The Chilled 100 Ambassador Program joins together top bartenders in some of the country’s major cocktail mixing hubs.

These talented bartenders are the new generation of legendary slingers who are winning awards, creating ground-breaking cocktail menus and of course fascinating us with incredible drinks.

We are proud to introduce you to our Chilled 100 members who are currently behind the bar in Houston, Texas. These all-star bartenders fill us in on what makes them tick behind the stick.

Alexander Greg, Chilled 100 Ambassador - Houston, what's chilling right now, industry news

Alexander Greg, Chilled 100 Ambassador – Houston

Photo Courtesy of Moving Sidewalk

Alexander Gregg

Bar Owner – Moving Sidewalk

What inspired you to become a bartender?

My first job was at a Subway. I was a Sandwich Artist. Eventually I moved on to bussing tables at a place with white tablecloths.  Next thing I knew I was waiting tables. As a server I remember looking at the guys and gals behind the bar. With an air of mystery, they had this strange sort of autonomy and they were the coolest people in the building, even if they generally weren’t very nice (or nice at all) to the server trainees. Well, one day I was waiting tables at this pseudo fancy Italian restaurant, and one of the bartenders who was chronically late, was late for the very last time and was let go. The owner of the place looks at me and says “Alex- can you make a Margarita?” I lied and said yes. That’s how I started bartending.

What’s your favorite ingredient right now?

Acid – It fixes everything.

What would you tell novice bartenders?

Keep your head down and shut up! Learn the basics, focus on being the best employee you can and ignore the hype. Study your recipes, make drinks at home, and learn to love making drinks. For at-home bartenders, I’d say, ’have fun!’ Buy a few tools and a few recipe books, plant some herbs in the backyard, go get some fresh produce at the farmer’s market and go to town.


Brand Stringer, Chilled 100 Ambassador - Houston, what's chilling right now, industry news

Brand Stringer, Chilled 100 Ambassador – Houston

Photo Courtesy of Kirsten Gilliam Photography

Brad Stringer

Daiquiri Time Out (DTO) – Opening in Mid-June

What inspired you to become a bartender?

I started bartending for private parties when I was 21, and one of the guests approached me to work in her bar. I’ve worked for all different styles of bars, from restaurant bars, clubs, and neighborhood bars to upscale cocktail bars.

What’s your favorite ingredient right now?

I like working with different types of sugars. You can get more depth out of cocktails with different sugars, like a burnt brown sugar or a piloncillo.

What would you tell novice bartenders?

Research and experimentation are the best teachers. Research for inspiration and try combinations that are outside of your comfort zone. You never know what you’ll find.


Chris Morris, Chilled 100 Ambassador - Houston, what's chilling right now, industry news

Chris Morris, Chilled 100 Ambassador – Houston

Photo Courtesy of Jay Marroquin

Chris Morris

Bartender/Bar Program – Hunky Dory, the Heights

What inspired you to become a bartender?

I’m a sommelier by trade. What is particularly inspiring about bartending is the ability to create a guest experience from essentially scratch. In the wine world, you’re kind of limited by what the chef is cooking, cellar space, what vintages are drinking well, and a whole slew of other factors. Sometimes, you can’t get the perfect wine. You can’t take a 2011 Cote Rotie and add a hint of raspberry to the wine, either it’s there or not. That’s what inspires me about bartending.

What’s your favorite ingredient right now?

Irish whiskey. It’s such an underappreciated category doing some really cool things, and it’s not getting enough love. It’s not as punchy and in your face as bourbon, but it’s lighter and not quite as elegant as scotch. The inclusion of the un-malted barley gives this really light vegetal background that I just love while mixing. It’s a jack-of-all-trades for me. We’ve got an Irish whiskey Old Fashioned on the menu right now, and it’s incredible.

What would you tell novice bartenders?

Don’t cheap out when stocking your bar. Yes, it’s tempting to buy the $8 plastic jug of rum for experimenting, but a cocktail is only as good as the worst ingredient you put in it. We live in a blessed time where super-high quality liquor is readily available and not expensive at all. Take advantage of that.


Joseph Stark, Chilled 100 Ambassador - Houston, what's chilling right now, industry news

Joseph Stark, Chilled 100 Ambassador – Houston

Photo Courtesy of Ana Gonzalez

Joseph Stark

Beverage Director for Hospitality Viking, The Commoner & The Boulevardier Lounge – Duel Concept Bar

What inspired you to become a bartender?

I started waiting tables and bartending as a way to pay for college, I was studying criminal justice with the intention of moving into law enforcement. About halfway through the coursework, one of the classes included the opportunity to study crime scenes and the related crimes- it was rather graphic and I decided that I might not be the best choice for that type of work (it was quite the reality check). I needed to figure out what I was going to do with the rest of my life, and while discussing the change of plans with various regular guests, one of them asked why bartending couldn’t be a career, so here I am!

