Chris Cardone

Chris Cardone Interviewed by Honest Laura

There are few people more qualified in the bar and restaurant world than New York native Chris Cardone . With nearly 20 years of bartending, hospitality and nightlife experience, Cardone is also a 4-time national flair bartending finalist (think of the movie Cocktail), has appeared on a number of high-profile TV networks, and is now a three-time national Finalist of Diageo World Class, the world’s largest global mixology competition. Having just come back from this year’s finals in Mexico we asked the man himself what he thought of competing and how this particular competition has affected him this time around, Chris said:

“World Class was and still is an unbelievable experience for me. The personal growth I’ve achieved in both technical bartending skills as well as both personally and mentally is incredible.  The standard of that competition is always sky high. The competitors that you meet along the way at the regional and national level are not only talented, but in general, really great people that you can connect with and form major lasting personal and professional bonds.”

Although he didn’t win the competition as a whole, Chris was a very close runner up, and won his heats in the US, making him the 2017 USBG U.S. Bartender of the Year. This may be a spectacular achievement, but it’s definitely not one that has gone to Cardone’s head,

As far as being named, “Bartender of the Year,” that’s a load of crap.  I am no better than anyone else in this business who is a professional, brings their best to work and strives to keep improving.  I have tons of flaws and strengths, just like everyone else.  Winning a competition, doesn’t permit me to feel comfortable with that title in anyway.  The ranking of bartenders and bars in our industry needs to stop ASAP.  In my opinion, it’s an extremely divisive and sad practice.  If you need someone to give you the title of “Best Bartender” or “Best Bar”, you should do some serious personal introspection.  But that’s just my opinion of course and I don’t mean to pass judgement or disparage anyone who prides themselves on those titles.  It’s just not my style.”

After 19 years in the business, it’s clear that the bar and hospitality sector holds a special place in Cardone’s heart and he cites “the people, the service, the creative outlets, the competitions, the travel, the process of honing one’s skills behind the bar, the never-ending opportunities to learn, the challenges, the seminars and events, [and] flair bartending” as the reasons why he keeps him coming back for more.

In fact, Cardone is so in love with the hospitality sphere that as well as bartender and competing, Cardone also uses his skills and experience to help him run his own business, Continuous Beverage Solutions which he created “in order to offer clients a range of services from private events, to consulting on both new and existing properties, as well as flair bartender training.”

In terms of what the next year or two in the hospitality business look like, Chris admits that …

Trends are trends for a reason; everyone gets all excited about something and will rally around it for a while and then it fades.  This is usually caused more by PR and social media than the bar industry as a whole.  I try to not follow the trends because at the end of the day, the bar industry isn’t about following trends; it’s about providing each guest with a great experience through attentive and genuine service, exceptional drinks and food in a comfortable atmosphere”, although he hopes that “the trend of sustainability…becomes less of a fad and more of an everyday practice since it’s so important that every industry does what it can to help our planet survive.”

With years of experience, hundreds of hours mixing cocktails and a whole host of awards and competitions you would think that the appeal of mixing drinks would eventually wear off, but when asked what his favourite drink to mix is, Chris had the perfect answer,

“This is going to sound corny, but my favorite drink to make is the one the guest will enjoy.  There is absolutely no greater joy I get then when a guest sits in front of me at my bar, in my restaurant, and allows me the honor to help them curate the perfect meal right from the start until they pay the bill.  I love when they want to pair their drinks with each course of food and when they are open to really experiencing the best of what we have to offer.  There really is nothing better than when a guest stands up and says, ‘This was the perfect meal’.”

Image – Chris Cardone

And in terms of gin? We simply had to find out what Chris Cardone’s favourite gin cocktail is, although the answer may not be as straight forward as you may think:

“This is truly not me dodging this question, but that question is impossible to answer.  There are way too many great gin cocktails to narrow it down to one, so being my usual self, I’ll give you four.  The Negroni, the 50/50 Martini, the Gimlet and the Last Word.  I love each of these drinks for different reasons and different flavor profiles.  All four are beautiful in their own way and all have a place in my heart.  Working at I Sodi for nearly two years has caused me to truly appreciate the Negroni in new ways, so I guess if I HAVE to pick just one, I’ll go with the Negroni and all of its simplicity.  The quintessential aperitif cocktail before a great meal.”

Having spent his fair share of time behind the bar, it’s not a pint, or a fancy cocktail that Cardone looks forward to himself at the end of a hard day, instead he opts for something a little more refreshing, stating “My favorite drink to drink is water.  Especially after a long shift and the best part is that I can get this drink from any bar, anywhere I go.”

Well there you have it, you can be a World Class bartender with access to hundreds of delicious drinks and concoctions, but when it comes down to it, you just can’t beat a cold glass of water!