Bartender Jack Araque mixes martinis with a passion at Mandarin Oriental, Miami’s M-Bar.

My day as bartender at M-Bar, Mandarin Oriental, Miami starts with the mise en place (putting everything in its place). First, I select the ingredients, from the bright yellow lemons for Lemon Drops to the crispy celery for Bloody Marys and mint for mojitos; everything needs to be fresh and washed with water to prepare for cutting. I cut the fruit and divide it all into two categories: garnish and ingredients. Then I change the juices, creams and mixes, as fresh flavours are key to creating a cocktail.

After a routine inventory, checking liquor bottles are in the same place and backups are handy, preparing snack trays, polishing glassware and counting the change, I do a brief line-up of how my night is going to be. By then, it’s 5pm and we are open for business.

The first guests arrive – some of whom meet in the bar to talk business – and my day in the ‘office’ begins. As we go into the night, the drinks can get quite complex. Some customers want to try something different or need guidance after reading our extensive list of over 250 martinis! So I suggest a martini to suit their taste – I usually begin with the spirit, asking if they prefer gin, vodka or rum; sweetness or dryness, and favourite flavours. I suggest a couple of martinis that best match their descriptions.

Sometimes a guest wants a personalised drink. In this case, I ask specific questions about their preferences: flavours, fruits, dry or wet, sweet or sour, cocktail or martini, shaken or stirred… Based on the answers I obtain from the customer, I mix the ingredients and create that special drink they’ll really want, or, in some cases, a cocktail that nobody has created for them in the past.

At the end of the day, we are all bartenders. We can open a can of beer, and we can all open a bottle of wine; however, why doesn’t every bartender mix good cocktails? Well, let’s say that to be a bartender you need a harmonious combination of experience, knowledge, and love for the profession – with a touch of inspiration.

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