Introducing the Gentleman Jack Culture Shakers New Jersey Class of 2023

Gentleman Jack “Culture Shakers” is a program created to celebrate Black and Hispanic bartenders who are on the rise, shaking up cocktail culture in their cities and crafting their own legacies behind the bar.

For 2023, we are continuing to shine a light on a new class of bartenders, kicking off with an impressive group of creatives who are pushing boundaries and shaking up bar culture in New Jersey. Below, find out more about the New Jersey “Culture Shakers” presented by Gentleman Jack.

As a smooth and approachable Tennessee whiskey that utilizes a second charcoal mellowing process to achieve greatness, Gentleman Jack strives to embrace the creator in us all who takes the extra step to craft what’s real and strives to leave a legacy – just like the Gentleman Jack Culture Shakers Class of 2023.

Roger Aquino

How does your Personality influence your bartending approach, technique and style?

I’m a Hispanic American, born and raised in New Jersey. I’ve been in the industry all of my life, with my dad being a chef for most of my childhood. He had me washing dishes for him at a restaurant he had worked at starting at 9 years old. When I was 18, my best friend had gotten me a job as a dishwasher. Ever since than, I never looked back. I’ve been behind a bar, working multiple roles, for over 11 years now.

I feel that my personality truly comes out more when I’m behind the bar. Being able to interact with guests, locals and visitors to hear their stories and discover what we have in common. Establishing relationships where people feel like they’re in a comfortable atmosphere to just be themselves. To be accepted for who they truly are, rather than a persona that is believed to be accepted by others. I am the most me when I’m behind the bar; enjoying life, enjoying good company and enjoying great conversation. So I hope to create an atmosphere where everyone can be their most them.

My bartending style and techniques come from my athletic background. Growing up playing club/academy and high school/college soccer, consistently training and working on the finer details have trickled down to my mechanics behind the bar. I preach to my staff all the time to work on their mechanics; to consistently work on their shaking, use of jiggers, order of building cocktails, etc. Practice makes perfect!

What makes New Jersey an exciting place to live and work in Hospitality right now?

Montclair is one of the most diverse cities in New Jersey. You could walk around and see locals from all over the world with beautiful backgrounds full of culture, pride and pure love. All different kinds of characters living their own personal motion pictures. We have the Wellmont Theater and The Clairidge which are monumentally iconic buildings within the city and the MC Hotel is such beautiful location to stay in, there are also new restaurants opening up all around and we are just minutes from NYC by train. Montclair is truly on the rise, and will continue to be, as a city where you can definitely take your time to enjoy its beauty and aura.

What does being a Culture Shaker mean to you & how can Bartenders use their influence to impact positive progress in the industry?

Our bar program is one of the few bar programs in New Jersey that is fully minority led. As a first generation Hispanic American, in my journey as a bartender I have learned from some of the most interesting people from all different backgrounds. Each one has inspired me to look deeper into my own roots, showcase my talents and teach others about my culture, in hope that they will in turn embrace their own and allow that speak volumes within their own craft.

I think we as bartenders need to utilize our platforms more to help us explore who we truly are and let our energies, our vibes reflect back out to those who are coming up. I often reflect back to my days of being a barback or an apprentice, and consider how I was inspired and who inspired me. Those people that were passionate and truly cared for, not only the craft, but building the craft and those around them were the ones I gravitated towards. The pandemic placed our industry on a delay and in someways, it set us back. We as veterans of the craft need to be the reasons why those coming up want to stay, grind and work hard to achieve greatness. Let’s continue to inspire!

Tell us why Gentleman Jack is the perfect base for your Signature Culture Shakers cocktail.

Gentleman Jack really speaks for itself. When I first tasted it, I got notes of caramel on the palate and oak on the nose with a smooth finish. I went all different routes at first. I thought about utilizing cranberries, cinnamon, apple cider and lot of other ingredients. Nothing really spoke out to me until I touched base with my General Manager and Mentor, Margie Maak. After reviewing a cocktail idea I had in mind, she asked me, “Why not go back to your roots?”

To touch base with who I am, my mind went straight to my family, but really … my mom.

Growing up, she would make some of the best Flan you could ever have. With her Flan, she would serve it with Mate Cocido, a hot coffee-like drink made from Yerba Mate, sugar, water and adding milk and sugar to the finished product; “al gusto”. With help from our bar team, we were able to recreate that within a syrup that we call “Flan syrup”. With Gentleman Jack Whiskey, the Flan Syrup, a touch of freshly brewed coffee from a local coffee shop in Montclair, NJ, and some Chocolate Bitters, we were able to recreate those flavor and that experience.

La Copa De La Vida

*Named after my mom’s favorite Ricky Martin Song

  • 2 oz. Gentleman Jack
  • .75 oz. flan syrup
  • .75 oz. Paper Plane Co. Dogma Coffee
  • 3 dashes chocolate bitters

Shaken and strained; served up in a Coupe glass with grated cinnamon

Andrew Garcia

How does your Personality influence your bartending approach, technique and style?

A bartender is your best friend, your therapist and doctor all in one. Personally, I believe I am an outgoing and sociable person which attributes to great qualities as a bartender. Behind the bar, you are the focus of your customers, therefore flawless technique and style, such as flair and bar tricks, combined with a sociable personality leads to an unforgettable experience for your customers that will keep them wanting more. Educating your customer on spirits, the art of drink making and techniques, all while using flair such as fire and bottle flipping, that ends with a delightful drink suited for the customer is the perfect recipe of a great bar experience.

What makes New Jersey an exciting place to live and work in Hospitality right now?