What’s your favorite ingredient right now?

I’m in love with small, independent Cognac/Armagnac producers! I had the opportunity to spend time in Cognac last year and meet some of the farmers who make some of the best brandies I’ve ever tasted. They’re incredibly well made and it’s difficult to find better value on the market. Fifty year old whiskies are going for tens of thousands of dollars these days, but you can get just as old grower Cognac for a few hundred. Why aren’t we drinking more of this stuff???

What would you tell novice bartenders?

We work in a time where there’s so much opportunity for education, it’s important to capitalize on that! Pick the brains of the old school bartenders, they may have a lot to share and the best ones are masters at hospitality.


Joshua Ibanez, Chilled 100 Ambassador - Houston, what's chilling right now, industry news

Joshua Ibanez, Chilled 100 Ambassador – Houston

Photo Courtesy of Kirsten Gilliam Photography

Joshua Ibanez

Bartender – Johnny’s Gold Brick

What inspired you to become a bartender?

Being able to serve a product that another individual across the country (or the world) has worked tirelessly to perfect. Seeing the instant satisfaction on a customer’s face when they are enjoying that cocktail you have worked so hard to perfect. It makes it all worth it. 
I grew up mainly in Montrose and I’m from a predominately Hispanic part of Houston prior. The diversity that Montrose offered me definitely helped catapult my drive to meet more people and to see what else is out there. What better way to do that than bartending?

What’s your favorite ingredient right now?

So hard to pick one. I will just blanket this answer with a flavor profile- SAVORY. I like to make cocktails that can almost taste like a meal. Flavors that are savory and bold can really make people think outside the box when it comes to cocktails. Customers never considered they’d be drinking booze toasted pine nuts, pho broth, or chorizo. It’s fun and hilarious to see their reaction.

What would you tell novice bartenders?
Do your fair share of research, always be accepting of criticism, and don’t let anybody deny you of what you want.


Justin Ware, Chilled 100 Ambassador - Houston, what's chilling right now, industry news

Justin Ware, Chilled 100 Ambassador – Houston

Photo Courtesy of Kirsten Gilliam Photography

Justin Ware

GM and Bartender – Johnny’s Gold Brick

What inspired you to become a bartender?

I started bartending when I was a freshman in college. I was waiting tables at the local wing place and worked my way into the bar. I have always had a passion for cooking, entertaining and trying new flavors so I made my way to a fine dining bistro where I learned most of my classics and the base knowledge about wine and food. After I graduated college I moved to wine sales and then found myself back in a wait position. With my background in bartending combined with my kitchen experience I was creating cocktails for weekly menus. I remember one day having a beer with my friend talking about how I wanted to be a chef and he said, “Dude you’re a great cook and chef but you’re a much better bartender and you should pursue that!” I applied at Anvil in Houston and staged. I was then brought on as part of the opening staff at Julep where I spent nine months working there and growing my passion for the industry and craft. Recently I took an opportunity with opening Johnny’s Gold Brick about a year ago.

What’s your favorite ingredient right now?

I like all ingredients! I like to explore what is seasonally available and see how I can turn those flavors into cocktails. I have been working with strawberries a lot lately. I have explored the standard flavor combination of strawberry and kiwi as well as stranger combinations such as agave, strawberry and thyme with reposado tequila. I also like to try out foreign ingredients like Jackfruit. Jackfruit is an Asian fruit that is quite large and has a flavor similar to banana and mango with an interesting smell of fine cheese. It makes for very interesting Asian inspired cocktails. With spirits, I lean toward citrus forward gin, and wheated bourbon. I make it a point to use every ingredient and spirit so I can keep my palate constantly tasting new things.

What would you tell novice bartenders?

For bartenders just getting their feet wet I always suggest starting with the basics. Start by reading and researching classics and build your base knowledge. Master the Old Fashioned, Manhattan, and the Dry Martini, these cocktails seem simple with 3-4 ingredients but take the most skill to execute properly. I also always suggest tasting EVERYTHING. Including the things you “do not like.” Every time you taste, you expand your palate vocabulary and recognition of flavors.


Lance Cumpian, Chilled 100 Ambassador - Houston, what's chilling right now, industry news

Lance Cumpian, Chilled 100 Ambassador – Houston

Photo Courtesy of Lance Cumpian

Lance Cumpian

GM and Lead Bartender – Bakkhus Taverna

What inspired you to become a bartender?

