April Bartender of the Month: Jo-Jo Valenzuela
Name: Jo-Jo Valenzuela
Establishment Name: RIS in Washington, D.C.
Recent Gigs: Before taking a spot behind the bar when RIS opened in December 2009, Valenzuela was the bar manager at Chef Geoff’s and LIA’s, both in the Washington, D.C., metro area. In 2008, he started tending bar at National Pastime Sports Bar and Grill at the Gaylord Hotel in National Harbor, Md., while also working as the bartending instructor at the Hospitality Training Institute. Besides tending bar at RIS, Valenzuela also currently is an on-call bartender at Bobby McKey’s Dueling Piano Bar in National Harbor, and on Friday nights you can catch him at Old Glory in Georgetown, shaking (and stirring) drinks on the patio.
What’s in the Shaker: “Bacon-Infused Bourbon Cocktails. I'm on my second variation that was inspired by the National Cherry Blossom Festival here in D.C. I call it Cherry Artisan. It is my bacon-infused Maker's Mark, Cynar, Heering Cherry, orange bitters and an orange peel.”
1 ½ ounces bacon-infused Maker’s Mark*
½ ounce Cynar
½ ounce Heering Cherry
4 dashes orange bitters
Combine ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Pour into a cocktail glass, and garnish with orange peel.
Bacon-infused Maker’s Mark
1 liter Makers Mark
3 ounces bacon fat
Infuse ingredients in a sealed wide-lipped nonreactive container then put it in a freezer for 4 hours or until fat is completely solid. Break fat and discard. Strain liquid through a coffee strainer into a new container.
What You’re Sipping & Why: “Manhattan. It is only three ingredients and a garnish. When crafted well, it's a phenomenal and elegant drink. Shake it, and it's ruined. I would never ever order it again from a bartender who doesn't drink it — I have learned the excruciating and expensive way that there's a BIG difference.”
What You are Listening to While Mixing: “My music of choice is rock/metal, but then again I do not have a choice. I do this for a living, so whatever the establishment is playing that night I jam with it.”
Quirks & Quotable: “You can treat everybody well, but you definitely cannot treat everybody the same way. I have my own way of dealing with people; it's [about the] different personalities you are dealing with. And it gets harder when the alcohol kicks in, and you have to keep an eye on everyone. Also, in this line of work, it is amazing to see how much of a following you can create. They might forget your face or your name, but they never forget how you made them feel.”