“I wish I had a cool story about how I found a book or saw a bartender and fell in love with it,” says Luis Hernandez, explaining how he came to bartending.
“In reality, it was necessity.” Hernandez worked in his parents’ restaurant for five years and when he turned 21, asked the bar manager to teach him the trade. A few weeks later, a bartender missed a shift and Hernandez stepped behind the stick. Currently, he works at The Eddy in the East Village, where the bar program strives to pair the drinks with the food.
Hernandez’s work ethic was forged while working in restaurants. His advice to young bartenders is simple: “Start with the basics of work, not bartending,” he says.
“Be on time, work hard, pay attention, work clean, listen, and learn… don’t take tasks for granted. Every time you cut garnishes is an opportunity to work on your knife skills; every time you clean a bottle, read the label and learn something. If you’re lucky to have a kitchen at your bar or restaurant, ask to work some shifts in the kitchen. Ask questions and taste as much as you can in the kitchen or bar. It’s never too early to work on your palate.”
– Luis Hernandez, Bartender at The Eddy, NYC
Hernandez’s mentor, Naren Young, has had and still has a major influence on the bartender’s work. “We have different styles of bartending and creating,” Hernandez says, “but he definitely didn’t force his way of doing things on me, and gave me enough room to find my way and helping me hone my skills. I think from day one he saw how much I wanted it, and taught me what he saw I needed that I was missing.”
Currently, Hernandez’s favorite ingredient is tea, which he has been researching for The Eddy’s upcoming winter menu.
“I think it’s something that has been largely overlooked in cocktails. We see tea in cocktails, but maybe about six or seven different types, and there’s hundreds of teas out there with their own history and flavors.”
Focusing on an ingredient like tea allows Hernandez to create cocktails that give focus to a key flavor. When he is in the throes of menu development, he refers to it as “controlled chaos.”
He hopes that in the years ahead, bartenders will move beyond the predictable, “classic” cocktails.
“I am focusing a lot on education… about tasting and understanding the ingredients and how to get the best ingredients, and then how to get the most out of them. We have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to flavor and technique with our counterparts in the kitchen and I’d love to be the one to help close that gap a bit more.”
– Luis Hernandez
Here are a couple of cocktails being served up at The Eddy. Mix them up for yourself!
The Summer’s Last Stand
- 1 1/2 oz. Reyka Vodka
- 1/2 oz. Fermented Rose Syrup
- 1/2 oz. White Tea Whey
- 1/2 oz. Lactic Acid Solution
Preparation: Stir together all ingredients. Rim half glass with powdered honey. Strain drink into glass over two fresh ice cubes.
I’m Sorry Miss Kahlo
- 1 1/2 oz. Corralejo Tequila
- 1/2 oz. Pear Williams
- 3/4 oz. Magnolia Shrub
- 1/2 oz. Nopales Juice
- 2 dashes Orange Cream Citrate
- 1 Egg White
Preparation: Dry shake with one ice cube, add ice and shake hard. Double strain into talavera cup. Top with flower mix of magnolia, corn, and safflower.