The many countries of Latin America have long been renowned for their signature cocktails, from Brazil’s refreshing caipirinha to the highly contested pisco sour of Chile and Peru to Mexico’s favored cocktail, the Paloma (sorry, margarita). But as Latin American cities have become bigger foodie destinations in recent decades, the craft cocktail movement has also arrived. With such an array of diverse regional spirits and ingredients to choose from, Latin America is quickly becoming a hot spot for mixology, with local mixologists and bartenders turning the flavors of their countries into titillating libations. If you’re a cocktail enthusiast traveling around Latin American looking to try what’s new and exciting, be sure to plan a visit to the bars and restaurants of these, Latin America’s top mixologists.
Since being named Guatemala’s top bartender in the 2015 World Class Bartender competition, landing him a spot in the global competition in South Africa, self-taught mixologist Marvin Martinez has become one of the brightest stars of Guatemala’s mixology scene. Coming from a background as a beer server, Martinez’s fame and creativity has earned him the distinction of being brand representatives for the likes of Johnnie Walker and Tanqueray No. 10 Guatemala. Whipping up unique cocktails based on his life experiences, Martinez serves his creations at bars and restaurants around Guatemala City, with his favorite signature cocktail being the “Tanqueray Fitzgerald.” Gin is a favorite liquor for him to work with, and although he frequently uses imported brands, he also is sure to shine a spotlight on homegrown brands like Xibal, Guatemala’s first artisan gin. He also dabbles in side projects like making cold brew coffee.
In a nation that’s as obsessed with good food and drink as Mexico, one name consistently comes up as the best mixologist in the entire country: Mica Rousseau. Originally hailing from France, Rousseau started working behind the bar at the age of 18, moving to Mexico City shortly thereafter to continue his cocktail education. His rise to fame came as one of the head bartenders at Fifty Mils, a renowned cocktail bar located in the Four Seasons Mexico City Hotel. There, his craft flourished as he experimented with unusual ingredients like tea, and in 2016, his cocktail, the Not Tea Time, poured from a hand-fashioned chocolate teapot, won him the top spot in Mexico’s World Class competition. Since leaving Fifty Mils, he’s worked at the Tulum-based Azulik Resort and recently started a YouTube channel with fellow bartender Mafer Tejada to share cocktail recipes with the world.
There must be something in the water at Fifty Mils because it keeps churning out World’s Best bartenders. One of its top successes: Fátima León Cruz. In 2017, León Cruz competed in the World’s Best Competition, winning best bartender in Mexico, before going on to place eighth in the world with her boundary-pushing Cor Cocktail, which featured the use of fresh cow blood. Her win also marked the first time a Latin American woman had been among the top ten best bartenders in the world. Hailing from Mexico City, León Cruz’s cocktails are expressions of her heritage, identity, family, and flowery personality, utilizing fresh, local, and sustainable ingredients from around Mexico to tell stories of her life and travels through liquid storytelling. Today, she works in partnership with Diageo Bar Academy, an online bar industry platform offering educational content, events, news, and more, producing digital cocktail videos and offering live seminars about different topics.
If you’re in Lima, Peru, in search of the city’s best craft cocktails, there’s only one place to go: Carnaval. This “high-concept cocktail” bar, opened in 2017, is the local temple of mixology, dreamed up and created by one of Peru’s most esteemed mixologists, Aaron Diaz. After a career in bartending and mixology that spans the entire globe, including stints at such legendary establishments as The Aviary in Chicago, Diaz’s unmatched expertise in the way of the cocktail culminated in Carnaval, where ideas, beliefs, and concepts are re-created on the fly as imaginative, unorthodox libations. Carnaval was ranked the thirteenth best bar in the world in 2019, and Diaz himself has also been awarded for his work, most notably snagging Campari’s One To Watch at the World’s 50 Best Bars Awards in 2018. As Carnaval continues its meteoric rise through the world of mixology, Diaz is sure to climb only higher as well.
There is no shortage of amazing bars and bartenders in Argentina, especially in the capital city of Buenos Aires; as a country that is famous for its blend of South American and European cultural and culinary influences, the art of the cocktail has always been a big deal here. And even against that backdrop of excellence and history, Seba Garcia has been able to further elevate the national cocktail scene, making him one of Argentina’s top mixologists; he even worked as a bartender and mixologist at the wedding of Argentine soccer superstar, Leo Messi. With a long, storied career behind the bar, Garcia currently serves at the helm of one of Buenos Aires’ top cocktail bars and number thirty-three on the World’s 50 Best Bars list, Presidente. Located in the chic La Recoleta neighborhood, Presidente’s sultry, sophisticated aesthetic makes it a glamorous destination for a night out, but the main reason to go is Garcia’s high-end cocktail creations, made using fresh, local ingredients to highlight native Argentine flavors. With unmatched attention to detail and a flair for customer service, a night at Presidente being served by Garcia is truly a night to remember.
Brazilians love a good time, and a good time is always guaranteed when you’re enjoying a cocktail crafted by Marcio Silva, Brazilian mixologist par excellence and the owner and creator of the 15th best bar in the world in 2019, Guilhotina. Growing up in a family that had a background producing artisanal cachaça, Brazil’s most famous national spirit made from fermented sugarcane juice, and spending holidays out in the countryside, Silva’s connection to the flavors and ingredients of his home country, paired with cutting his teeth on the trade as a bartender in London and around Europe, has made him one of the driving forces behind Brazil’s current rise in the cocktail world, starting with SubAstor and then with Guilhotina. Both staples of the São Paulo mixology scene, Guilhotina is consistently ranked as one of the best bars in the world, largely thanks to Silva’s fun, inventive cocktails. On top of all that, he’s also worked with master blender Erwin Weimann to create Yaguara, a brand of small-batch cachaça.
Chile has also been coming up in the cocktail world as drinkers, especially in the capital of Santiago, get more adventurous, expanding their palates beyond pisco to gin, whiskey, and other distillates. With the foodie scene also taking off, mixologists are finally getting to spread their wings and have some fun with flavor and preparation, and one of the most exciting places to experience this awakening is at Ambrosia Bistro in Santiago, where head mixologist Carla Constanza works her magic. The hip, laidback sister restaurant of one of Santiago’s finest dining establishments, Ambrosia Bistro is all about experimentation and broadening the horizons of its patron, and that mission is just as true in the glass as on the plate, and Constanza’s cocktails always hit the spot. Focusing on using fresh, seasonal ingredients to create cocktails that highlight the local flavors of Chile, her skill and creativity earned her the title of Chile’s best bartender at the 2019 World Class Awards, as well as a top spot in the famous Legends of London cocktail contest in 2018. Currently based in California, it seems clear that big things are in store for Chile’s best bartender.
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