Our Resident Mixologist – Juan Alvarez

gioia_luisa_cocktailsHello my name is Juan Alvarez. I was born August 22, 1974, and was introduced to the restaurant industry when I was 11 years old by my father, Jose G. Alvarez. At that time, most kids my age where getting ready to go to high school. They couldn’t wait to join the football team; join the marching band; the chess club or choir, etc. There was going to be some new changes in the future to come for the class of 1992. It was a big thing considering that my future high school was right across the street from my junior high!

By then, I had already been on that big campus of JOHN F. KENNEDY HIGH SCHOOL. I remembered the start of my eighth grade when I was told by my father’s boss that I needed to get a work permit so I could get paid. I know what you’re thinking; that I’m too young at this point to have already established a job. I would only be working on the weekends and just for a few hours because of my age. That’s why I needed to get that permit which allowed me to work. I started in the kitchen helping my dad prep food for the dinner rush. Then I got promoted up the line to help make salads and pour soups for most of the servers on the floor as well as bus tables for the staff. I will never forget when they fired a waiter on the spot for coming into work late. Right there and then they made me a waiter for the night. I was so worried but by end of my shift, I had sold a few bottles of wine I was kicking along nicely!

By the time I was a senior at J. F. KENNEDY HIGH, was a top waiter at my dad’s work. Everybody that I knew all wanted to sit down in my station. It was awesome. In the winter of 1997, my dad bought KING NEPTUNE’S BAR and RESTAURANT in SUNSET BEACH, CA; my job was now a reality – we owned the restaurant and it was going to be quite the experience of my lifetime. It took a while to get the place up to par. KING NEPTUNE’S was know as a NAUTICAL MUSEUM and RESTAURANT they had old military plaques on the walls, guns and old bomb shell casing everywhere, including scrimshaw on display that was a rare thing to see in a restaurant. It wasn’t your typical diner. We decided to clean it up. It was a big job in itself for some of the locals didn’t want to the change. It was a tough challenge, but once it was done, word got out in town that Neptune’s had some really good food and the ambiance was great. I was working as the head bartender; doing it all. Working 100+ hours a week – everyday and night; work just never ended. Most times, seven days a week! It was great but I needed some time off.

I decided to go to this bartending competition in NEW YORK coordinated by The Bartender’s Magazine; the competition was held right after 9-11. Airfare was cheap because no one was flying then. I ended up in fifth place out of the 30 people from that competition. There this was a great eye opening experience for me. I remembered meeting the judges; they where from the UNITED STATES BARTENDERS GUILD. It just so happened at the time, the only chapter in the U.S.B.G. was in Southern California. I was so excited and couldn’t wait to join. In 2004, I joined the U.S.B.G. It was a new area of involvement for me. The guild is a non-profit, non-union organization that helps enhance the bartender’s profession through seminars; competitions; hands-on workshops with some of the most elite in the profession in the industry. I never knew that this sort of stuff ever existed. This was going to be an experience of a lifetime.

The U.S.B.G. SO. CAL. chapter decided to elect me as there president and before you knew it, I was in office which was something I never saw coming. This was all new territory for me it; wasn’t like running the restaurant which my dad had groomed for. I think laughing out loud here. There were meetings to run at least twice a month, agendas to prepare and more. None of this was what I expected; soon I had it all down to a system and started to compete again. It wasn’t until 2008 that I got my first break with the award winning ORANGE JULIES cocktail. The drink took First Place at the U.S.B.G. SO. CAL. REGIONAL COMPETITION which gave me a chance to represent SO. CAL. at the U.S.B.G. National’s. I took Second Place in the COMPETITION; this was a reality for me I couldn’t believe. By getting second place, they sent me to CUBA to represent the U.S.A. in the PAN-AMERICAN COCKTAIL CUP. Unbelievable!

I’m very glad that I choose the right products for my award winning drink, especially GIOIA LUISA ORANGECELLO. From the sun-drenched orchards of SORRENTO, ITALY, GIOIA LUISA’S Orangecello is a finely balanced orange-flavored liqueur blending a delicate touch of tart and sweetness into one. With the unique volcanic soil conditions and cool Mediterranean evenings, the orange fruit and juice fusion creates this delightful elixir. I’m so happy to have used GIOIA LUISA in my ORANGE JULIES COCKTAIL. I’ve had the privilege to meet MADALYN PAYNE of GIOIA LUISA and am so THANKFUL to be part of the team! Many thanks to MADALYN; she has given me the opportunity to show case my drink at some of the events GIOIA LUISA has sponsored in the past and as well in the future. I can’t wait for the next competition to come around so I can use her newest liqueur, GIOIA LUISA POMECELLO. This fine elixir is made out of pomegranate juice and is a palate pleasing delight! Until then, enjoy the ORANGE JULIES and other cocktails I have created for you! Yours Truly, JUAN ALVAREZ.

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