Coming to Miami from Cuba, where his father owned a 24-hour bar, Julio Cabrera, Managing Partner of Regent Cocktail Club and Miami household name, developed a passion for mixology at a young age. Now having managed events and bars in Cuba, Italy, Cancun, Miami and beyond — winning countless cocktail competitions along the way, including MixItUp’s “The Ultimate Mixology Challenge” in 2011, the Mixing Star US in 2012, and earning the title of “Most Imaginative” Bartender of 2013 by GQ, Bombay Sapphire and U.S.B.G — he’s back in the Magic City to show off his skills. Gaining a name in Miami when he collaborated with award-winning chef Michelle Bernstein for the opening of Sra. Martinez, his cunning cocktails helped the restaurant gain recognition in 2012 as one of the 100 best bars in America. And now the face of the popular Regent Cocktail Club, in the Gale Hotel, he’s giving trendy South Florida a taste of the classics that made bars a mainstay so many years ago.
Before he ran off to win another competition, we took a moment to catch up with Mr. Cabrera to find out about his bar, his passion, and most importantly, his secrets behind his fabulous cocktails. Here’s what he had to say:
What’s your favorite cocktail to make? Why? Sazerac (rye whiskey, simple syrup and Peychaud’s bitters), because of its complexity; you have to do everything perfectly in order to make it right.
If you showed up at Regent Cocktail Club as a guest, what would you order? A Papa Doble (rum, lime juice, grapefruit juice and Maraschino liqueur) before dinner, and a Bobby Burns (single malt scotch, sweet vermouth and Benedictine) after dinner.
What tips would you give someone trying to make craft cocktails at home? The simpler, the better; and always follow the recipe.
How did you get into bartending? What do you love most about it? First, because it was family tradition. But also… for the tips. I love it because have fun doing it — and it makes others happy, too.
Why do you think Regent Cocktail Club is so special? It’s something different on South Beach — it’s a true classic cocktail bar with classic, and professional, bartenders.
What are the five essential tools and ingredients you always need to have at your bar? A shaker, a bar spoon, ice, oranges and a rag.
Are there any special secrets to your success behind the bar? I don’t think I have any Mixology secrets — if I did, they wouldn’t be secrets! Really, I’m very classic. More than secrets, I have some tips I use every day: like using jiggers in cocktails, following the recipe, going easy on bitters and spiciness, keeping the balance between sweet and sour, not over-shaking or stirring, and always using high-quality products. And of course, I always smile. (That last one is the real secret.)