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Fátima León: Best Bartender in Mexico

The News interviews the winner of the Best Bartender in Mexico who will compete against the best in world in the Mexico City Global Finals in August!

Fátima León stands in front of her pop-up bar "Atemporal," the winning concept of the World Class Local Finals, photo: Courtesy of Diageo
By The News Whatsapp Twitter Facebook Share
5 months ago

Fifty Mils bar at the Four Seasons is an elegant and robust venue located on the left-side of the hotel’s courtyard. The bar staff introduces themselves and offer us a glass of water. Fátima is in a meeting; they ask us if we could please wait. Some minutes later, the mastermind of the bar come into the room: Fátima and Mica Rosseau, last year’s winner of World Class Mexico, and we set the specs for the interview. Despite the vibe of what it threatens to be a very busy night, her hospitality skills shine through, we’re led to a quiet table and we begin our conversation.

First of all, congratulations on winning the local finals of the World Class competition! It must have been a very long process to get there, can you walk us through what the competition is and what it’s like?

Well, World Class is the most renowned platform in the industry, it’s grounded on the Diageo portfolio which spans over 60 countries and features only reserve products, meaning the finest of the finest. The competition is amazing, you receive all kinds of support to nurture your idea and push it further with a set of different challenges, which are different every year, of course.

This time there was an online open call where each competitor submitted two cocktail recipes: a before-dinner and after-dinner — specifically vetting your knowledge of ingredient proportions [sweet but not too sugary, citrus-y but not a potential source of acidity, etc.] and research skills.  The next stage involved a creation that fell into one or more of these categories: sustainability, trends, technology and sensory experiences — which is the latest trend. I was very interesting to see how every cocktail revealed the background and investigation process of each bartender and their special way to develop their concepts.

Fátima receives her award as the winner of the Local Finals. Photo: Courtesy of Diageo

What was the background or experience that most shaped your career?

It was when I worked with a chef, because they teach you to develop your skills in a different way; you could say they show you how to respect the product. That’s it. How to pick your ingredients, each fruit; to take time to know your ingredients. I enjoyed getting involved in the process, picking the fruit, preparing everything from scratch. That gives you command of all the flavors you create; it adds a certain presence to your cocktail, like a soul, even if its a simple one.

This was the most important part of my learning process, my everyday routine included going through this. It was very important that Mónica [Patiño] made me aware of all the leverage I had as a woman, as far as learning experiences, the natural disposition we have to see things through without hesitation or prejudice against any type of work. She was also very adamant about presentation, how you presented your spaces to your guests, how to adjust them not only to functionality but to comfort and aesthetics.

Working in a bar can be very strenuous due to the amount of physical work involved and late work hours. How did you handle it?

At first it can be very daunting, especially when you’re starting and have to deal with the roughest parts of the trade. However, if you keep your eyes on the prize and work towards it, you get to the point where you’re above it, you can breeze through service easily.

“Timeless” an earl grey tea and Johnnie Walker Gold Label cocktail by Fátima. Photo: Courtesy of Diageo

How do you feel about mixing certain spirits that are meant to served neat, like mezcal or whisky?

There are many people who would gasp at the thought of having a single malt mixed into a cocktail, but then again I think it depends on your capacity to convey your perspective so that people can feel confident in trying something new. It is very important to fully understand the complexity and tones of, let’s say, a Blue Label or a Gold Label, and to be able to get the best out of it. I think there must be a vast work of research behind each of your choices. You must also take into account that flavors are acquired tastes, so the fact that some people don’t like a certain cocktail doesn’t mean it’s a bad cocktail at all.

Speaking of acquired tastes, what is the strangest drink you’ve served?

I’d say a Black Label with Clamato or rum and Coke with flat mineral water, no ice.

That doesn’t sound appetizing at all..

Maybe not to us but that’s exactly what they wanted to drink, as a bartender that’s exactly what I love to do, give people what they want to drink. Also, I respect their choices because I’d like to think I’ll be old one day and I will have a quirky request like that and zero patience to fight anyone about it. My philosophy is that no drink is beneath me. If a kid comes over and asks me for a chocolate shake I’ll be more than happy to fix one for her.

And looking to the future, what do you think are the up-coming trends we will see in cocktails soon?

Insects. There is a wealth of varieties and we don’t even know half of them!

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