For Joaquín Simó, it’s been an unlikely journey from his native Ecuador to center stage at the Tales of the Cocktail convention, where he was just named American Bartender of the Year.
He started out behind the stick in dive bars and rock ‘n’ roll joints after finishing his degree in English literature and comparative religion at Boston University. Upon moving to New York eight years ago, Simó polished his craft at spots including The Noho Star and Camino Sur, where he used fresh juices and egg whites for the first time.
And one fateful day, he answered a Craigslist ad for a new cocktail establishment. “A month after I applied, I got a call saying I was a finalist,” remembers Simó of the chain of events that landed him at industry stalwart Death & Company. “Apparently it took a little while because they had over 500 responses.”
Simó’s genuine hospitality was, no doubt, as important as his performance with shaker and jigger in getting called up to the cocktail big leagues. He goes out of his way to engage his patrons and is ready to discuss a range of topics, whether it be sports, movies or politics.
But after a tearful goodbye last month, Simó left Death & Company to join Toby Maloney, Jason Cott and Troy Sidle in the Alchemy Consulting group and to start a new place, Pouring Ribbons, in the East Village. The 88-seat watering hole, which just opened, will offer a large space, but the menu will be simple: 15 original and 15 classic elixirs. In addition to reflecting Simó’s affinity for agave spirits, the drinks list also features sherry in a starring role.
The bar takes its name from the tendency of alcohol to spiral as it pours through the air. “I like that visual, the way it evokes a feeling of anticipation,” he says. The same could be said of following Simó; I can’t wait to see what he does next.