It wasn’t that long ago that Casa Florida’s lead bartender, Emiliano González, was swinging clubs instead of shaking drinks. Nearly four years after emigrating from Argentina, the former golf pro is now a skilled mixologist, coming up with new recipes and creating Instagrammable presentations. Here, the self-taught barkeep sounds off on life behind the bar.
How did you get into bartending?
When I came here from Argentina three and a half years ago, I didn’t know how to serve a glass of water. My job then was as a barback at Barú, a Latin place in Brickell. I saw the bartender’s check and thought, I want that. All my knowledge comes from researching online and practicing different techniques. I never went to bartending school.
You’re known for creating fanciful drinks.
I want people to have a different experience here. I’m going to pay more for a drink with a nice presentation and good ingredients. We make everything from scratch. Even if it’s busy, we have to be fast and consistent in what we serve.
What types of garnishes do you use?
I love using flowers in the drinks, like baby’s breath. One time, someone brought me a palm-tree leaf and it made my lip swell [from an allergic reaction], so now I keep Benadryl with me when I research. If I haven’t tasted the flower, I don’t put it in my drinks. I use pineapple leaves to make different shapes, like little gators. We also save the citrus fruits we use [for mixers] and dehydrate them for garnishes.
What’s the drink you like making the least?
I want to put a red button in the middle of the bar that I can buzz when someone orders a vodka soda. Ugh!
Photograph: Jay Pegg
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