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Crafting Liquid Art: Exploring the World of Craft Cocktails with Master Mixologists.

Long gone are the days when people would only order their go-to whiskey soda or gin & tonic.

Today’s bon vivants are all about depth of flavour and immersive experiences, something to hold proudly in their hands, a social media moment, and an all-around sensorial journey.

It is undeniable that bartenders and mixologists are an essential part of the hospitality industry. Nowadays a hit cocktail can catapult an establishment into success and the individual behind it into a celebrity-status artist.

In Aruba, we are privileged to have many great masters of this craft, and while on the production of this piece, I have gotten to know them on a personal level and observe the passion they pour -pun intended- into their libations!

Here we have the opportunity to meet the skilled creators responsible for crafting the most renowned cocktails from the island's top bars. With a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences, here they offer exclusive insights into their do’s and don'ts, a look into their personality and personal preferences surely will enlighten you, straight from the best sources.

Boutique Speakeasy. Cristian Montilla. Age 21. Colombia.

Mixologist Cristian Montillo

With four years of experience under his belt, Cristian can be found behind the bar at one of the island's trendiest spots, Boutique Speakeasy. His drive stems from the joy and satisfaction he witnesses in his customers every time they sample one of his creations. A curious and meticulous individual, he guarantees that each cocktail he makes illuminates his clients' evenings. Excitingly, Cristian's journey is far from over as he prepares to depart for the Netherlands to pursue advanced studies in Mixology, unlocking new levels of skill and expertise. At Boutique, he’s your guy!

Do’s: Negronis, Moscow Mules, Cosmos are back!

Don’ts: Mojitos, Bloody Mary, Blue Curaçao.

La Sirena.

Premium vodka, Lychee liqueur, Elderflower liqueur, homemade clarified lemon juice.

La Sirena

It is the first cocktail on the menu for a reason. La Sirena encapsulates the elegance and smoothness of Boutique’s vibe. The first impression of course is the stylish presentation in this delicately engraved coup. The tasting experience is layered and profound: the first sip is citrusy but not overpowering followed by floral notes and an easiness to it that only a drink made by expert hands can deliver.

Tipsy Flamingo.

Papiamento Rum Carnival Edition, passionfruit syrup, strawberry syrup, and ginger scrub. All homemade.


The allure of the presentation is undeniable. It's dubbed their "viral cocktail" because, as they explain, once they serve the first one each night, customers begin placing orders incessantly, driven purely by curiosity, with little regard for its contents. They, too, are eager to grasp the flamingo and experience the tropical blend concealed within. Ice cold, sweet, and tangy once you sip, followed by that kick that ginger has, there’s a taste of sugar cane also that comes from this special edition rum. It’s a must-have.

Tobacco Road.

Papiamento Superior Rum, tobacco syrup, demerara sugar & bitters.


Tailored for aficionados of cigars who relish the distinctive flavour and spicy undertones reminiscent of indulging in a fine Habano. Presented in a leather chest with wisps of smoke, evoking the essence of an authentic Caribbean gem. Ideally enjoyed in the back leather sofa. The initial sip delivers an arresting fusion of tobacco essence, trailed by subtle hints of vanilla that render it captivating.


Fusion at Alhambra Mall. Gilbert Gomez. 39. Aruba.

Gilbert Fusion at divi Alhambra Mixologist

Gilbert's reputation precedes him: He clinched second place in The Caribbean Remy Martin Crafted Cocktail competition held back in February in Barbados. With two decades of experience, Gilbert is truly a seasoned veteran in his field. A people person, he takes immense pride in the enduring connections he has forged with his patrons over the years—many of whom make it a point to visit him whenever he's tending bar in Aruba. Infusing all his creations with love and a genuine sense of hospitality, he aims to gratify even the most discerning palates. The smiles on his customers' faces as they depart are always the highlight of his days. Gilbert himself is a tree of joy.

Gin Supreme.

Bombay, blueberry syrup, lime juice, tonic water.

Gin Sup

This cocktail serves as an ideal gateway into the realm of Gin—a refreshing blend that hits all the right notes. It features the distinctive tartness of blueberry, the zesty kick of lime, a touch of sweetness, and a hint of floral from the gin, with each element complementing the next seamlessly. After the first few sips, your spirit revitalises, particularly in this island warmth!

Island Vibe.

Rum, Coconut rum, Triple Sec, bitters, coffee liquor, Apricot brandy, a dash of Maracuyá, Orange juice, Pineapple juice, and Lime juice, topped with Myers rum.

Island Vibe

Ok, this one is for the real ones, the Aruba Ariba lovers raise your hand! Here's Gilbert's interpretation of the iconic local cocktail. Let me start by saying this one is powerful, a real knockout if you're caught off guard. The name couldn't be more fitting, as it embodies all the characteristics of a tropical tiki cocktail, and then more complex notes, like the coffee liquor and bitters, I dare you to go for it.

