Adrian Galindo is a bartender at Guac Star Kitchen and Cantina, an innovative plant-based Mexican food eatery in Tempe that creates a dining experience typically associated with that of hip, mainstream restaurants found in New York and Los Angeles. The California native brings experience from Postino and Ghost Ranch to the new restaurant and bar.
Oddest ingredient you’ve ever used in a cocktail?
I’ve used corn masa, nitrous gas and even Szechuan buzz buttons, which are edible flowers that have a numbing effect, but I think the weirdest overall ingredient just in terms of taste and “why would you ever put that into a drink” is aquafaba. Aquafaba is a vegan alternative to egg whites, and at the risk of exposing every bartender with an aquafaba cocktail, this ingredient is basically the packing water from cans of beans, usually a more neutral-tasting bean like garbanzo.
Favorite memory working behind a bar?
Not only have I had some of the best conversations of my life on either side of the bar, but almost all of the friends I have made in Arizona are a direct result of me bartending. And, wow, do we have hundreds of great memories. If I had to pick just one, though, I once had a regular who introduced me to a guest sitting next to him. He was in the process of moving from Houston and looking for houses in the area. It was a busy night, so I didn’t have much time to talk, so after I got off I sat with them for a drink. I started talking to the random guest, who was around my age, and we all decided to go grab a drink somewhere else. Well, one drink swiftly turned into six drinks, which then turned into a trip to Old Town Scottsdale, that then turned into some questionable decisions and being out until 4 in the morning when I had to work brunch the next day at 7 a.m. This was five years ago now, and that random guy is one of my best friends.
Best piece of advice for someone looking to get into the industry?
In terms of all-around best life advice for the industry, try your hardest to be a good person to those around you. Bad gas travels fast in a small community, and the Phoenix service industry is extremely small. In terms of growing as a bartender, get involved with wine, beer and culinary arts. These will all teach you new things and develop your palate/creativity. The wine world, especially, will have you doing things like swishing with different liquids to learn about viscosity and mouthfeel, licking rocks to learn about minerality, and sniffing produce in the grocery store — well, at least it would pre-COVID-19. The insights you can glean from food and wine are invaluable. These communities touch, taste and smell everything so they can incorporate them better into their craft.
Favorite cocktails or spirits when not working?
If I am just hanging out at home, I’m all about Mexican spirits. The menu at Guac Star really pushed me to incorporate agave spirits in more approachable ways for the less agave inclined, and the next menu I’m working on for Bacanora helped my love for the lesser-known spirits blossom. I have always wanted to get closer to my roots, and Mexican spirits like mezcal, Bacanora, sotol and raicilla are fun ways to do that. I very rarely drink, which is kind of funny considering my current career choice, but when I do it’s usually straight mezcal or a mezcal cocktail.
Tell us about the cocktail program at Guac Star.
The cocktail program at Guac Star is all about agave-based spirits. Our aim is to make it fun and approachable, but we also want to ease the burden of service on the bartenders by kegging the cocktails. While most of the drinks are an homage to classic ’80s and ’90s cocktails (think cosmo or Long Island iced tea), the main focus was trying to do elevated cocktails that don’t require eight to 10 touches. We really wanted to focus on speed of service while not taking away from the quality of the products, so we do our best to incorporate quality spirits and fresh ingredients. That being said, we are living in the Instagram age, so it was important to us to make every drink as beautiful as realistically possible utilizing fresh edible orchids, dehydrated fruit and colorful mixes. The visual and aromatic components are super important, but equally as important is the experience these cocktails can provide.
What is one drink you want to feature this month and cost?
The Tropical Heat, $9
Why do you like this cocktail?
For one, it seems like every restaurant and bar that has a margarita has a jalapeno margarita, but our spicy margarita uses chile de arbol, guajillo and habanero for both a unique spice and flavor. That alone would be good enough for me, but as an added bonus I got to nerd out on this cocktail quite a bit by making these chiles into a rapid nitrous infusion tincture. The process essentially uses a nitrous whipper, a neutral spirit (I used vodka for neutral flavor), and the chopped chiles. The tincture only takes about 20 minutes to make, and the nitrous infusion adds a creamy mouthfeel and hint of sweetness that cuts the capsaicin burn just a touch. The Tropical Heat also incorporates pineapple real syrup and is a build off of our house margarita, so aside from being three of my favorite things — delicious, nerdy and spicy — it is also a super-fast drink to make. Finally, for added spice, we use a chile de arbol salt lip if you so desire an extra kick in the mouth.
1.5 ounces Corazon Single Estate Silver Tequila (infused by Guac Star with avocado pits and cilantro)
1.5 ounces lime juice
3/4 ounces tropical heat syrup (made with equal parts pineapple real and Guac Star’s homemade chile de arbol tincture)
1/2 ounce Combier Triple Sec
1/2 ounce agave
Build all ingredients into a small shaker tin, add ice, shake until ice cold to the touch. Strain into a wine glass with a chile de arbol salt rim; top with ice and garnish with sliced fresnos peppers.
Guac Star Kitchen & Cantina
920 E. University Drive, Suite 204, Tempe