From 2010 through 2018, Barcelona native Alex Serena was living in London and working on his English. “I thought a part-time job in the hospitality industry would be a great way to practice, so I started as a dishwasher at the high-volume restaurant and cocktail bar Agenda,” he says. When his English began to improve, Serena progressed to food runner and eventually became the lead server before requesting to work with the bar team, starting as a barback before settling in as a bartender. “I fell in love with it,” he says. “Bartending in London helped me acquire a practical foundation in the mechanics of mixology and cocktail preparation. Mixology captivated me from the very first cocktail shake, and with a strong desire to explore recipes, I found myself fulfilling my dream to have a creative job.”
Serena moved back home to Spain when the famed cocktail bar Paradiso offered him the head bartender position. But the pandemic hit Barcelona hard, and Serena decided he needed a change. The tapas and paella restaurant Telefèric Barcelona offered Serena the opportunity to build its brand in the U.S. and he happily accepted, moving to Northern California to become bar manager at Telefèric Barcelona’s Palo Alto location. In this role, Serena is responsible for overseeing the bar staff and operations in Palo Alto, plus designing the beverage menu across all three restaurant locations in Palo Alto, Walnut Creek, and Los Gatos, California.
“At Telefèric Barcelona, we serve beverages that are aligned with our Spanish authenticity and business motto, ‘Escape to Spain with no passport required,’” Serena says. “I want my cocktail list to transport our visitors to Barcelona while ensuring that the flavors are popular and recognizable, because at the end of the day you have to curate a list of drinks that will sell.”
Cocktails are $12-$18 in Palo Alto and include both Spanish favorites like Serena’s Sangria Telefèric ($12), blending Torres Gran Coronas Cabernet Sauvignon, Torres 10-year- old brandy, Bombay Sapphire gin, Bols triple sec, fresh orange juice, and apple cider, and his takes on other well-known classics, such as the Bellini Vintage ($14), comprising Grey Goose Essences White Peach & Rosemary vodka, mango purée, simple syrup, lemon juice, and egg white, topped with Anna Codorniu Cava. “My job is my passion and I love studying the history of mixed drinks as well as different ingredients and techniques—I can’t help but make new creations on a weekly basis,” Serena adds. “One thing that I love about bartending is the challenge to impress customers, where you can direct your mixology knowledge and intuition to create something unique.”