Low ABV Cocktails, Cuban Coffee & Froze All Day: Drinking with Carla Rivera of SGWS of South Florida

A rare Miami native, Carla Rivera, 35, strives to change the face of the craft bartending world as Director of Cocktail Development for Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits (SGWS) South Florida, a premier beverage distributor.

Carla honed her skills as a craft bartender and beverage manager at various bars in Tampa, Florida, after traveling abroad to Cyprus and Turkey, while working as a bar manager or lead mixologist.

Before SGWS, she was Head Bartender of Fontainebleau Miami Beach’s Hakkasan, where the mixologist oversaw the renowned Chinese restaurant’s craft cocktail menu, featuring exotic fruits and Asian spices, and Hakkasan’s award-winning wine list.

Drinking with Carla Rivera

Favorite place in Miami to hang out for a drink or two?

Sweet Liberty, (off Collins Avenue in Miami Beach).

Current go-to drink order?

I am a mood drinker, depends on where I am, what I am eating etc. However if I am out and need to maintain myself I drink what we in Miami call Pace Cars; Blanc Vermouth, Club Soda and Bitters. It’s low ABV you can drink them all night and never get buzzed.

First job in the industry?

After College at USF (University of South Florida Tampa) I got my first craft cocktail job at Fly Bar and restaurant in downtown Tampa. This is where I began to turn my job into my craft and was one of the founding members of the USBG (United States Bartenders Guild) Tampa Chapter.

What ingredients or techniques are you most excited about right now?

Low ABV cocktails & simple cocktails with fresh local to Florida, and tropical, ingredients; i.e. Florida grapefruit, Florida orange, guarapo, papaya, mango, passion fruit. Lots of seasonal ingredients.

Coffee or tea?

I love coffee but try to not drink it every day. It can be difficult if I am in the office because we have an office assistant who walks around twice a day with a cart armed with Cuban coffee, which is called Colada. Temptations are everywhere.

Locally, Panther Coffee is good spot as well as Dr. Smood in Wynwood.

What is your fave spot for cocktails by the pool?

Mondrian South Beach, and, for “Froze All Day”,The Standard

Who is the best industry drinking buddy for a fun night out?

Teresa Cesario with Absolut Elyx, anyone from Bacardi, or the bartenders, suppliers or sales consultants I work with.

Carla Rivera headshot

Connect socially with Carla Rivera

Instagram: @Calamarie

Facebook:  Carla Rivera, @Carlita_Coupe


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