I grew up in the great City of Elizabeth (NJ) and am proud to now work and be a mixologist for a cocktail bar in my hometown. Over the years, Elizabeth has grown into one of the most diverse cities in New Jersey with residents from all walks of life. Over the past decade, there has been an influx of investment into the hospitality industry in Elizabeth. It has become a “must know” city where people will travel hours just to wait a couple more hours in order to experience our nightlife and restaurants. We have nightclubs promoting global artists, we have restaurants pioneering new layouts and designs with state of the art venues and most importantly, we have up and coming mixologists that are creating new trends of next level of bar presentation and guest services. My bar is a perfect example of that next wave of hospitality and mixology. With a speakeasy ambience, our mixologists smoke old fashions, light martinis on fire and use fresh ingredients that you can taste in every sip. Elizabeth’s hospitality has become an experience that you need to see to believe.

What does being a Culture Shaker mean to you & how can Bartenders use their influence to impact positive progress in the industry?

In recent years, the long standing experience of your “average” bartender has shattered by pioneers of mixology and next level drink presentation. The bartender role has evolved from just serving a drink into having specialized understanding of beer, specialty knowledge of specific spirits, being sommeliers and being a mixologist who focuses on fresh ingredients and combinations of unexpected flavors. Also need to mention all those bartenders who have become entertainers behind the bar, even when simply just serving a beer or a shot.

Personally, that’s what I view as a Culture Shaker and what it means to redefine the notion of everyday bartending. As the next level of bartenders, we have taken the stigma of alcohol consumption to consideration of creating positive outlooks into casual controlled drinking spaces, environments and ambience. Mixologists, sommeliers and alcohol connoisseurs have made a new name for themselves and a new level of respect throughout the industry. I hope we continue to break barriers and impact not just the industry, but everyone in a positive way.

Tell us why Gentleman Jack is the perfect base for your Signature Culture Shakers cocktail.

With the help of some fellow mixologists in exploring fresh ingredients, I was able to create an unforgettable drink with the base spirit of Gentleman Jack. I call it a classic twist on one of the most famous drinks, the Jack & Coke. I began with dry shaking an egg white for foam and a little extra sweetness. Followed by, 3 dashes of Jerry Thomas bitters, .5 oz of fresh squeezed lemon juice, .75 oz of ginger liqueur and the best part .75 oz of homemade coca-cola cherry syrup. Wrap it all together with 2 oz of the delightful Gentleman Jack. Shake and strain into a specialized coupe glass with 3 bitters on the foam and a toothpick to add final touches to the design and you have yourself a classic twist of the famous Jack and coke. With hints of ginger, coke and lemon it is a drink that goes down as smooth as water.

The Gentle Cherry Coke Martini

  • 2 oz. Gentleman Jack
  • .5 oz. ginger liqueur
  • .75 oz. homemade cherry coke syrup
  • .75 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 3 dashes Jerry Thomas bitters
  • Egg white

Start by dry shaking the egg white, then add bitters. Add fresh squeezed lemon juice, homemade cherry coke syrup, ginger liqueur and Gentleman Jack. Shake, fine strain and garnish with bitters shaped into flowers with a toothpick and a lemon wedge sliced in a wing design.

Janice Reyes

How does your Personality influence your bartending approach, technique and style?

I would describe myself a perfectionist as I don’t consider that as a negative quality. I always want to serve good quality cocktails to people. I appreciate receiving all feedback, positive or negative, so I know what I can do to improve myself. Bartending is about always learning and trying new things. I also always try to maintain a positive attitude because we, as bartenders, are on stage every single time we step behind the bar. Showing positivity is reciprocated with our coworkers and especially with our guests. A positive attitude is a welcoming attitude is my ethos.

What makes New Jersey an exciting place to live and work in Hospitality right now?

I was born and raised in New Brunswick, NJ. It’s exciting because the Downtown area is so diverse. The city never sleeps; from people coming to see theatrical events, attending comedy shows, going out to dance or just eating and drinking with friends.

What does being a Culture Shaker mean to you & how can Bartenders use their influence to impact positive progress in the industry?

3. I am Honored to be recognized as a Culture Shaker and I am also proud because this means I am doing a great job as a bartender. I only a year and a half of experience under my belt, however, I have been in the restaurant industry for six years. I would not have the amount of knowledge on cocktails and more behind the bar if it were not for the amazing people at my job. I take a moment to thank Mark Pascal, Francis Schott, Julie Stevens, and Christian Reyes. As a person of color, I was not exposed to the world of fine dining, so I had a lot to learn and still have much more to learn. We all have to start somewhere and be brave enough to step out of our comfort zone and try new things!

Tell us why Gentleman Jack is the perfect base for your Signature Culture Shakers cocktail.

When making my signature cocktail, I wanted to incorporate a popular flavor from my Mexican background: Tamarindo. I have never tried a Tamarindo flavor in a cocktail, so I decided to try it. I used Gentleman Jack as the man spirit for its smooth qualities that pair well with the Tamarindo. I also incorporated a little bit of tequila that gives it a nice finish. Whiskey, Tamarindo, and Tequila are all my favorite things!

La Tamarinda

  • 2 oz. Gentleman Jack
  • .5 oz tequila silver
  • .5 oz Tamarind Nectar
  • .5 oz Gomme Syrup
  • .25 oz Elderflower liqueur
  • .25 oz Lemon juice
  • Garnish: Mexican Tamarind candy

Please Drink Responsibly. Gentleman Jack and Jack Daniel’s are registered trademarks. ©2023 Jack Daniel’s. Tennessee Whiskey, 40% ABV, JACK DANIEL DISTILLERY, Lynchburg, TN.

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