bartenders dc

Behind the Bar: May 2016

Jesus Boada Vargas
Bar Manager at MXDC 
The 31-year-old hails from Lanham, Md. and has 10 years of experience behind the bar.

On Tap: What makes MXDC’s margarita list unique? Do you have a few favorites?
Jesus Boada Vargas: We make our own lime juice, and also our own MXDC cordial with a cinnamon flavor. My two favorite margaritas [are] the Habanero, with a nice kick of spicy to it, and our Blackberry Cilantro Margarita because of the contrast of flavors presented by the ingredients.

OT: What about your sangrias? What’s in the ingredients list?
JBV: We feature two sangrias on the menu: the red, full-bodied classic sangria and the lighter, warm weather white sangria. We use fresh juices such as mango puree, orange and pineapple. We also use St. Germain and hard liquor, and infuse the final product with fruits to rest overnight.

OT: Walk us through the palomas menu.
JBV: Palomas are one of the most famous drinks in Mexico. They are a very refreshing cocktail with a little of bit of citrus and soda, but the unique and best thing about our palomas is that we make our sodas in-house with the freshest ingredients.

OT: Will you be serving anything special for Cinco de Mayo?
JBV: Small nacho plates for $5, beer buckets with five Mexican beers, Dos Equis, Corona or Sol for $21 all day, and happy hour from noon to 9 p.m.

OT: Are there any off-menu drinks that you love making?
JBV: Mojitos, caipirinhas and any kind of espresso shooter.

Jesus’s Drink Pick: French Margarita
Tequila reposado
Orange juice
Fresh lime juice
Grand Marnier
Two dashes of Chambord

MXDC: 600 14th St. NW, DC; 

Betty Woodward
Lead Bartender at Oyamel
The 33-year-old bartender and H Street resident has been with Oyamel for three years. 

On Tap: What brought you to Oyamel?
Betty Woodward: It’s important to me that I believe in the product and the team, and I was looking for that when I interviewed with Oyamel. I’d never met a more passionate group of bartenders and chefs, and they inspired me to want to be better and to be a part of their family. It didn’t hurt that I was obsessed with the guacamole and tacos, either.

OT: What new craft cocktails will make their debut this season?
BW: Miguel Lancha, ThinkFoodGroup’s Cocktail Innovator, and Oyamel’s bar team are in the middle of research and development for our seasonal menu change. You can expect to see lots of bright, seasonal flavor profiles.

OT: How do you help customers navigate your expansive spirits list?
BW: The trick is to figure out what the guest is looking for, although sometimes they don’t even know themselves. Ask questions and even if you don’t know everything, be a part of their experience.

OT: How does Oyamel strike a balance between authentic Mexican libations and original twists on those classics?
 It’s important that everything we do is inspired by authentic Mexican flavors. You’d be surprised by the number of hours and days that go into making sure every single cocktail is true to the culture of both Mexico and Oyamel.

OT: What’s your favorite way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in the city?
BW: I love hosting a big group of friends on my day off. Every year, I spend hours cooking Mexican food and mixing up margaritas so that my friends can taste authentic Mexican food.

Betty’s Drink Pick: Salt Air Margarita
Milagro Tequila Silver
Combier L’Original
Fresh lime juice
Simple syrup
Salt air: water, fresh lime juice, kosher salt, Sucro

Oyamel: 401 7th St. NW, DC; 

Justin Webster
Bar Manager at El Centro D.F.
The 26-year-old Adams Morgan resident has been with El Centro D.F.’s 14th Street location for six months. 

On Tap: What’s the best drink on the El Centro menu to celebrate Cinco de Mayo?
Justin Webster: [Our] Traditional Margarita, which will be $6 on Cinco De Mayo.

OT: What’s the process behind making the house-infused tequilas?
JW: Find your favorite 100 percent agave tequila. Choose your favorite fruit or vegetable, remove the leaves, rind, seeds, etc. and cut the contents up into a container with the tequila. Store in the fridge and let everything sit for about two to three days. Be sure that you’re tasting the tequila every day to double check that it’s got the right flavor profile.

OT: What’s the story behind the “Destination Oaxaca” selection?
JW: The “Destination Oaxaca” menu was created after our chefs went on a culinary tour of the area experiencing the region’s amazing food culture. After the trip, the chefs worked together to create a menu inspired by the cuisine and culture.

OT: What sets El Centro’s spirits apart from those offered at other local Mexican restaurants?
JW: El Centro offers a diverse selection of over 250 tequilas, including blancos, reposados, anejos, premium, micro and infused. Because of our very diverse and large list, we offer a vertical tasting, which features tequilas made with different aging techniques, and a horizontal tasting comparing three tequilas made by different distilleries.

Justin’s Drink Pick: Red & Smokey
El Silencio mezcal
Chili ginger
Fresh orange slice as garnish

El Centro D.F.: 1819 14th St. NW, DC;

MXDC And Oyamel photos: Monica Alford 
El Centro D.F. photo: Courtesy of El Centro D.F.