Behind the Stick with Irving Gonzalez of Westgate Hotel
Irving Gonzalez has been crafting cocktails since he was a kid and is now responsible for the award-winning cocktail at The Westgate Hotel called Such Panache. We caught up with Gonzalez to chat about his bartending career and his tropical coconut oil-infused turmeric vodka cocktail called Such Panache.
2 oz Coconut oil-infused turmeric vodka
1 oz Kaffir leaves syrup
1 oz half and half
Garnish with edible flower
What's the story behind the Such Panache?
This cocktail was originally crafted for a bi-national cocktail contest in Tijuana, and it won first place. It was a crowd pleaser and happens to be one of my favorites. Its looks make you wonder if it is indeed a cocktail at all, but then its flavors hit you with what most wouldn’t expect.
Describe the taste.
Tropical, spicy and sessionable.
What's the key component of this drink?
Kaffir leaves and turmeric, which are infused in the vodka.
What reactions are you expecting to get from customers when they try this cocktail for the first time?
Guests always say the taste is much different than they expected because it includes Half & Half. But instead, they taste its delicate balance of tropical and spice.
If you had to pair this cocktail with a dish on the Westgate’s menu, what would you pair it with?
Salmon, Ricotta Cheese Ravioli or Sorbet.
Watch as Irving Gonzalez craft up his award-winning tropical cocktail, Such Panache.
What kind of experience can guests get at Westgate's Hotel Plaza Bar?
The Westgate’s Plaza Bar is a hidden gem in San Diego. Guests can listen to live jazz on Friday, Saturday and Monday nights while sipping on unique cocktails and snacking on delicious gourmet appetizers. What could be better?
About Irving Gonzalez
Are you from San Diego?
I’m originally from Aguascalientes, Mexico but I live in Tijuana today.
How did you get into bartending?
Funny story. My father gave me a bartending book when I was 16 years old because he noticed I liked to drink with my friends. The book was inspiring and I’ve been bartending ever since.
What's your favorite thing about bartending?
One of my favorite things about bartending is that cocktail trends and tastes are always evolving. I love how different cultures infuse a variety of colors and tastes for unique creations. I love creating new drinks for guests because a good cocktail is memorable and they’ll take that with them.
What's your favorite cocktail on the menu?
Obviously the Such Panache is my favorite!
What's your favorite spirit?
Mezcal and Rum, but I’m always looking for others. You can never have enough.
Define the perfect cocktail.
The “perfect cocktail” is the one that fits the mood you’re in when you’re drinking it. The Mai- Tai that you are drinking by the beach is the best because you’re pairing it with that place, that experience, the people you’re with, and you’re marking a moment in your mind. For someone else, a Negroni might be what their beach day memories are made of. To each their own.
If you're going out for a cocktail, what are some spots you like to go in San Diego?
The Hake Kitchen & Bar in La Jolla is really fun. Joan Villanueva makes killer cocktails and I always appreciate the craft of others. I also enjoy The Lion’s Share.
What do you love about the cocktail scene in San Diego?
That it is always evolving. The events, the competition, the conversation… it never ends. Ideas are constantly being bounced around and we’re all taking and twisting a never-ending variety of ingredients into such different and dynamic creations. It’s what keeps the scene fresh, strong, and growing.
What do you do in your spare time when you're not creating cocktails?
I really enjoy swimming. So most of the time, if I’m not near a pool, I’m in a movie theater or walking around the Mercado Hidalgo in Tijuana.
What's next for you?
I keep learning and evolving. This world and this industry is so big and constantly growing. You can’t keep your arms crossed and say “well this is it”, and I love that. You have to experiment and you have to keep your eyes and ears open because you never know where your next idea will come from.
105 2nd Ave., downtown San Diego. (619) 238-1818 or westgatehotel.com
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