Food & Drink

5 Bartenders Who Used Their Drink-Making Skills to Travel the World

Courtesy of Liam Kolb

Caitlin Laman

Previous Job: Bartender, Trick Dog, San Francisco
Where Bartending Took Her: Mexico City for a four-month stint at the cocktail bar Limantour 
How It Happened: “I left San Francisco with the intention of moving to Chicago. I took some time to travel first, and was in Europe when the owners from Limantour called me. At Limantour, I was bartending four nights a week, managing the bar staff, and working with the team to release a new menu a couple months after I arrived.”
The Best Parts of Mexico City Life: “The incredible food and the overly hospitable people. Really cheap haircuts and improved Spanish speaking were also perks. Living in a second language is a great exercise in attention and patience. I got a really good look into our industry on an international level. Our countries are so close in proximity, but the industries are so wildly different.”
The Biggest Drawbacks: “Getting a little chubby from all the tacos and generally just missing home. It was a really great experience, though, and I can’t wait to go back and visit, maybe even live there again one day.”

Colin Asare-Appiah

Previous Job: Bartender in his native England, where he launched the influential London Academy of Bartending and its LAB bar
Where Bartending Took Him: Everywhere (he is currently the senior portfolio ambassador for Bacardi U.S.A.)
How It Happened: “Initially, I moved to Greece to work in a resort called Lindos for a few summers. I was lucky to find amazing mentors who helped hone my skills. I then traveled back to the U.K. and worked around the country, building my network and experiencing working in different environments. My wife was in the U.S., so I moved here to open the operations for a brand that I worked on in the U.K. It was a steep learning curve.”
Tips for Those Who Follow in His Footsteps: “I believe if you get involved in the culture, work hard, and treat people like you want to be treated, you should be just fine.”

Natalia Alfonso

Previous Job: Bartender in New York City
Where Bartending Took Her: Madrid, Spain, to run boozy tours for Tour Me Out Madrid
How It Happened: “I was 25 on a vacation in Paris and made really good friends. One of those friends lived in Madrid. She said, ‘One of my roommates happens to be moving out and another is a manager of this company, and they do tourism and nightlife. I know you speak a lot of languages and they need that.’ That worked out super-well. Spanish is my first language. My family is from Cuba and Spain.”
How Bartending Helped: “My day would consist of doing the walking tours for three hours—getting people shots and tapas. When my groups were big, I would get behind the bar to help out.”
The Best Parts of Madrid Life: “I felt like a big fish in a small pond. I ended up starting my own pub crawls. I lived right in the center of town; I walked out, and everyone knew me.”
Favorite Spanish Souvenir: “I have my nametag from the tour company with the name ‘Natalia la Conquistadora’ because of how huge my pub crawls were. It’s my favorite thing. It’s in my room.”

Liam Kolb

Previous Job: Bartender, Lucky Jack’s, Lower East Side, New York City (“I loved it. It was a staple of the neighborhood.”)
Where Bartending Took Him: Auckland, New Zealand
How It Happened: “Having lived in New York my whole life, I never gained appreciation for it. I was spoiled. I decided I needed to open my eyes, experience something new. I had a cousin I was close to [who was] living in New Zealand, and it seemed like the perfect place. It was different, it was beautiful, and best of all, it was far.”
How Bartending Helped: “Bartending is and will always be a skill needed around the world. I knew I could go anywhere and do it.”
The Best Parts of New Zealand Life: “The world’s beauty. You’re always 10 minutes away from the beach, or a coastal walk, or a volcano hike.”
The Biggest Drawbacks: “The food isn't as good. The cocktail culture isn't as good. But at the end of the day, eating out every night and spending countless hours in cocktail bars is the exact reason I needed out of New York.”

K.C. Washington

Previous Job: “I tended bar all over Manhattan for 20-plus years.”
Where Bartending Took Her: Sacheon, South Korea (where she now teaches)
Why She Moved: “I was tired of working for tips, tired of my livelihood being connected to someone else's mood. I wanted a little more stability, but after a lifetime of making my own schedule, the idea of working in an office for peanuts was horrifying. With no kids or significant other, not getting any younger, I decided to take a chance. Sacheon is a lovely coastal town in the south of the country, about five hours away from Seoul. After 26 years in New York City, I wanted countryside and water. I teach elementary and middle school kids, which is crazy-hard, but I really love South Korea itself.”
How Her Bartending Skills Help: “Years of dealing with unruly drunks and generally obnoxious people allow me to stand in the middle of a class of wilding 8-year-olds and not lose my mind—sort of.”
Why She Loves Korea: “I grew up in California, which Korea reminds me a lot of. The people have been amazing. Honestly, with globalism, despite being in a small town, I can find most of what I need—except for bourbon, which is killing me.”