering to so I’ve met a lot of famous people. I’ve taken care of Tommy Hilfiger and Sam Nazarian (Creator of SBE and Owner of SLS Delano Hotels ) when they would hold meetings at The Raleigh. I met Snoop Dogg. I’ve worked a lot of concerts with DJs like Anjunabeats, Marshmallows and Thomas Gold. Those crowds were something! I am really happy that I got a chance to experience those events, especially with everything that’s going on now. 

What are your current projects?

I recently started a consulting gig with a good friend of mine named Rudy Abreu. Rudy and I are partners in our consulting agency. We are beverage consultants for bar programs and for at home bars. It’s a side gig to bring the bar to people. We bring the craft to their house instead of teaching people how to make a Long Island or a mojito, we make the fun stuff and teach people how to make craft cocktails at home. We make the experience approachable. I’m also heading the bar program at the Albion Hotel in Miami Beach. 

How has COVID-19 affected you personally and professionally?

We are all trying to survive in this market. We have all gone back to the drawing board. We cut costs down and worked to figure out how to change menus but also how to stay alive. We still need to keep people coming in the door, so that’s when we fall back on the classics. I obviously feel bad for everybody that’s having a hard time. It’s also been a  huge struggle because like there’s kind of this bias versus stand-alone bars and restaurants. Restaurants are okay but bars have been struggling to open. People don’t want to encourage gathering right now. Avoiding crowds has been the biggest challenge for me. All I know is how to fill up a room. I am trained to fill a room and I’ve perfected this craft to be able to get a lot of people to want to come in and enjoy it. But, you just have to take what you are given and roll with it. I don’t think that this pandemic will completely disrupt the cycle of the bar industry or stop it in its tracks. We got through prohibition. There are also families suffering and I wish people would be a little more safe. It’s important to take care of ourselves so we can get back to what we were doing and live a normal life.

Where can we see more of you? What’s your next move?

After working eight years in the hospitality industry, I’ve been inspired to create my own business. My business is called Cosa Nostra Cocktail Club. Cosa Nostra, or “Our Thing,” will also be the name of my bar. Although it reminds some people of the mafia, I chose the name because I’m Cuban-Italian and I’m from New York City (which is considered a birthplace of true craft).  I’ve created this LLC with Rudy Abreu who also bartends at SLS. Cosa Nostra will be a cocktail club to set us apart from the dive bars and from the regular bars. Once you’re considered a cocktail club it’s because you offer a little more variety not just mainstream classics as far as the cocktail programs. We use our knowledge of pre and post prohibition styles of bartending to create this brand because we realized that we care more about the craft cocktail side of the industry. We keep up to date with all the spirits that are coming out and we notice how our guests really experience drinks. We are also happy to show them how these drinks became staples in the craft. “Our thing” goes to show that we’re going to be different from everybody else. Cosa Nostra will not be an experience you can get by going into any other bar

To contact Anthony or follow his journey:

Instagram: @tony_cosanostracc

Email: A042393@hotmail.com

Phone number: (786) 218- 6309

 

 

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