Master mixologist, bar management expert and Diageo Reserve regional ambassador for Latin America and the Caribbean, Paulo Figueriedo, travels the globe exploring cocktail trends and passing on the tips of the trade to rising stars of the cocktail scene.
Paulo has traveled to more than 50 countries across Europe, Latin America, North America, the Caribbean, and Asia. In fact he’s on the road so much – typically more than 40 weeks a year – that he lives entirely in hotels.
The master mixologist has made numerous visits to Cayman during the past three years to hold workshops and help judge the regional rounds, known as “waves,” of the Diageo Reserve World Class competition – described as the world’s largest mixology competition.
Each wave requires bartenders to create their own signature cocktails from one of Diageo’s Reserves brands. The regional wave winner then goes on to compete at the World Class final. This year it will be held in Miami, Sept., where the Cayman winner will compete against bartenders representing more than 50 countries. At stake is the coveted Diageo Reserve World Class Bartender of the Year title, which brings global fame to winners in the cocktail world.
During Paulo’s recent visit he said he was happy to see so many bartenders working hard to elevate their craft.
“When I first started coming to Cayman a few years ago there were just a small handful of bartenders who were truly doing hand-crafted cocktails,” Paulo says. “Now there are six, maybe seven bars which I can say are truly doing some great stuff.”
He adds: “They are making their own high-quality syrups, doing infusions, being really creative with ingredients, sourcing premium brands. It’s exciting to see this.”
Paulo started his cocktail journey in his native Portugal, when, at age 16 he attended bar school. As his knowledge grew, so did his desire to hone his craft. At 20 he moved to London, U.K., where he worked at the legendary Lab Bar in Soho, renowned for its contemporary cocktails made by award-winning bartenders. He then went to work with Salvatore Calabrese – known as “The Maestro” – one of the world’s leading bartenders and former president of the U.K. Bartenders’ Guild whose exotic cocktails have become modern classics in their own right. Paulo’s expert skills then took him on numerous bartending and management jobs across the globe before securing his position with Diageo Reserve four years ago.
You could say there isn’t a thing that Paulo doesn’t know about cocktails.
For anyone keen to emulate Paulo’s status as a master mixologist he says getting the basics right, such as stirring, shaking, and pouring, are key.
“Often even old school bartenders don’t get it right,” Paulo says. “All bartenders should master the basics. Every movement a bartender does needs to be mechanical. If a customer sees a bartender work well they will trust him more. If a bartender works sloppily then a customer will likely pick a safe option, like a beer.”
He adds: “Bartending has become a truly elevated craft – there are some great opportunities out there now. Chefs and mixologists are now working together to create menus and some bartenders are as influential as chefs. It is an exciting time!”