Las Vegas based bartender Javier Ramirez has been working in the food and beverage industry since the age of 14.
While Ramirez was growing up his parents owned a restaurant where he worked in the back helping to wash dishes, clean tables, and prep food. This early job led him on the path to bartending. When the restaurant closed he continued work in restaurants, eventually working at Dos Caminos in the Palazzo on the Las Vegas Strip.
What inspired you to become a bartender? Tell us about your background.
I started in the F&B Industry at a young age. My parents owned a restaurant while I was growing up and I learned to work for them at the age of 14 washing dishes, cleaning tables, and prepping food. This started me on the path to a bartender without evening knowing it. The restaurant closed down, but I kept working in restaurants. My first casino job on the strip was Dos Caminos in the Palazzo years ago. I worked my way up and down the strip, until I became a bartender and fell in love with it, and kept learning and studying for it to be where I am now.
Where do you tend bar now? What makes it unique? Distinctive drinks, décor, a certain vibe?
I work at Oak & Ivy at Downtown Container Park on Fremont Street in Las Vegas. We were voted 2nd best whiskey bar by Yelp in the states. Since then, we have been trying to keep that status with our craft cocktails and unique whiskey collection. We have a small bar area, but we make it up in great service and amazing cocktails to match.
Who has been most influential in your development as a bartender? A mentor, a parent, a fellow bartender, and why?
My mentor, and dear friend, Eric Smith, was also one of the best men at my wedding. He was the one that gave me the chance to get behind the bar and taught me how to be a bartender and cocktail creator. He is the person I thank more than anyone. He was the reason I’ve met so many great bartenders, such as Tony Abou-Ganim and Dale Degroff. They showed me the real bartending and cocktail world, but without Eric, it couldn’t have been reached.
Do you have any advice for novice/at home bartenders?
My advice for bartenders in training is to work your way up as a bar back and figure out what kind of bartender you want to be. There are many types, such as gaming bartenders, craft cocktails, and sportsbook bars. Decide what you like or are more attracted to, then study, study, and study. This industry is always growing, and the more you learn, the better. For the bartenders that started at home: I’ve noticed that many start with a certain spirit and spread to others, and little by little, you learn more about it and the flavors and how it’s made. Showing you some classic cocktails and not so classic at the same time.
What is your favorite ingredient right now and why?
GINGER! I love ginger. It can be both overpowering and also have a soft back-end note that lingers in cocktails. It can be so versatile—candied, syrups, and powder. It can mix well with all spirits as well.
How do you go about creating a new cocktail? Is there a specific process or simply a moment of inspiration?
There really is no process to it, in my opinion. I have a list on my phone of rad cocktail names but no cocktails and a list of cocktails with no names.
Do you have a special technique you use or a tip for making a particular drink?
Depending on what cocktail you’re making, there is always a solid technique, whether it be Ramos Gin Fizz or a simple Espresso Martini. The one I stand for is the reverse dry shake with egg white sour cocktails. To me, dry then ice shake doesn’t connect right in my mind. The way I explain is fluffing up a nice pillow to lay your head down, but right before you set it down, you smash it down with books (ice), building all the fluff just to destroy it makes no sense.
Where do you see the bartending/cocktail culture headed?
Bartending trends are going back and forth. I see a lot of high-tech and scientific techniques and also going back to the classics and deconstructing them. I love seeing a classic daiquiri and a snow cone sherbet daiquiri. This is what I love about this industry, you can have the same cocktail and so many variations of it by so many people.
Como La Flor
- 2 oz. Illegal Mezcal
- 1 1/4 oz. Fresh Cucumber-Lime Juice
- 1 oz. Marie Brizard Elderflower
- 1/4 oz. Jalapeno Simple Syrup 2:1
- Garnish with a flower