Cocktail bar in Quito
Elizabeth Arévalo is one of the newest members of Casa Gangotena’s polished cocktail team, serving the best of Ecuadorian cocktails. Born and raised in the coastal region of Esmeraldas, she moved to Quito nearly eight years ago when she was 17 years old, to study Gastronomy. Her ideal classic cocktail is a simple gin and tonic with a twist of lemon.
What do you like about working behind the bar?
I love the service. I love chatting to people, giving them a different experience, so they enjoy themselves and go home happy. That’s why I’m really enjoying what I’m doing right now rather than cooking because when you’re working in the kitchen you are part of the experience but in a different way. I like human contact.
A good barman can make or break your experience of a bar…
Our bar is an experience from the moment you enter, from when you come in the door because once you’re inside it’s a different world. The comfort, the design, and then with the cocktails: people get involved with the signature cocktails we make.
Do you all work as a team?
We’ve worked hard and become a good team, each one with their own strengths, and helping the others when they’re not so good at something. Little by little we’ve become a solid bar. It’s been a process. We’ve become a family. Christian [Moscoso] and I started at more or less the same time, seven months ago, so we’ve been growing together.
Does your background in gastronomy help with your mixology?
I can try cocktails and separate all the flavours. I think my studies helped me because it’s the same: it’s creating. It’s like a dish, but it’s not a dish – it’s a drink. It’s a mix of flavours.
Do clients ask you to explain these intricate cocktails?
Part of the service at this bar is to explain the menu to our clients. Clients come and sit down and we hand them the menu explain about our signature cocktails and why the menu is called Homenaje, all about the ingredients, the dedication, the work we put in. And we focus on the preferences of the client, we don’t recommend a drink but investigate, work out what they like, what type of flavours, and from there we can suggest a cocktail that might be for them.
The menu has a very Ecuadorian focus…
Yeah it is rooted in our culture: the fruits and the Andean herbs that are in the Sangorache, for example. And sugar cane liquor from Manabi, we use it a lot. Guests come and they ask, “What liquor is traditional here?” And we tell them all about caña manabita. I think it’s beautiful because it’s part of the experience. They can go home and say, “I was in Quito and I tried a traditional liquor with local fruit…” And another thing is that all these products are really fresh. A lot of work, from all of us, goes into one cocktail in the bar.
Do you like using all the gadgets at the bar?
As well as making our job easier, it’s part of the experience. The smoke machine, the flame machine: when you put something on the bar, people say, “Wow!” And it’s not just the people who have ordered that drink, but everyone in the bar. It’s really eye-catching. It goes hand-in-hand with our fine-dining style.
What is your favourite drink on the menu?
From Homenaje, my favourite cocktail is Alchemia. I like citrus fruits and I love passion fruit. I love that combination of flavours, and that when you try it, the sensation in your mouth is different to that in your nose.
The menu is called Homenaje (which means “homage” in Spanish). If Casa Gangotena were to create a cocktail as a homage to you, what would it be like?
It would be quite refreshing. I would start with caña (cane liquor) – not just because we use it a lot here but because I’ve always really liked it. Something refreshing, something fruity, not sweet. Maybe some grenadine in there.