Meet Tony: the creative, driven Restaurant and Bar Manager for BABA and The Garden

How did you get into the bar scene?

I got into the scene back Chicago, where I’m originally from. My family owned a Cuban/Mexican place for 17 years, so I gained a lot of knowledge from that and just kind of fell in love with it.

You’re quite a way from home, how did you end up in Scotland?

It’s a bit of a long story, but basically I left Chicago to do a bunch of travelling. I was over in Cambodia and met a friend from New Zealand who ended up hooking me up with a job in Wellington. From there, I moved to Australia and became a brand ambassador for various spirits companies. It was great getting to travel around the county hosting events and trying new products.

I also ended up working on some vineyards in Australia which taught me a lot. Today, I can’t get enough of a big and spicy red wine!

After Australia I wasn’t ready to go back to Chicago, so I chose Scotland. I’d heard a lot of great things about Edinburgh and its hospitality scene so thought why not? I’ve been here just over a year and I love it.

What do you love about BABA and the hotel?

That’s easy – the creative freedom. I was hired in BABA as a bartender and even before becoming a bar manager I was able to experiment with cocktails and have always been a part of creating the drinks list. In fact, we’re actually in the middle of creating our new spring menu! Now that I’ve moved into this new position, it’s great being able to make things happen and work with so many different suppliers.

What is it about the drinks industry that you love so much?

There are a lot of aspects I enjoy, but I love constantly getting to try new products and meet people. I learnt a lot about spirits as a brand ambassador, but wanted to get back into the industry to stay in touch with it without becoming too much of a salesperson.

I still make a habit to always try new products though. When I’m out with friends, I never have the same thing twice and still find the excuse to travel and find new things to drink. This year I’ve been down to London quite a few times, to Oban, and soon I’ll be heading to Denmark.

Last questions we promise! What is your go to drink?

Ha that’s a hard one. Honestly, I drink a lot of beer and wine at home because you never can quite make the cocktails as well as you can in a professional bar. If I had to choose, it’d be a classic Paloma with tequila and grapefruit juice, or a well-made Manhattan. The perfect recipe is two parts rye to one part good-quality sweet vermouth and three dashes of Angostura Bitters.

Stay tuned to our social media for some sneak peeks from Tony’s spring menu!