Meet Andrea Duran!
Andrea got her first bartending job at 18 in Key West, Florida. After watching her mom work in the restaurant industry growing up, she thought it was magical and only seemed fit to follow in those footsteps.
“Fourteen years later, I have won 2 competitions, bartended in every type of bar, run a couple of bar programs, traveling for the sake of cocktail/spirits education, and even dabbled in other fields. I still love what I do and the crazy controlled chaos that is bartending.”
Where do you tend bar now? What makes it unique? Distinctive drinks, décor, a certain vibe?
I currently work at Paloma Restaurant in Santa Fe, NM. I had lost my job of 4 years to the pandemic and absolutely could not bring myself to think of job hunting at the time. Thankfully they found me, and it just felt very symbiotic. It is an Oaxacan-inspired restaurant, with lots of local ingredients, Agave, and other Mexican spirits are the main focus for the bar program, fresh juices, and a fast-paced cocktail-heavy environment.
Who has been most influential in your development as a bartender? A mentor, a parent, a fellow bartender, and why?
I have been fortunate to meet lots of amazing bartenders, managers, owners, etc., since I started, and I honestly take a little something from everyone I meet. My last manager, who I took the program over for when he left for bigger and better things, is probably someone who still influences my choices and who I turn to with any questions or doubts I have. I am close to a lot of people I used to work with, and we have an amazing small community of bartenders here and that support is really amazing, and it definitely pushes me to step up my game.
Do you have any advice for novice/at-home bartenders?
I love this at-home bar movement that has been happening (even more so during covid)—despite the fact that some cocktails would never work in the real world of bartending. The sky’s the limit on creativity/garnishes, and it makes me envious a little bit. My advice to any novice bartender is to start with your basics, master those and then start experimenting.
What is your favorite ingredient right now, and why?
I always have really been a big fan of Sherry in cocktails and helping revive that interest in the consumer. It has a bad rep just like so many other things. I love its complexity and depending on what you’re going for, whether a more nutty profile or bone dry or something with some body and sweetness, there is something for everyone.
How do you go about creating a new cocktail? Is there a specific process or simply a moment of inspiration?
Sometimes I dream about cocktails or just specific flavor combinations, so once I wake up, if I don’t figure out how to make the drink or flavors work together, it just sticks in my brain like a skipping record until I do. Some of my favorite drinks I’ve made have been created this way. When I’m not dreaming about them, I am usually taking my cue from dessert and food flavor combinations, and writing down ideas that may or may not work.
Do you have a special technique you use or a tip for making a particular drink?
I don’t think I have a particular technique or tip for anything specific. I trust my instincts and my palate to kind of guide me through any curveballs that may get thrown during a shift, and it hasn’t let me down yet.
Where do you see the bartending/cocktail culture headed?
I think the bartending culture is starting to go back to basics again. The fresher the ingredients and the more conscious a place or bartender is about its ingredients, the more it attracts people. There is a huge movement of pushing aside things that aren’t sustainably made, whether it’s wine or liqueurs or these big brand spirits, and it’s giving more opportunity for the “little guys” to make a difference in the cocktail world whereas maybe ten years ago it would’ve been much harder. I often gravitate toward the thing that is made with less or just making it myself, so I can control the number of things put into it and make it a healthier and smarter choice for the consumer.