The first time I invaded the home of master mixologist Fernando Ruiz was last May at The East Pole. I was seated at the Copper Bar – a speakeasy style bar made of real copper – to discuss new cocktail infusions for the season. He handed me the cocktail menu to review and said, “What stands out to you… and we’ll go from there.”
This time around, I crashed his summer “stay-cation” spot at Pizza Beach LES to pick his brain (and cheese off the Carbonara pizza pie) while trying the latest Frozen Whiskey Sour concoction made for the first time the evening I arrived, and sold out one hour later.
“I had about eight of them at my favorite bar. I said to myself, I have to replicate this.”
We love The East Pole, but what makes Pizza Beach LES so exciting for you?
The younger clientele – deep crowds [of them] at the bar on Friday and Saturday nights.
So, how did you fall into the crazy hospitality biz?
London popped my cherry – I had to get a job or go back home to Mexico. So, I faked a resume with a buffet of lies and got a job at a hip bar in Soho. When I got comfortable, I decided to move on to more serious setting.
Back-up and explain.
I faked it til I made it in London – my friends taught me how to pour different liquors. I walked into my first interview, with a CB, which is a resume, full lies and “mini bartender” index cards tucked in pocket to cheat my way through. The bar needed more bartenders on New Years Eve in 2004. It was open bar, no charge, so I was just pouring away. They didn’t hire him back until February…
Favorite NYC place to hang out for a drink or two? Date recommendation?
You can almost always find me in Duck Duck during the week in Brooklyn. I love the atmosphere at 169 bar in the city, very unique & eclectic. Pizza Beach LES, of course, is the perfect place to start things up though.
Favorite go-to drink order?
Although I always start and finish with a very cold lager. With this heat, I have become somewhat addicted to Frozen Whiskey Sours. It is just as strong as it is refreshing and gives me chills on the back of my neck. But be careful, they should come with a warning!
What ingredients or techniques are you most excited about right now?
Homemade bitters and infusions have always been my thing. I’ve played with a lot of liquor but now I find Mezcal the most interesting by far. The complexity of the agave and the smokey flavours is challenging, and that’s why it’s so rewarding when you get it right.
First boozy drink you ever had/first time getting drunk?
I drank Amaretto and O.J. in middle school for the first time, and I was surprised it tasted like candy. It was too good, so I drank way too many. I still remember the teenager panic calling my mom asking for permission to sleep at my friend Devan’s house.
Coffee or tea?
Tea. I have an ulcer and coffee fucks with me.
What’s your hangover remedy?
Ceviche…the spiciness helps sweat it out. Then a bloody mary to finish (once I start eating).
Do you have a guilty “drink” pleasure?
Frozen Whiskey Sours at Birdy’s in Bushwick. It’s basically an adult ice-cream!
Best eats when you are drinking or, dare we say, drunk?
Ohhh man…street tacos late night are TOP!! But during the day, a good ceviche really does the trick. Anything bite size too. Did I say lamb slider?
Where do you like to drink when you’re traveling and who are industry favorites who have delivered memorable experiences?
When I travel, I drink with the locals. Just ask around, they’ll know.
Favorite NYC gems that might not be on everyone’s radar?
I’m the wrong person to ask. All I know is in BK. So I got two words: Win Son.
What are you most proud of in your career thus far?
I guess I’m just proud of knowing I can be thrown into any environment, and have the confidence to face anything, and always being able to give better results.
Do you have mentors or someone you look up to in the industry? Who can we thank (besides yourself) for your delicious work?
Omar Wafai of Mamounia Lounge London for teaching me the fun in the work. Frank Caiafa of Peacocks Alley for refining my work, and Peter O’Reilly of The East Pole for always believing in my work.
What are some interesting things that people may not know about you?
I teach a form of tight rope. I have two mopeds – white and purple colors – which I ride to and from work, over the 59th Street Bridge to The East Pole, then back home to Bed-Stuy.
Straight update & shameless plug time: what are you working on these days? Let’s hear it!
I’m loving the summer. I’ve been riding to the beach like 2x a week. Just finished my Training at Playhouse West Brooklyn Lab, and I can’t stop reading at the moment. I’m writing a movie script, and I just finished my second play. So, I’m just going to work hard on getting that flowing right and getting it out there.
Connect Socially With Fernando Ruiz
Instagram – @narro
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