It's always a good time hanging out with Armando Garcia, lead bartender at JRDN, located inside Tower 23 in Pacific Beach. He has been crafting cocktails for a while and has done amazing things with the bar program at JRDN. On the latest Behind the Stick, we featured his La Piña cocktail, which is refreshing and tasty AF.
1 oz coconut syrup 2 oz pineapple juice. 1.5 oz white Pineapple-infused white rum .5 oz Three Sheets Spiced Rum Garnish: pineapple leaf Garnish: Amarena cherry
What’s the story behind the La Piña?
The story behind La Piña is its roots as a classic beach cocktail. Essentially, it's a variation of the world famous Piña Colada. JRDN restaurant lends itself to having these classic cocktails with or without variation. In the past, if someone was visiting our establishment on vacation looking for a Piña Colada, I always felt bad shooting them down due to our absence of a blender behind the bar. Once we reopened after our remodel, I personally got a loan from my local credit union and purchased a desperately needed, and well deserved, crushed ice machine. Okay, so maybe I didn't front the money for the ice machine, but it was definitely purchased.
Describe the taste.
La Piña's taste profile is on the sweeter side, however, it's a fresh tasting cocktail when prepared properly. There is no substitute for fresh ingredients, the fresh cut fruit gives the cocktail it's brightness and removes the artificial taste that some other Piña Coladas may have when you use a Piña Colada mix.
What’s the key component of this drink?
The infused rum also helps in giving the cocktail a real pineapple flavor without overloading it with pineapple juice as stated above we are not using a lot of juice. I also found it important to use another rum in addition to the pineapple infused rum to give the cocktail another layer of flavor. The Three Sheets Spiced Rum from Cut Water has these wonderful vanilla nutmeg toasty characteristics that I feel worked really well with the cocktail.
What’s the process of infusing pineapple with rum? Which rum did you choose to infuse?
The infusing process is pretty straightforward. I don't know the in's and outs since our in-house monk, Daniel Estrada, personally infuses the rum and insists on his secrets staying well-kept, so let's just say it involves pineapple chunks cut in a very particular way and rested in rum for several days. We use a white rum for the infusion.
What reactions do you get from customers when they try this cocktail for the first time?
As I said before, we don't have a blender behind the bar, so when we tell people that we can make them a drink that will be very similar to a Piña Colada using crushed ice, they are usually eager to try it and are always pleasantly surprised when they do. Its a real plus having access to the crushed ice and it's not nearly as messy or noisy as a blender.
If you had to pair this cocktail with a dish, what would you pair it with?
If I was pairing this drink with a food item I would probably opt for our killer build your own poke bowl. We offer a list of ingredients to choose from to personalize and build your own poke bowl and it makes for a fun and interactive experience as the guest essentially gets to play chef- and let's face it, La Piña is also a fun drink. Therefore, it's a great match, think John Stockton and the Mail Man Karl Malone, pick and roll baby.
Watch as Armando Garcia crafts up his tasty libation called La Piña.
What kind of experience can guests get at JRDN?
JRDN is a place where you can come enjoy some great cocktails, amazing food (shout out Dave Warner) and a spectacular view. With the opening of our sushi bar, we have become a one-stop shop for guests whether you are looking to have some fresh sushi or a nice wagyu steak, all your bases are covered! Even though we are located right on the water, and have a very relaxed feel we do not sacrifice service.
About Armando Garcia
Are you from San Diego?
I've been in San Diego for about 12 years now, but originally hail from Coalinga Ca. wonderful place to summer.
How has your journey been leading up to your role at JRDN?
Its been a great experience I've had at JRDN. From busser to barback, to running the bar program. Hopefully, the next step is acquiring a parking space in our underground parking garage. Upper management please take notice. Thank you in advance.
What’s your favorite cocktail on the menu?
My favorite cocktail on our menu is a riff on a Penicillin. We call it the Penicillin 723 (our street address). Its made with freshly squeezed lemon juice, ginger honey syrup, and Appleton Estate Rum. Served over crushed ice, garnished with ginger candy and a lemon twist. Penicillin's are traditionally made with scotch, I feel like Appleton rum is much more pungent and earthy than other rums out there, it really stands out in the cocktail and that's what we wanted, a rum with some backbone.
Define the perfect cocktail.
The perfect cocktail to me is a drink that you truly enjoy which doesn't necessarily mean you have to have three or four of them. I think there's a misconception out there that just because you can't have a particular cocktail all evening, it's not a good cocktail. There are cocktails out there that I really enjoy but I'll call it quits after one or two, and move on to something else.
What are some cocktail trends that you are noticing in San Diego?
Some cocktail trends I've noticed in San Diego are that more and more bartenders are respecting fresh ingredients as there is no substitute for freshly squeezed citrus. It really makes a world of difference. Yes, it's time consuming, yes, I've lost several barbacks due to horrific juicing machine accidents, but its worth the while when you taste the cocktail. Rest assured that when you visit our establishment the juice that is going into your cocktail was pressed that morning. (disclaimer no barbacks were injured in the process of building our cocktails).
What is one thing you wish people understand about bartending?
One thing I wish people understood about bartending is that bartenders are getting pretty serious about cocktails and are proud of what they are sending out. Some cocktails can take time to build and the bartender wants to ensure they're putting out a good product, which requires patience from the guest, and I think they are starting to understand that. The days of finger snapping and yelling across the bar are on the way out, and patience is rewarded with an incredible cocktail that you won't want to just slam, you'll want to savor and enjoy.
What’s your favorite drink to make behind the bar?
My favorite drink to make behind the bar without a doubt would have to be the vodka soda:)
What’s your favorite liqueur?
My favorite liqueur right now is a product from France, China China is the name. A greek friend of mine, who I find highly intimidating, pretty much forced me to bring it into the bar a couple of years back and I'm very glad I did. China China is a nice after dinner drink with great citrus on the front and some subtle bitter notes to finish. It's Delicious!
What’s your favorite spirit?
My Favorite spirit now would have to be whiskey, it used to be tequila for many years but something changed after my Las Vegas trip back in 2013.
What should everyone stock in their home bar?
A great product that I believe is all too often overlooked is Pedialyte. It'll get you to work in the morning. Other than that a nice sipping whiskey can be appreciated by most.
What do I do on my spare time while not shaking the tins?
I now have a 15-month-old boy who began to run about 2 months ago, so I get loads of cardio in chasing him around the house trying to keep him from climbing our bookshelves.
What’s next for me?
I recently joined the White Dragon Dojo in so ill probably take on the world of MMA. If that doesn't work out it would be great to open a small bar in my neighborhood of Clairemont.