In creating the super-sexy, refined cocktail menu at members-only club Soho House, creative bar director Chris Ojeda has thought of every detail, from the use of decanted bitters, house-made ice, custom-made bar tools and of course, fantastic ingredients.
“Each element of the cocktail needs to be perfect in order to create an incredible experience,” says Ojeda, who has been charged for creating the bar program at each of Soho House’s ten locations. It’s a mentality that the club, based in London, is known for worldwide and one that Ojeda has carefully cultivated behind the bar.
Ojeda, who impressed Soho House owner Nick Jones when he was running the bar program at the Soho House’s West Hollywood location, has taken the classic cocktail culture and enhanced it with his vision of luxe, yet simple, classic drinks.
“I came from that classic, ingredient-forward philosophy, having worked at The Varnish and Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles,” says Ojeda. “I loved the idea of taking something refined and extending to a well-known brand like Soho House, and the idea of making every location seem like your favorite spot has been a challenge I’ve really enjoyed.”Even so, for Ojeda – who grew up in a Mexican-American family in Los Angeles – quality ingredients have always been at the forefront of cocktail culture.
“Drinks need fresh ingredients to taste great and I think that’s something I really learned from my family’s emphasis on food,” recalls Ojeda, who got his start in the industry at 20 years old, bussing tables and eventually finding his niche mixing up drinks, polished his skills under famed Los Angeles mixologist Eric Alperin.
As for what Ojeda likes to drink on his time off, he looks no further than spirits like tequila.“I love rye, whiskey, bourbons, gins and of course, tequila,” says Ojeda. “Tequila has a wonderful versatility and complexity that makes it something I look forward to working with and drinking in a cocktail.”
Here’s the recipe for one of Ojeda’s favorite tequila cocktails, ‘Picante de la Casa.” Layered with the heat of chili peppers and balanced with the sweetness of agave and peppery notes of cilantro, it’s a drink that Ojeda has made a cornerstone at the bar menu at each of the Soho House locations from Hollywood to London.
Picante de la Casa
2oz Reposado Tequila (Ojeda recommends Siete Leguas Repo)
1oz lime juice (freshly squeezed, no pre-mix here)
3/4oz agave nectar
12 cilantro leaves
1/4” piece of a fresno chili pepper
Preparation: Slightly press the fresno chili pepper and hand clap the cilantro leaves to release the flavor. Add all liquid ingredients starting with lime, agave, and finally the tequila to a shaker. Add ice, shake and strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish with top of fresno chili pepper. Makes one cocktail.