Meet Eddie Pain, the winner of a local bartender competition sponsored by Bombay Sapphire and GQ; he beat 32 other bartenders from Tucson and Phoenix. Pain is a bartender at Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch Resort, and his winning drink is a martini-style concoction he invented just for the competition: The Hacienda Cooler is a blend of cucumber, cilantro, lime, agave nectar and, of course, gin. For more info on Pain's workplace, visit www.haciendadelsol.com.
How long have you worked at Hacienda del Sol?
It will be a year in August, but I've been bartending in Tucson for the past 20 years. I was born and raised here. I'm a native.
So what happens next, after the competition?
I qualify for a national competition. The first week of September, I get to go to Las Vegas, where Bombay Sapphire and GQ are sending the top 42 bartenders from all over the United States to compete against each other.
What was the competition like in Phoenix?
Before the competition, everyone had to submit their drink using Bombay, and then the drinks had to be approved before you were allowed to come to the competition. It was really nice, at the Wrigley Mansion in Scottsdale. They had three bars set up, and three judges, and we'd all rotate. You had five minutes to present your drink, and make two drinks in five minutes, and explain what the drink and its ingredients have to do with Bombay, and tell where you work, and explain your style.
So how did your presentation go?
Well, I explained that at Hacienda del Sol, we sit on 32 acres and have two herb gardens, and that we get a lot of our produce from local farms. The cucumber in the drink came from a local farm; the cilantro is from our herb garden; the agave nectar, we get it from a local purveyor; the limes are local; and all of them complement the ingredients in Bombay Sapphire.
Do you have a lot of say regarding what drinks you make at Hacienda?
At all the bars I've worked at, once I get in there and comfortable, we change up the drink list. The timing of this contest was perfect, because we had just put together a new (list) for Hacienda. Two of my managers and a co-owner did most of the work, and I got to put two of my drinks in there.
The Hacienda Cooler is your drink. How did you come up with that?
It was for the contest. Bom-bay is made with 10 herbs and spices, so I thought the cilantro would complement those spices, especially the coriander. With the agave nectar, I wanted something from the Southwest. It took me a couple of weeks, and we played a lot behind the bar with it. We had different kinds of styles, but eventually, we settled on it being a martini.
Is it important in this business to win contests like this?
It gives us a lot of recognition. There are a lot of restaurant owners, liquor distributors and bartenders at these things, and it's always good to be there. I know that even though I'm at a resort, I always recommend other places to go if a guest is with us for a couple of weeks. They want to know what is good in town, and one of my hobbies is to go out, have nice wine and find nice restaurants. It's good for business that we know each other, and I know that here in Tucson, everyone takes care of each other.
Where did you work before Hacienda?
The JW Marriott Starr Pass. I was up there for two years. I was at Jonathan's Cork, then Agave for many years. My last place was Miguel's at La Posada.
I imagine that when you've been doing this for so long, you get a following.
It does happen, and now especially at Hacienda. I get a lot of people who live close by. They want better service, and that's what we give them.
What was the other drink you made for the new menu?
The Terraza Margarita. I make it with Herradura tequila, fresh lime juice, agave nectar and cilantro. We're shooting for light and refreshing drinks for the summer, and we're also pushing the Bombay Sapphire drink, because we won the contest.
What misconceptions do people have about being a bartender?
I think it's all about where you're working at. There are bartenders, and then there are mixologists. Bartenders just have to tend bar; mixologists are creating drinks. We have a culinary section now creating purées for our drinks; we don't just slap down a beer.