Where The Cocktail Really Begins

[Re-Posted from El Dorado]

Juan Aguillon, Head of Prep at El Dorado

This gentleman has, in part, made almost every cocktail you have ever sipped, downed, savored or chugged at El Dorado Cocktail Lounge. His name is Juan Aguillon, and he is in charge of all “prep” at the bar. Most of the time when you order a cocktail, the process seems to begin once the bartender has taken the order, pulled out a glass, and started to mix ingredients. However a lot of time and effort went into preparing the ingredients used in all of our cocktails so that the bartender could deliver a round in a very quick and effortless fashion.

Juan picks up pounds of mint, and crates of citrus and fruit to prepare for each week

Juan’s job starts with the raw ingredients, and they’re ingredients that Juan himself picks up before his shifts at El Dorado. Juan squeezes all of the fresh fruit into juices, and fills the bartender’s bottles – labeling them with what they are, and when they expire. Some of those juices are in turn used in syrups, which Juan cooks, and pre-mixes for menu cocktails. These pre-mixes allow bartenders to have several of their most commonly ordered cocktails ingredients already combined, this way he/she can simply mix with the spirit, fresh citrus, and then stir or shake the cocktail, saving essential seconds or minutes of reaching for more ingredients. Juan has actually contributed recipes to the fresh syrups at El Dorado, and can probably make our pre-mixes from memory.

Citrus is juiced by hand every day

Juan is also the man behind every fancy garnish that has adorned your cocktail. From the familiar lime wedges and mint sprigs in our Mules (of which he has to prepare over 500 each every Friday), to the citrus bowls stocked for zests and fresh cut garnishes, Juan was there. Once all of the ingredients are in their rightful state and place, Juan gets to work preparing the actual bar and wells for service. He stocks up every well in use that night with our two kinds of ice, all of the garnishes, fresh eggs, juices, syrups, and sets out all of the bartender’s tools and tins. Finally he’ll set out all the stools, wipe down the tables, make sure the bar is in the most presentable state possible before heading out. Once Juan is done, all a bartender has to do is walk in, step in front of their well and take an order. Everything is right where it should be, and we couldn’t make cocktails at the speed we do without this system.

Dozens of syrups are prepared and bottled by Juan

Juan juices, bottles, and labels the citrus, noting when the juice goes bad

This is an incredible amount of work for one person to be responsible for. Yet on top of his commitment to El Dorado, Juan also spends time contributing to the efforts at both Craft & Commerce and Bang Bang. ¬†Whenever we have a special event, a busy weeknight, or an extra hectic weekend (ahem, Showcase) Juan is the first to give an extra effort to make sure everything goes off without a hitch. The El Dorado Kitchen is his domain, and Juan spends his time there while the rest of the bar is silent. There might be someone running around here or there for something, but the majority of Juan’s work is done completely independently, and in the 2 years he’s been here, he’s never let the bar staff down.

Otis couldn’t contain his excitement to be in Juan’s photo.

We wanted to give Juan the opportunity to let all of our friends and family get to know him a little more if they don’t already. When we asked him what the best part of the gig was he said, “knowing that every great tasting cocktail is in some part your responsibility”. He says his role has a great combination of fun and seriousness, and the hard work pays off when, “you see the bartenders doing the easy job of just mixing drinks!”. So next time you grab a Mule, remember that drink started long before you got that bull stamp on your wrist.