“The ‘ology’ of ‘Mixology’ means the ‘study of’ or ‘science’ [and] that being said it’s about asking questions, coming up with a hypothesis and running experiments to come to a conclusion based on data, not just because that’s how one was taught. It’s all about understanding,” says Alba.
But there’s more than just science that goes into fulfilling his role.
“To make a great cocktail you have to be a great bar chef. To make guests happy and create an experience at the bar that warms the soul, you have to be a great bartender,” says Alba.
He’s been in the food and beverage industry since he was 14 years old when he started working at a pizzeria. When Alba was 21 he got his first job working as a bartender in a nightclub in 1999. From there he went on to become the Property Mixologist for Rio before taking over the mixology program for Paris Las Vegas and Bally’s. He currently works as the Exective Mixologist for Liquidity Global, a consulting firm based in Vegas.
Alba’s innovative creations and ideas have taken him around the world to places like Peru, Indonesia, Belgium and Australia. He’s also won numerous awards and is the former vice president for the Nevada Chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild. In 2009 his aptitude in drink making earned him a request from the city to present Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman with a birthday martini for the mayor’s 70th birthday celebration.
Alba recently competed in the third season of the television series “On the Rocks: The Search for America’s Top Bartender.” More than 800 bartenders from around the country auditioned to be on the show and only eight contestants, including Alba, were selected to be in the four-week competition that started on Nov. 6 and airs on Saturday nights after “Saturday Night Live” through Nov. 20. Each episode highlights a different mixology-specific challenge in which the contestants demonstrate their talent, knowledge, speed, professionalism, accuracy and agility. The winner will recieve $100,000 and the title of “America’s Top Bartender.”
Alba was eliminated on Nov. 13, but the bartender and mixologist still has plenty to comment on when it comes to serving up a good drink in Vegas.
“Whatever we do here must be on a massive scale, it’s easy to create and maintain a beverage program when there are only two bartenders and 15 bar stools. We deal with hundreds of bartenders and billions of dollars. The other major difference would have to be that we have the highest concentration of world champion bartenders that live here. No other city on the planet can boast that,” says Alba.
Along with the classics he likes to serve cocktails that people never knew they liked.
“I try to push the entire beverage experience forward not just the liquid in the glass,” says Alba.
- With more than 10 years experience bartending in Vegas Alba shares his recommendations on where to enjoy a good drink on and off the Las Vegas Strip.
- Nora’s Cuisine (located at 6020 W. Flamingo Road): “The cocktails are fantastic and the food is some of the best Italian in Vegas.”
- Herbs and Rye (located at 3713 W. Sahara): “One of the best classic cocktail menus I’ve seen anywhere.”
- Frankie’s Tiki Room (located at 1712 W. Charleston Boulevard): “For a Mai-Tai.”
- I-BAR (located at Rio): “For a contemporary spin with some style, [you] just have to make sure to see James, Matt or Danny.”