Cocktails & Spirits

Julio Cabrera Mentoring Young Miami Bartenders

Most people take time to consider the care taken by the chef to prepare their meals. But, until recently, the same respect wasn't always afforded to bartenders. But if you really think about what's in that cocktail, you'll find the same, if not more attention to detail. Before a bartender serves you that drink, there were bitters to be made, juices to be squeezed, and even fresh herbs to be grown. A mixologist, more than ever, is a noble profession that takes years of training. Cantinero Julio Cabrera wants to mentor the next round of bartenders coming up.

The award-winning mixologist is much in demand, having been named a managing partner at the Regent Cocktail Club and consulting on cocktail programs for Little Havana's Ball & Chain and the Thompson Miami Beach. But even with a full dance card, Cabrera feels its necessary to take time out to share his skills. The master mixologist has teamed up with Bacardi to teach a cantinero's master class, sort of an advanced degree in bartending.

See also: Julio Cabrera: Gentleman Bartender

Cabrera, who started bartending in Cuba in 1989, says he learned his skills through mentorship and wants to pay that forward. "In Cuba I learned from the best people. Then, I moved to Italy and studied the best bartenders there. Here in the states, I learned from masters like Dale DeGroff."

Now a master himself, Cabrera wants to share his knowledge with a new crop of bartenders. "I want to teach young bartenders in Miami to be the most professional bartenders in the country. I think it's something that Miami deserves." Cabrero's first master class is now underway, with Miami's elite teaching younger bartenders at Bacardi USA headquarters in Coral Gables. After learning all they can, it's up to each person to develop their own style.

Cabrera's style?

"I guess I would call it elegant, classic, and stylish. I think it took about 25 years to create my own style, which is the cantinero, but with European influences from Italy, with a bit of American bartender, as well. That's what we strive for at the Regent Cocktail Club. Elegant with a lot of technique. It's old school with modern ways."

As managing partner of the Regent Cocktail Club, Cabrera's goal is to keep the integrity of the cocktail alive. "We are going to keep the concept of the classic cocktail. We currently have about 15 drinks on the menu, and we'll add about 15 more." Cabrera is also planning a series of cocktail making classes for non-professionals who want to learn at the hands of a master. "This is just in the planning stages, but we would love to do some seminars at the Regent."

The well-traveled cantinero says that Miami's bartending scene has evolved much in just a short span of time. "We're doing really well. I remember five years ago, there were just two or three bars in Miami with only a handful of really skilled bartenders. But now, the Miami cocktail scene is probably at the same level as Seattle or Boston. We're not quite on par with San Francisco or New York, but we'll get there. I predict that in the next two years or so, we'll double what we have now. A lot of good things are happening. I'm excited about the future and I want to be a part of that."

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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss

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