Growing up, I was a shy individual. I thought becoming a bartender would help me break out of my shell. When I was 18, I got a job as a bar-back. I saw the interaction and fun the bartenders were having and I knew it was something I wanted to do. So a few months later I was given the opportunity to step up and become a bartender at a local dive bar in Corpus Christi, TX. Shortly after I started, I realized I knew very little about mixing drinks, but I was making decent money. I learned customer service was essential in order to make more than decent money. It really wasn’t until eight years later that I seriously started looking at bartending as a craft and something that I wanted to pursue as an actual career. At this point, I had jumped around from a few bars, nightclubs, and restaurants and eventually started managing a few places. My first bar competition I was so nervous I was shaking like a leaf. All of the other competitors had so much more knowledge but were humble and so very helpful that made me want to learn more. I realized I had barely scratched the surface of this fine craft and still have a long road to go.

What’s your favorite ingredient right now?

I recently started using more fresh herbs and fruit to try out my new drinks. I have found that using fresh ingredients and fruit juices brings an entire different flavor to each drink. It gives a renewed quality to the libation that guests enjoy as well as letting them know they are getting a well-crafted drink.

What would you tell novice bartenders?

If I had any advice to give to the new bartender it is don’t get discouraged. Not every drink you make is going to be great and amazing. I still to this day make duds although not as often as I used to when I first started. If you enjoy seeing guests or your friends faces light up when you make a cocktail then keep doing what you are doing because it is well worth it.


Leslie Ross, Chilled 100 Ambassador - Houston, what's chilling right now, industry news

Leslie Ross, Chilled 100 Ambassador – Houston

Photo Courtesy of Jenna Adele Barrett

Leslie Ross

Bar Director, Canard – Treadsack Group, the Heights

What inspired you to become a bartender?

I started out 15 years ago as a cocktail waitress in a dive bar. I eventually worked my way to behind the bar after a bartender called in. “You can bartend, right? Yeeeaahh!!! Totally!!!….” I began to realize that there was more to it than just randomly free pouring layers upon layers of sub par booze and juices into clunky glassware and plastic cups. This was well before there was anything on the Internet or more than a handful of cocktail books out there, you had to learn by doing, and trial by error. What a fun time to come up in this industry!

What’s your favorite ingredient right now?
I am always drawn to Scotch, I guess due to how polarizing it can be, on a couple of levels. There is a lot of history and lore relating to whisky, but it isn’t as stodgy and stuffy as it has been portrayed in the past, there is really a lot of room for creativity with this spirit, as well as so many very particular nuances, the combinations are limitless! Whisky is fun, and I love making people fall in love with a spirit that I care about so much!

What would you tell novice bartenders?

My advice to novice and at home bartenders is simple! Take advantage of the information you have at your disposal. There are a TON of really fantastic cocktail books out there, but there are also plenty of blogs, videos and other free information. Don’t compromise in the quality or freshness of your ingredients. Fresh juices, fruits, mixers and well-made spirits will always result in good quality cocktail.

At Canard, the drinks have to look as good as they taste, and we subscribe to the Lyan Philosophy that ‘Creativity is the discipline to forget all that you know.’


Ricardo Venegas, Chilled 100 Ambassador - Houston, what's chilling right now, industry news

Ricardo Venegas, Chilled 100 Ambassador – Houston

Photo Courtesy of Ricardo Venegas

Ricardo Venegas

Eightysix’d Hospitality Group

What inspired you to become a bartender?

Hospitality came naturally to me. My family has always either been in restaurant and hotel management or retail. Both of which require a certain level of hosting and making sure that the experience is exceptional. If you buy a pen from me and it’s a fine writing instrument and I have not misrepresented it, your retail experience was an effective purchase. If you come to get a cheese plate and a Negroni from me, the food and cocktail are a medium, your overall culinary experience, ambiance and conversation with me is the actual purchase. That is the main difference and the reason I stayed in F&B, because I can sell you not only a cocktail but an experience. And at the end of the day having a good pen is nice but having a great evening (experience) is that much richer.

“A proper drink at the right time, one mixed with care and skill and served in a true spirit of hospitality, is better than any other made thing at giving us the illusion, at least, that we’re getting what we want from life. A cat can gaze upon a king, as the proverb goes, and after a Dry Martini or a Sazerac Cocktail or two, we’re all cats.”
― David Wondrich

What’s your favorite ingredient right now?

Adriatic Figs, Black Mission Figs and Medjool Dates. They are all an incredibly versatile way to make syrups, jams and jellies and pair exceptionally well with wine, whiskey and spices.

What would you tell novice bartenders?

What we do can be difficult, tedious and is somewhat labor intensive. We take great pride in being able to bring out flavors and aromas to create a delicious balanced cocktail, but at the end of the day if you are creative and ambitious and do a little bit of reading you can just, “relax, it’s just drinks.”