Mitchell says fun is the most important part of a bar program. “If you run a program really well, and the beverages are really good, the bartenders are happy,” he says. “If the bartenders are happy, the customers are happy. That’s the thing about craft bars and restaurants—we don’t do it to make a million dollars, we do it because we love it.”
We caught up with Mitchell to talk about how he approaches drink-making, how to refine your palate and where he goes on his nights off.
What’s your cocktail-making style? I bring an approachable feel—I’m not going to make a 10-touch cocktail, but I’ll make a 4-touch cocktail with really awesome ingredients. The focus here is Latin and local and keeping it simple. Nobody wants to wait 18 minutes for a drink.
How did you craft your palate? People often ask what I drink, and I want it all. It’s how I grew up—I come from a huge family and every time my parents and I would go to a family event, everyone would bring a dish and my parents would make me try one of everything. I’ve had that philosophy throughout my whole life.
What can you tell us about the El Che menu? I’ve got some ideas—it’s going to be a little different than [La Sirena]. It’s going to be more robust, but with the same philosophy of Latin-local. I love Midwestern beer and spirits, and I love the way we do things in Chicago.
What’s the most important skill a bartender should have? Being able to talk to people and relate to them—that’s so necessary.
What do you like working with now? Everyone’s been doing it, but I’ve been drinking a lot of vermouth lately, so I’m trying to do stuff with that. I’ve always loved gin, and working with these guys, I’ve been drinking a lot of pisco, cachaca, rum, tequila and mezcal. That’s where I’ve been lately.
Where do you head on your night off and what do you order? I love Richard’s. When it comes to that kind of stuff, I don’t want to think about it—I want High Life and whiskey or gin. I live three doors down from Best Intentions, and I’m there every day. That’s where you’ll find my butt on a barstool.