Athens, GREECE — As the music that revs up the nightly vibe at the San Juan bar La Factoría echoed at 148 San Sebastian Street, two of the bar’s founders were off on the other side of the globe, in Greece. They were in Athens at an event organized by The Clumsies that brought together Latin America’s top bars, showing exactly why their bar is the only one in the Caribbean to be listed three years in a row as one of the World’s 50 Best Bars.
It was at “Latin America Bar”, an event held on May 23, 2018, at which the The Clumsies bar—which holds the number 6 spot on the prestigious list—paid homage to four of the top bars in the Latin American region. It is an annual event that shines a spotlight on some of the most important topics in the industry worldwide.
With the mythical Acropolis standing in the background, Leslie Cofresí and Roberto Berdecia recreated La Factoría at the event, where they delighted the crowd’s palettes with their iconic “Lavender Mule”, the “Facto Old Fashioned”, or the “Colada Caribeña”. They also participated in a round-table discussion with Laura Price, the deputy editor of The World’s 50 Best Bars, to talk about a range of topics, such as sustainability, bar culture, and the evolution of mixology in Latin America.
During the discussion, Cofresí focused on explaining how they infuse culture into their mixology. “We know how to make cocktails. Now, how do I convey my culture through our cocktails?” that is La Factoria’s goal, he emphasized. He also made it a point to stress that sustainability means far more than producing zero waste at bars; “instead, we have to take responsibility for choosing where we source our ingredients from.”
At “Latin America Bar”, they joined their fellow mixologists from Limantour (México), Florería Atlántico (Argentina) and Guilhotina Bar (Brazil). As part of La Factoría’s decor for the event, they used a red couch similar to the one at their flagship bar in Old San Juan, along with a portrait of Pedro Albizu Campos.
“One of Ícaro’s primary missions is to strengthen mixology in Puerto Rico and get the island to make an international mark in the industry. Events like these are perfect for continuing with that mission,” added Berdecia, a co-founder of Colectivo Ícaro.
From Old San Juan to the World
This exchange between colleagues from other countries is nothing new for the group. In April, as part of La Factoría’s fifth anniversary, bartenders from The Clumsies (Greece), Trailer Happiness (London), Employees Only (New York), and Herbs & Rye (Las Vegas) worked alongside local bartenders for the celebration.
Many of the bars reciprocated the invitation by asking members of Colectivo Ícaro to visit them and collaborate at their events. Recently, in Mexico City, Cofresí joined La Factoría’s Head Bartender, Carlos Irizarry, to take part in the pop-up event “The Art of Mixology” at the King Cole Bar at St. Regis Mexico City.
Weeks before, Berdecia represented the San Juan bar as a guest at Amano, in Panama, where he worked behind the bar alongside José “Chuck” Rivera, of JungleBird and Caneca Coctelería Móvil. There, they prepared assorted cocktails that best represent both businesses.
Carlos Irizarry, on the other hand, visited his colleagues from the Guilhotina Bar of Brazil and took part in a number of events.
This is only the beginning
The first half of 2018 has been one of growth for Colectivo Ícaro, which celebrated La Factoría’s fifth anniversary in April. The agenda for the remainder of the year also looks promising. For the time being, they are working on the details for the opening of Licorería Miramar —the first gastronomic laboratory in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean dedicated to the research and development of culinary values, with a particular emphasis on mixology. Also, they will launch different culinary programs at La Factoría and this month is the start of their monthly workshop series Behind The Bar Workshops at JungleBird, which will go on until December.