Joaquin Simo can shake, mix, stir and deliver a completely unique cocktail within seconds and does so every night with a smile. Simo serves up creative combinations at Death & Company, a premiere speakeasy-esque destination in New York City that’s known for its deliciously inspired aperitifs. Raised among Cuban family in Miami, the Ecuadorian-born mixologist credits his Latino heritage and family’s French bakery as the culinary inspiration for his career and says his experience working in local dive bars during college cemented his love for the camaraderie that he says, can only be shared over a well-mixed drink.
“After all,” says Simo, “I say we serve people, not drinks, and that’s what I love to do.” Transitioning to bartending full-time was a hard sell to his parents, who he says were a bit disappointed that their straight-A son wouldn’t be pursuing a career path following his graduation from Boston University with dual degrees in English and religion. Now Simo, as one of the opening staff members at Death & Company, has a host of impressive achievements on his resume including work as a recipe editor for the Food & Wine 2009 and 2010 Cocktail Guide. He’s also opened his own restaurants, provides mixology consulting for cosmopolitan hotspots and consults for top-shelf brands. Even with accolades from GQ magazine and the James Beard Foundation, Simo says the secret to the perfect cocktail isn’t exactly a secret by any means.
“It’s necessary to create cocktail combinations in their proper proportions – you can take any classic cocktail, like a sidecar, daiquiri or gin fizz and substitute in and out ingredients,” explains Simo. “And understanding each ingredient and the role it plays in a drink is crucial.”
So what exactly should home bartenders be mixing up in those perfectly-proportioned drinks? It’s all about sherry, says the 34-year-old. Sherry, a white grape wine fortified with brandy, is produced in a variety of styles in Jerez, Spain. It’s a wine that historically has been consumed with fruits as dessert aperitif and now is being imported in greater quantities and variety of styles than ever before.
“Sherry, with its beautiful acidity, is really a beautiful thing and is one of my favorite mixers,” says Simo. “There’s such a gamut of flavors ranging from a ripe green apple, barely toasted almonds to raisin with varying degrees of sweetness and a dry finish that makes it special.” So toast the weekend with a sherry-based cocktail of Simo’s design that uses another one of the spring’s hottest liquors – mezcal. ¡Salud!
The Nitty Gritty
1.5 oz Del Maguey Espadin Especial
1.5 oz La Cigarrera Manzanilla sherry
1/2 oz Benedictine
1/2 tsp agave nectar
1/2 tsp Orchard Pear liqueur
dash Bitter Truth Aromatic bitters
dash Baked Apple bitters (by Marshall Altier)
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and stir. Strain into chilled cocktail glass and garnish with an expressed lemon peel.