Like any successful cocktail, there's a formula for a successful mixologist: Combine equal parts mad scientist and artist with a few strong dashes of ambition. But there’s successful and there’s incredible. To concoct the latter, you need Gabriel Orta, co-owner of Miami’s Broken Shaker.
This is the guy, after all, who invented the Chorizo Cordial, a sweet-and-smoldering distillation of the Mexican sausage into cocktail form. This is the guy who turns Cocoa Puffs into an Old Fashioned, and who may be the first bartender to deploy a hashtag in a drink name: the #ShakerLife Punch.
But it’s not all whimsy here. Orta understands that a great cocktail is more than just cleverness: It’s “ingredients, good spirits, technique, glassware, but most important, balance,” he says.
Orta, who grew up in Colombia and Hawaii, set off on the road to greatness early on. “I got here by working my ass off since I was 15,” he said. Along the way, he’s held “every position in F&B from barback to dishwasher and cook.” He’s especially proud to have cooked a vegetarian meal for Adam Yauch from the Beastie Boys at the Tibet Freedom Concert in San Francisco.
With his business partner, Elad Zvi, Orta opened Broken Shaker as the first pop-up bar in Miami, in 2012. Their signature drinks, stirred with custom-made ice and fresh herbs snipped straight from the garden, were among the first such cocktails in the Miami bar scene—and launched the trend there. The 30-day pop-up turned into a mainstay at the Freehand Miami Hotel (and now ranks #16 on the "World’s 50 Best Bars" list), and has since expanded to Los Angeles and Chicago. Orta and Zvi also co-founded Bar Lab, an agency that helps clients, from American Airlines to the W Hotel, craft innovative hospitality experiences and creative beverage programs.
Orta’s cocktails may be Wonka-esque, but he says his spirit is mezcal: “Like me, it’s smoky, rare, and delicious.” It’s a rare and delicious opportunity to have Orta on Panna, and when you stir up his cocktails, you’ll sip the exquisiteness, too.