Esther Medina Cuesta, Opium, Chinatown

Where did you learn your craft?

In London, back home I was a teacher.

Name a few of the places you’ve worked

Bar Madrid, Lab, Albannach, The Player, Milk and Honey, Ronnie Scott’s, Roast, Novikov.

Who’s the most inspiring person you’ve worked with and why?

Angelika Anagnostou, she taught me loads (and keeps on looking after me!)

What makes a good bartender?

Happy guests. The guest should be the focus of our craft.

Which bartenders do you admire and why?

I saw Peter Dorelli making White Ladies a few  years ago and I wanted to be like him (without the beard!) I love what Alastair Burgess has done with Happiness Forgets and what Rich Hunt is doing at Trailer Happiness.

What’s your proudest moment as a bartender?

Every time I feel that I’ve made a difference to my guest’s experiences.

Shaken or stirred?

That depends on what and when. I have no problems with shaken Martinis or Manhattans though. And I throw them quite often.

What’s your favourite drink?

To mix:
Anything that my guest will enjoy.

To drink:
Martínez, Gin est Belle, French 75, T.L.L., Old Fashioneds, Mexican Boiler Makers…

On your menu:
At Novikov, ‘Cool as a train’, a combination of Absolut, homemade cinnamon syrup, fresh pineapple and ginger juices and curly kale.

What’s your definition of a bartender and a mixologist and where do you fit in?

The word mixologist (a person skilled in making mixed drinks) has helped improve general public’s perception of our job, giving it a more professional character. It has, however, some snobbish notes to it that I don’t like.

What’s your favourite ingredient?

Very difficult question… I could probably have problems without ginger.

Where do you drink off duty?

Café Pacífico and The Connaught if central, Cottons if I’m north, Callooh Callay and Happiness Forgets in the east, Trailer Happiness if west.

What’s your essential piece of bar kit?

I have a couple of gorgeous swizzles but I don’t use them very often. Essential kit includes a Mexican elbow, a vintage strainer, tongs and spoons.

What’s your failsafe recipe to mix at home?

Anything (from white spirit up as we say back home) neat.

If you could mix a cocktail for anyone alive or dead, who would it be and why?

Sting, J.R.R. Tolkien, Jim Jarmusch, El Greco, Mario Puzo, Socrates, James Wong, Basquiat, Tom Waits, Gaudí. Their work is inspiring.

Esther will be at the new Opium Chinatown, opening later this month.
16 Gerrard Street, W1D 6JE.

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