Tiago Amaral’s hospitality history spans the country, from working his first job as a busser in Boston in the early 2000s to a server in San Diego in 2007 to a winemaker and bartender at Solterra Winery in Encinitas, California in 2012. But in 2015, after a move to Boulder, Colorado, he homed in on his current passion: mixology and cocktail creation. “I met my mentor, Ben Foote, at Emmerson Restaurant and he taught me the real art of mixology,” Amaral says. “I began buying cocktail books and traveling around the world to perfect my career as a mixologist. I may not have always worked in one style of venue but I’ve been in the food and beverage industry for over 20 years and a bartender for more than ten.”
But Amaral points out that, in a way, his bartending career goes back long before his time. “My family back in Brazil has long produced their own beer, amaro, and cherry liqueur,” he says. “This is the foundation of what I do and who I am now.” Given his family connection to spirits production, it’s fitting that Amaral is now head mixologist at Deviation Distilling’s cocktail lounge and tasting bar in downtown Denver where, due to Colorado’s distillery laws, any spirit used in cocktails must be made in-house. Deviation produces five different gins and the Barista Whiskey line of coffee-flavored whiskies, plus other limited releases—but in order to use things like liqueurs and bitters, Amaral and his bar team have to make them from scratch behind the bar.
In addition to spirits flights, the lounge’s drinks menu features seasonal cocktails and classics (drinks are $14-$19). “Our cocktail style at Deviation is eclectic, we’re always creating new recipes, while respecting classics,” Amaral says. Falling into the former category is his Apple Tiki ($14), while the Zombie ($18; recipes below) is his take on the classic drink. “I’m similarly eclectic in my taste,” Amaral says. “I like to make all types of cocktails, from Old Fashioneds to tiki drinks and everything in between.”