Gabriel Orta is fast becoming known in bar industry. His work in molecular mixology can be seen in action and on the menu at The Florida Room, located in the Delano hotel in Miami’s South Beach area.
Originally from Columbia, South America, Orta is also a partner in Bar-Lab, a consulting company that specializes in menu design and full-service concept creation. Orta has been on the road quite a bit lately, as well, taking home top honors from multiple competitions. Most recently he was selected by Grand Marnier as one of 100 bartenders to attend the spectacular Grand Marnier / NAVAN Mixology Summit in Vail, Colo., and he on a list of 10 finalists for the Cherry Heering Accessorize competition, which if selected, will earn him a trip to Singapore in June of 2009.
Orta caught our eye at Nightclub & Bar magazine in the fall, however, when he topped 9 fierce competitors in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil at the world finals of the Cabana cachaça’s 1st annual bartending competition.
Standing in front of an impressive menagerie — limes, peppercorns, mangos, watermelons, açai berries, molasses, and even exotic additions like cashew oranges and mangosteens — at Rio’s 00 Nightclub were Orta’s challengers: Amanda Washington of Rye in San Francisco, John Aquino of Coast Bar and Grill in Charleston, S.C., Jennifer Contraveos of La Madia in Chicago, Alex Miranda of The Fasano in Rio de Janeiro, cocktail consultant Gardner Dunn of New York and three London additions of Alex Kratena from The Langham Hotel, Julian de Feral of London’s Milk & Honey and The East Room and Gregor de Gruyther of Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club. Every competitor had won a series of previous regional comps and was instructed that, in less than 10 minutes, a one cocktail should be produced featuring Cabana with no more than six ingredients excluding garnish. Two random ingredients were plucked from a Fedora for each as well. The contestants were required to use at least one of the two selected.
Orta’s winning libation blended the essences of exotic fruits of Brazil, a bit of his love of spice stemming from his South American heritage and a little jab at the crazy weather conditions outside.
“I began by infusing a Martini glass by burning four sprigs of Thyme,” he explains. “Following that, I muddled a combination of crushed peppercorns, passion fruit, blackberry jam and shook up a few ounces of Cabana cachaça.”
The result proved profitable.
“Being in Rio inspired me, and I named the drink Earth Wind & Fire because that’s Rio to me,” Orta laughs. “It was always foggy in the morning and that’s why I burned the thyme. The culture has so much fire and passion – so I used the peppercorns, and then there is water and surfing in the city, of course.”
He won an all expenses paid trip back to defend his title in 2009, but you’re likely to see Orta standing among competitors at other competitions long before he arrives back in Rio.
The Earth, Wind & Fire recipe:
2 ounces Cabana cachaça
10 crushed whole peppercorns
1 1/4 ounces passion fruit
2 bar spoons full of blackberry jam
1/2 ounce lime juicea