This week, bartenders from all around the world will be descending on London for the annual London Cocktail Week. Hosting masterclasses, seminars, partaking in guest shifts and creating specialised cocktails, we took a look at some of the big names joining us in London.
José Luis León, Licorería Limantour, Mexico
One of the best bartenders in Mexico, José Luis Leon grew up in Mexico City and is the head bartender of famed drinking den Licoreria Limantour – opened in 2011.
Luis León has competed in many global competitions. In 2010 he won first place at the prestigious World Class Mexico comp, and reached the top 10 in the Havana Grand Prix. In 2013, he took part in the national edition of Bols Around the World, going on to win first place at the Tahona Society competition in 2014.
In 2015, he represented Mexico in the 2015 Diplomatico World Tournament, after winning first place in the Mexico Edition. Limantour in Mexico City was also nominated as one of the World’s 50 in 2015.
Luis León’s favourite spirit is tequila, his favourite cocktail is a Dry Martini and his favourite after work drink is a Cuba Lubre.
Making guest appearances in New York, Chicago, Shanghai, Beijing, Minsk and now London, Luis León will be taking over the Patrón Cocktail Lab at the Spitalfields Hub on Tuesday 4 October with his Patrón Chipotle Punch.
Gn Chan, Angel’s Share, New York
This year’s global winner of Bacardi Legacy, GN Chan, is here in London.
Taiwanese Chan first trained as an industrial designer, but after losing money from a start-up design brand, he turned to other means of making a living – walking into a bar and asking for a job.
Soon discovering his love for bartending, he immersed himself in everything to do with the bar he worked in, discovering what he describes as a ‘natural talent’ for it. After working in the bar in Taiwan, he headed to New York, intending on making bartending his career. When he first moved to New York, he worked three shifts a day in three different restaurants, one French, one Indian and one Italian.
Chan revealed he is not a big drinker and admits to having a very low tolerance.
Catch him on Tuesday at A Family Affair – a reunion of Bacardi Legacy winners in Islington.
Jad Ballout, Central Station Boutique Bar, Beirut
Hailing from the Beirut neighbourhood of Mar Mikhael is Diageo World Class winner and Bacardi Legacy finalist, Jad Ballout.
Ballout never first intended on becoming a bartender, with his first passion being for food. Whilst studying to become a chef, he worked as a waiter in a bar, where his love for the industry first began.
Using his creative flare for using ingredients, Ballout would often use cooking to create drinks, mixing ingredients together and experimenting with flavours. He gathers inspiration from cookbooks and chefs blogs when creating new cocktails.
Besides working at Central Station, he also manages Mexican restaurant and bar Garcias, now working on an Italian-inspired venue.
Ballout will be joining Gn Chan at A Family Affair, a reunion of Bacardi Legacy finalists, this Tuesday.
Julio Bermejo, Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant, San Francisco
With the creation of the iconic Tommy’s Margarita under his belt, you’d be a fool to miss tequila king Julio Bermejo while he’s in town for Cocktail Week.
Tommy’s was opened in 1965 by Tommy and Elmy Bermejo, two Mexican immigrants. Bermejo started there early on, making Manhattans for local policemen (in coffee cups) and working at the restaurant six days a week.
He is now beverage manager at the San Francisco restaurant, or as Bermejo describes it ‘The Greatest Tequila Bar on Earth’. He became tequila ambassador for the US in 2003, and was also awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for his work promoting Tequila at Tales of the Cocktail 2014.
Bermejo, along with US bartenders Jacques Bezuidenhout, Ross Simon and Paolino Baccino, will be hosting a Tommy’s pop up at the Truman Brewery this Tuesday.
Fabio La Pietra, SubAstor bar, São Paulo
Italian bartender Fabio La Pietra hails from one of the best-known cocktail bars in the city of São Paulo, where he has been bar manager since 2013.
Beginning his career in Italy at the age of just 14, La Pietra studied catering, specialising in beverage service. After gaining experience working in five-star hotels in regions all over Italy – such as Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni on Lake Como, Lab in Senigallia, and the Baglioni Hotel Carlton in Milan – he moved to London – embarking on his cocktail career.
He soon became head bartender at Montgomery Place in west London’s Notting Hill.
He has been bar manager at SubAstor since 2013, and is in charge of the cocktails in all of the businesses owned by Cia Tradicional de Comércio.
La Pietra will be in town this week, going and head-to-head with British bar legend Richard Hunt at Britain X Brazil, an epic bar battle taking place at Reverend JW Simpson this Wednesday.