Jake Alverez knows tequila. When he is behind the bar at both Amada and Distrito, Alverez is reinventing not just how tequila is being served, but how customers are consuming it. Taking a break from mixology, Alverez sat down with us to talk about what helped fuel his passion for crafting new and inventive cocktails, some of the drinks we can expect when he is behind the bar, and how crafting cocktails it is about both the spirits as well as the customers who will be enjoying them.
When did you decide you were going to do more than just serve tequila in the standard way and were going to truly be changing the cocktail game at Ocean Casino Resort?
Jake Alverez: I definitely had an interest in tequila at a fairly early age. It was a tradition in my family to drink tequila, but it is different when you are raised around it and grow up around it. I ultimately decided to pursue a career as a bartender because I was looking for a change. Plus, what’s more fun than to make drinks for people who want to learn about tequila while at the same time hearing and stories about their life; you would be surprised who you meet at the bar.
To you, what are some of the most overused techniques involving tequila that you would like to see phased out?
JA: Salt and lime; definitely get rid of it. I would advise anyone that drinks tequila to not buy gold tequila at all. Gold tequilas are artificially colored with caramel.
For a customer just starting out with tequila (or starting again), what do you recommend?
JA: I usually start them with a nice smooth tequila. I always say that if you’ve had a bad experience, spend a bit of money on a really good shot of tequila to get a feel of what a good tequila truly is and then you can determine if it is the spirit for you.
What are you doing at Distrito and as a bartender/mixologist as a whole that is making you stand out?
JA: I definitely believe in the quality of my drinks. Quality over quantity for sure. I believe in making a cocktail the way it’s supposed to be made, and I always tell my bartenders that as long as we are following the recipes and doing the drinks correctly, our customers will appreciate it and continue to come back. I get a lot of guests who say that our margaritas are incredible, and that they love how we make them. There is a care and a passion that I have when making a drink. I always try to incorporate my Mexican traditions and influence into my processes. Relative to new and exciting drinks; I want to begin including hibiscus and horchata and other traditional drinks from Mexico. I will be experimenting with different flavors and coming up with a few new concepts that I think our guests will love.
What is one trait tied to your Mexican heritage that you have brought to Ocean Casino Resort that helps both you and the guests you are serving?
JA: Definitely my knowledge of tequila. Tequila is way more than an alcohol for most Mexicans, it is more of a tradition. Jose Cuervo was actually the first person to give the drink the actual name “tequila” and that comes from the specific area of Tequila, it was called Mezcal. I always give people the tradition and the knowledge of what Mezcal is and how long it has been around. It has actually been around since the Mayan times believe it or not. I always try to teach people my own traditions about tequila.
Many people know what wines to pair with beef, chicken or fish, but tequila pairing is not something as well known. Is tequila pairing an art of its own?
JA: Oh yes, you can definitely do a tequila pairing. I would say something a bit dry like a nice blanco or even a reposado tends to pair well with seafood. When it comes to meat, I would say a sweet reposado. When it comes to dessert, I would do a cocktail drink. I am currently working on an espresso martini made with tequila that I have just about perfected. I have been doing it at Amada and everyone has really been enjoying it so far.
What do you think it is about Ocean Casino Resort that gives you the freedom to try new things and infuse your Mexican heritage into what you do on a daily basis?
JA: I was moved from another Jose Garces restaurant to come here to Ocean and was asked to bring my knowledge and expertise. They have given me a lot of freedom to try new and creative ideas and move the bar around. Our SVP of Food & Beverage Warren Richards has really taken the food and beverage program to the next level and is doing a lot of great things; he has given me more permission to make even better cocktails at both Distrito and Amada. I know a great deal about wines, bourbons and whiskies as well.
When you have a cocktail yourself after a long day, what is your go-to cocktail?
JC: It is a nice Old-Fashioned with añejo tequila. I do both Old Fashioneds and Manhattans with tequila.
From your standpoint behind the bar, what are some of the trends that you see becoming popular within the next few years?
JA: Definitely tequila is going to be served more. The next few years you are going to be seeing a lot of Old Fashioneds made with tequila. Palomas have become a very popular drink, and tajin is a spicy rim that we put on drinks – both are becoming very popular as well. Something that I think will be hitting big time by next year is mezcal, it is tequila just not from Tequila, Mexico. American companies are also getting on board with it. When people come into my bar I ask where they are from and what their background is. If they like scotch for example, I immediately go for mezcal because they are both smokey. It’s is about specializing it to the customer.
For more information about Amada and Distrito where you can find Jake serving cocktails, click here