What’s particularly interesting about making
drinks in Hawaii?
I love the fact that I am in a tropical and
somewhat exotic location. I absolutely
love to use local fresh ingredients and
some of my favorite shopping is done
in our Honolulu Chinatown and at the
Farmer’s Markets. I get to use fresh local
ingredients like lilikoi, soursop, mango,
guava, sugar cane, lychee, even cacao
grown on the Big Island. And of course,
you can’t beat the sweet ripe flavor of the
Maui Gold pineapples.
What one thing would you change about
bartending or the bar business in the
U.S. today?
The pretentiousness. I do a good deal of
traveling and it seems that some are just
taking things too seriously. Just have
fun with it, be creative, and make a darn
good cocktail! What I also can’t stand
seeing is reading a menu and knowing
that drinks are just put on there with no
thought at all—just a salesperson trying
to push product.
When you work on crafting a new drink,
what’s uppermost in your mind?
What hasn’t been done yet. I like to use
a lot of herbs and savory ingredients–
things that normally someone wouldn’t
think of finding in their drink, but when
they taste it they think
Why haven’t I
thought of this before?
Recent drink innovation that excites you the
most? That bores you?
All things Tiki! I have started to col-
lect vintage Tiki stuff and really just
love the nostalgia. I am dying to open
a Tiki bar!
I think what bores me the most is
classic cocktails. Don’t get me wrong,
I thoroughly enjoy them and definitely
enjoy a good Sidecar and Negroni, but
I much more enjoy the innovation of
using homemade ingredients in ways
that aren't expected.
Finish this sentence: “By the time I’m 40,
I’ll be…”
Just getting started!
What makes you a good bartender?
I take pride in making someone else’s
night better. Making connections with
guests, getting an insight into what they
enjoy, and crafting drinks from that in-
formation in the forms of classic and
custom drinks makes my night. Having
a person leave happier than when they
arrived, that’s the point of what we do.
digging on the drinks–that’s
the icing on the cake.
What are your career goals?
I am working with others to get the Vir-
ginia chapter of the United States Bar-
tenders Guild up and running. We’re al-
most there. I take a considerable amount
of pride in what we do and that we get to
teach others. I’ve also completed distillery
school. I’d really like to begin making my
own spirits in the future.
When crafting a new drink, what’s upper-
most in your mind?
Balance, time, place, inspiration,
weather, the person or establishment
that I am making it for. I see drinks
as I see painting or music. Just about
every tint or hue has been blended; all
arrangements have been scored. Our
history in the craft has set our color
wheel or taught us what chords sound
well together. It’s up to us to paint the
picture, if you will. Take the ingre-
dients and make them shine in new
lights and familiar ones as well.
When not drinking cocktails, what are
you drinking?
Agave spirits, High Life or Modelo, coco-
nut water, and lots of micronutrient-rich,
slow-extracted juice. Lots of it.
If you weren’t tending bar, what would
you be doing?
I’d probably be on a skiff in the Chesa-
peake Bay studying the ecosystem or
doing something with animals... some-
thing along those lines.
A past member of the Chaine
de Rotisseurs, Maffei won the
World’s Best Mai Tai
Competition in 2011.
“Our history in the craft has
set our color wheel. It’s up to
us to paint the picture.”
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