Over the last decade, he’s received awards for his bartending skills, been named a mixologist ambassador, traveled the world promoting his craft, consulted with restauranteurs and lectured at universities. And that’s just for starters.
Diaz, 38, grew up in the Pacific Coast beach destination of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. He studied as a chef but ultimately preferred working the bar to the kitchen where he could interact with customers and enjoy their reactions to his creations.
“Making drinks is my passion,” he says. “When a customer is happy and says, ‘Hey man, you’re doing a great job,’ that for me is the most incredible feeling.”
Diaz managed several bars and restaurants in Puerto Vallarta and then opened his own in 2017, the Alquimista Cocktail Room in the nearby resort town of Nuevo Vallarta while simultaneously running his own catering business. The name—Alquimista—hints at his skills as a kind of alchemist who experiments with spirits, flavorful infusions and imagination to transform his cocktails into sensory experiences. “When you make a cocktail, you have to work with the senses,” says Diaz. “Drinks have to look beautiful. De la vista nace el amor.” It’s an expression that roughly translates to: the heart follows the eye. In other words, you have to first see something to love it. “You also need to use your nose to get all the notes, the aromas,” Diaz continues. “It must have good balance and good flavors. Even the feel of the glass is important. And you have to tell stories about the drinks.”
Diaz’s cocktails are quintessentially and proudly Mexican, made with quality local spirits like tequila, mezcal and Mexican-made whiskeys and lots of native fruits and herbs–lychees, pears, mangos, spicy peppers, and hibiscus. “The flavors of Mexico,” says Diaz. He’s helped to boost his country’s profile by representing Mexico in gastronomy events in London, Paris, Spain, South America, the United States and Canada. And while one might wonder how he has the time; Diaz has also been a featured mixologist on the Mexican edition of the popular TV series MasterChef. He described the opportunity as life changing. Mexican chefs have had long been celebrated on TV but mixologists never enjoyed the spotlight. “Never, never, never,” he says. With his appearance, the public learned what it takes to be a skilled bartender and the whole profession started to gain a new level of respect. “For that I feel bendecido,” he says. “I feel blessed.”
WHY BARFLY MIXOLOGY GEAR
“A quality cocktail made by a quality mixologist requires quality bar tools. Together they form a social glue that adds a level of engaging professionalism and comfortable hospitality to the experience.”
– Israel Diaz, owner of Alquimista Cocktail Room in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico