Meet Your Mixologist: Chris Ojeda of Cecconi's
Chris Ojeda is a busy man. He is Creative Bar Director of the Italian restaurant Cecconi's not only in West Hollywood but also in Miami Beach and even in the UK. He is also Bar Director for the always posh Soho House West Hollywood. Despite all this, I was able to talk to Chris about winter spirits, his fave L.A. mixologists and the ever-changing landscape of his beloved L.A. cocktail scene.
As Creative Bar Director of both Soho House and Cecconi's, how do you differ their bar menus to fit the respective establishment?
Chris Ojeda: Being first and foremost a restaurant, Cecconi’s is more food-focused, so the cocktails tend to use a few more ingredients and incorporate food-friendly spirits like Vermouth and Madeira. With Soho House it’s about balancing our classic philosophy, and also delivering top notch drinks at the speed of light — particularly when hosting an event.
First bartending gig?
Well I’m sure everyone has little dive bars or restaurants where we’ve cut our teeth on learning how to bartend, but it wasn’t until I broke away from the chain restaurants and started my own cocktail catering service that I learned all of what I needed to do. Picking up everything from prep to hosting to creating menus and handling the ordering that goes with owning your own business was when I really learned how to bartend.
Favorite old school cocktail?
Favorite new school cocktail?
Medicina Latina — 4 Copas Reposado, fresh ginger juice, agave and lime.
Now that winter is here, what spirit do you like to work with?
Gins and cognacs are great. Brown spirits are of course a go-to choice, but I love the aromatics you get from gin. Some of them remind me of Christmas.
Cecconi's most popular cocktail?
Picante de la Casa — Cazadores reposado tequila with cilantro & chili.
Most people pair Italian food with red wine. Can you pair it with cocktails and if so what?
We use cocktails at Cecconi’s primarily to start or end people’s night. Through the meal, I would recommend one of our Italian wines.
Thoughts on the L.A. bar community?
Two words: Sporting Life. Something that my good friend Marcos Tello spearheaded to help grow the bar culture of Los Angeles. L.A. has come a long way and has found its own niche in the cocktail community. It’s crazy to see 5 years ago all the best bartenders in the city were working in nightclubs serving pump-and-dump drinks where bottle service was the biggest thing. It’s great to see how the landscape has changed. Now, you can walk into most bars and find bartenders that are making homemade ingredients and using fresh juice.
Which L.A. bartenders/mixologists are you digging these days?
Mia Sarazen and the work she has put into different cocktail programs in L.A. Brian Stewart is always experimenting with different techniques at Le Petite Ermitage. Also, Mia Mastroianni — I look forward to her being the next Speed Rack champ.
Where do you like to go and imbibe?
I don’t go out as much as I would like to, but when I do, I visit the Eveleigh and The Varnish, which will forever be my go-to bar.
What do you see trending these days and what do you see trending in the New Year?
The crazy thing is that cocktails aren’t a trend these days — they are more of a standard. The trends I enjoy seeing are ones when the bartender is a fantastic host and can make a well-executed cocktail.
Favorite song about booze?
Anything as long as I have a drink in my hand.
Any golden rule for bartending?
Hosting is everything.
Cecconi's, 8764 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood, CA 90069