Celebrated bartender and director of mixology at Zapote Bar, Mexico, Joshua Monaghan has been part of the hospitality industry for more than 18 years. He’s travelled, he’s worked with celebrated mixologists and made some mean cocktails. A bar takeover in India must be cakewalk for him. Or that’s what we assumed? “I am nervous. This is my first time in India and I have no idea what people will like, but I am also super excited,” he admitted moments after landing in Mumbai.
Monaghan was in India for a quick popup at Aer in Four Seasons, one of Mumbai’s most upscale bars, and with him he brought years of his knowledge, expertise and four cocktails. But Monaghan’s career in F&B did not begin behind the bar. He’s been a security personnel and a dishwasher and even a cook, among other things. And ironically, his magic as a mixologist began only eight years ago in Cancun. He did a short course to be introduced to the basics of classic cocktails, but from there it’s just been his sheer love for mixology, learning on the job, and of course reading.
Currently the bar director at Zapote, a craft cocktail destination at Rosewood Mayakoba, an award-winning luxury resort in Mexico, Monaghan has put together a menu that not only celebrates local ingredients and global influences, but also pays homage to the Yucatan and its culture. “I have had the great opportunity to work at the Ritz Carlton, Fifty Mils, and now we have to represent our culture to the world,” he says.
At Zapote, it’s not just about technique, but stories as well. Resorting to fresh and local ingredients to weave the Yucatan culture into the menu, Monaghan says that they have come far. “In my bar, we have to create and celebrate the love for Yucatan by using what’s local; for instance, cacao, mango and passion fruit.”
What Monaghan truly enjoys is giving guests the true essence of his creativity, introducing them to what they may never have tried before and then come back for it. “Every single cocktail we make has to represent at least one ingredient. For example, oregano, soursop or lemongrass. It’s not like you can walk in and ask for a Margarita and expect to find what you may drink at any other bar.”
But apart from mixing new flavours and ingredients, Monaghan has been also been busy building a community of bartenders in Mexico. “The main idea is to conduct workshops, masterclass activities, tournaments for them to skill them better.”
Talking about the philosophy behind Zapote, he says it signifies something that he calls ‘you are my other me’, which means that there is a lot of respect for the different positions in the bar. “For example, be it the chef, the bartender, or the waitress – everyone is significant and everyone should know what the other person’s job is and should be able to help if needed. We are a team, like a family.”