Food & Drink

Get Served by SA's Best Bartenders of 2016

Published On 11/04/2016 Published On 11/04/2016
Misael Gonzalez
Misael Gonzalez | Courtesy of Paramour

Misael Gonzalez

Paramour

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Chicago native Misael Gonzalez says his hometown has nothing on SA when it comes to commitment to the cocktail industry. “I’ve gotten to know many people in the industry over the past six years, and they are constantly having roundtable discussions on how to deliver the best new experience to the people of this city,” he says. “I am so happy to be here during this time, and I feel like this city will be setting standards all over the country soon.” As for his own role, Misael says he loves creating classic stirred cocktails -- martinis, Negronis, Manhattans -- and believes that a good bartender mostly needs “an unflinching desire” to make people happy. “If you’re waking up in the middle of the night and thinking about how you could have made an experience better for a guest,” he says, “odds are you’re a good bartender.”

Courtesy of St. Francis Room

Ana-Patrizia Cabrera

St. Francis Room

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Ana-Patrizia Cabrera is the epitome of cosmopolitan, as well as being a jack of all trades. In addition to bartending, Ana-Patrizia -- who was born in Spain to Puerto Rican parents -- has managed coffee houses, worked at local breweries, been a home brewer, and worked at the Texas Capitol over two legislative sessions. She was the first employee hired by St. Francis Room as it was preparing to open last winter. She was initially drawn to the restaurant and bar because of its unique location in the former Alamo Methodist Church in Southtown, and claims she was either going to be an employee or a stalker. She prides herself on her commitment to hospitality, and is known for her passion for certain cocktails. “My bar knows that... if a Tiki Bowl is ordered, I’m making it,” she says. “Tiki is an opportunity to share my culture with my guests. Every time I light it up, the bartop becomes a party!”

James Tavera

The Well

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An SA native who has been in the bar industry for more than 10 years, James Tavera believes that a truly great bartender can be judged by how he creates the classics. “If they rush, an Old Fashioned tastes like sugar water and bourbon,” he says. “If they take their time, you can taste layers of the drink.” He is excited about his post as beverage director at one of SA’s newest bars, where he looks forward to getting to design and invent new cocktails in the biggest little city in the world. His favorite aspect of his job is the social interaction. “Every day is a different day,” he says. “You will meet new people, (face) new situations, and have new opportunities. In the bar world, if you have a strong foundation around you, your co-workers become family.”

Courtesy of Sternewirth

James Santos

Sternewirth

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It was a need for his own beer money that drove then-UTSA student James Santos to bartending nearly a decade ago. It was a second job, but soon the bar life was all he wanted. “I fell in love with everything about the bar -- the energy, the ambiance, the lifestyle,” he says, even though he had to work his way up from doorman to barback to bartender. Nine years later, he still loves interacting with customers, excited about how SA’s growth is affecting its bar scene, and especially about being a part of Hotel Emma’s stunning bar. “I try to lead my professional life by the philosophy shared in an article called ‘A Letter to Young Bartenders,’ which is right on point,” he says. “‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Courtesy of Jazz, TX

Derik Cortez

Jazz, TX

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An on-and-off bartender for more than 16 years, Derik Cortez found his passion for the industry reignited with the advent of the craft cocktail movement. He began reading anything he could get his hands on to bolster his knowledge and become relevant in this niche of the bar business, earning staff spots at George’s Keep and Paramour along the way. “When you work with some of San Antonio’s best bar staff, it’s either you elevate to that level or you quickly realize you’re not as good as you thought,” he says. “Either way, you take something away from the experience.” Now lead bartender at the Pearl’s newest bar, he feels a responsibility to help those who are coming up in the ranks as well.

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1. Paramour 102 9th St, San Antonio, TX 78215

San Antonio's first rooftop bar, Paramour offers cocktails as spectacular as its views. While you're enjoying its industrial, rustic digs, considering dropping some cash on their selection of Pappy Van Winkle, the world's most sought after rye whiskey, and sip it as you look over the beautiful cityscape.

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2. St. Francis 1150 S Alamo St, San Antonio, TX 78210 (Southtown)

Inside Frank, the church-turned-hot dog joint on Alamo, sits St. Francis: Southtown’s go-to for quality craft cocktails. Its tagline, “hot dogs, cold beer” would lead the unassuming to believe that’s all they’ve got to offer, but don’t be fooled: this sanctuary is home to a collection of serious cocktails, too. The drink menu ranges from margaritas and micheladas to Tiki concoctions and whiskey flights. And as expected by the tagline, their beer list is extensive and artisan sausages plentiful. Sinners welcome.

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3. The Well 5539 Utsa Blvd, San Antonio, TX 78249

If it’s your first time at The Well, get ready to giddy up because this bar/restaurant/dance hall is a doosey. A large outdoor beer garden space lined in plastic grass (complete with a stage to host live acts) leads into a warehouse with two bars and an expansive seating area that can be converted into a dance floor. Iconic Texas-style comfort eats are abundant: carrots are glazed with whiskey, chopped beef is piled onto waffle fries, and steak is chicken-fried in a cast-iron skillet. Their lively bar is no joke, with 80 beers on tap and cocktails that have kick (Poteet Popper: Tito’s vodka, strawberry, jalapeño, lemon).

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4. Sternewirth 136 E Grayson, San Antonio, TX 78215

This rustic cool bar, located in Hotel Emma, has soaring ceilings and no shortage of wooden accents or intimate sofas. Craft beers, carefully selected wines and handmade cocktails pair perfectly with small plates or conversation. The top bartender recommendation is The Three Emmas, which combines gin, gran classico, apricot and absinthe.

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5. Jazz, TX 312 Pearl Pkwy, Bldg 6, San Antonio, TX 78215 (Tobin Hill)

Jazz, TX is not just a music venue: it’s Tobin Hill’s hub for all things music, booze, and food. Located in the 3,500sqft space once dedicated to bottling beer at the Historic Pearl Brewery, Jazz, TX carries on the venue’s penchant for beverage. It features original, quality cocktails with a Southern edge, like a south of the border negroni and a Texas-style rye Collins. In addition to craft cocktails and nostalgic Southern fare (think fried okra and chilaquiles), it's known for a wide variety of music genres -- jazz, blues, salsa, Texas swing, big band, and more. Jazz, TX combines live music, dancing, and a versatile food and drink menu into its South Texan repertoire.

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