The dean of Tucson bartenders is Aaron DeFeo, longtime beverage manager of historic Hotel Congress and founder of the local chapter of the United States Bartending Guild. He agrees that there’s something about the dry desert air that seems to allow gifted bartenders and creative mixology to flourish.
“At its heart, Tucson is a city of artists, dreamers, ne’er-do-wells and layabouts – essentially a town of would-be bartenders,” says DeFeo. “Not to mention that Tucson has a great slow-food movement, along with ‚Äòlocal first’ support and a great culinary scene. It’s only natural that some of us would slip into the fold and become enamored with the money, flexibility and prestige of bartending.”
DeFeo is now the property mixologist at the luxurious Casino del Sol Resort. As such he oversees a staff of 50 bartenders and is responsible for developing a top-level cocktail program at one of Arizona’s largest on- premise accounts. He works closely with famed mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim, who was hired as a beverage consultant to help get the program off the ground.
“Tony has a gift for inspiring just about everyone he meets-including customers. His personality is a drug when he’s behind the bar. People who would have never cared about anything other than a light beer talk to him for five minutes and end up sipping Negronis all night. If there’s a trick to accomplishing that, I really hope I can learn it.”
This post is an excerpt from the January 2012 issue of The Tasting Panel magazine, article titled “Tucson’s Mixology Stars” by Robert Plotkin. Please visit tastingpanelmag.com for more of The Tasting Panel magazine.