Do’s: Old Fashioned and all Old School Classic Cocktails.

Don’ts: Long Island Ice Tea, Sweet Cocktails, Frozen Drinks.


Azar. Juan Camilo Carvajal. 28. Colombia.

Juan Camilo Carvajal

Juan isn't much of a drinker which is more common than you think for Mixologists, he appreciates alcohol for its flavours rather than its effects, considering it a more refined approach to enjoyment. Behind the bar, he is a cool cat who relishes a challenge and delights in pushing the boundaries of his creativity when having carte blanche to create. With 4 years in the field, his dedication and skillset quickly have put him as the head bartender in one of our island's hottest dining rooms, Azar.


Tequila, Ancho Reyes, citrus blend (75 lime, 25 lemon), homemade Passion Fruit syrup, topped with a cardamom pod, lime & habanero chili. 


Juan says that he loves to suggest cocktail pairings to diners, and this one goes nicely with Shrimp al Ajillo or Chilean Sea Bass, to power their flavours. The Azaroso is an immediate hit because of the freshness of the passion fruit and the subtle spicy note that lingers at the end of each sip, the roasted cardamom pod perfumes the air around it. No wonder it is the top-selling tequila cocktail here. 

No Mezcalulations.

I was not a Mezcal guy until I tried this one. Mezcal reposado, orange juice, pink grapefruit juice, lime, lemon, simple syrup and almond syrup. Garnished with Tajín and a dehydrated orange slice.

No Mezcalculations

This one is best enjoyed at the bar as an after-dinner treat. Mezcal drinks can often be excessively smoky, overpowering other flavours, but this one strikes a perfect balance. It offers a pleasant and well-rounded taste, complemented by the kick that only tajín can provide. Be a quick sipper because this cocktail should be savoured as cold as possible.

Do’s: classic cocktails (they are all making a comeback), the Negroni, Fee foam (non-egg alternative for shaken drinks), double strained Martinis.

Dont’s: Adding salt to a flavored Margarita, Sparkling wines that have sat out too long (if it’s not ice cold, pour a new one), decaf Espresso Martini.


Hoya. Alejandra De Palm. 19. Aruba.

For a young lady who is going to Economics school, Alejandra shows herself fierce and fearless. She's engaged and quick-witted, with a knack for remembering your Hoya order upon your return. What truly resonates with her is the cultural exchange that comes with the diverse array of individuals she encounters in her role. No day is the same and she is here with all the energy to make you feel welcomed and at ease.

Do’s: Know your alcohol, Margaritas, Mojitos.

Don’ts: Frozen drinks (grow up!), Coconut-flavoured rum (grow up!), Dirty Shirley Temple (grow up!). Those were her exact words!

Pink Trupial.

Vodka, Peach Snapps, lime, lime sugar, beetroot syrup.

Pink T

Perfect for people-watching from one of Hoya’s tables on a Saturday afternoon, the cool look of the Pink Trupial and the vibrant hue, is probably the easiest sip I’ve had while producing this piece. It is so good that if it were served in a pitcher size, I could have easily gone for it. The peach taste comes first and then a subtle citrus note, it’s like a fruit salad that has been dressed with some lime drops and sugar…but beware the alcohol is barely noticeable so don’t be fooled by the smooth taste.

Prickly Pear Mojito.

Rum, lime, Prickly Pear syrup, mint.


Hoya’s Mojitos are wildly popular and how could they not? The look itself is monumental with that crushed ice sphere on top. As for the taste, is important to notice that the sweetness does not come from mashed white sugar but from the prickle pear syrup, the correct amount of mint also lets the prickly pear note come forward, and the right amount of lime… they have nailed it!


The Lobby at Aruba Marriott Resort. Sandra Vrolijk. Aruba.


Sandra is against ageism, she wants and pursues to stay current and never stop learning her craft. Mind you, she’s been mixing at the bars for 30 years, and yet she expresses she’s always reinventing and creating, acknowledging that in this age of social media and content, the internet serves as her primary tool for inspiration and to keep her current. Working at The Lobby at Aruba Marriott, a renowned culinary events hub, has provided an excellent platform for her to push her creative boundaries and showcase her best work.

Do’s: Butterfly Pea tea, custom prints on top of cocktails, The Lobby Espresso Martini.

Don’ts: Piña Coladas, Bloody Mary.


Dry Gin, premium vodka, Elderflower liqueur, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, butterfly pea tea.


Sandra explains that this drink is a product of her curiosity and love for colour and joyful things. After the first one comes into sight, a domino effect ensues among the guests, and soon orders start pouring in from all corners of the bar, making the cocktail the ultimate object of desire. And indeed it was, everybody was asking me about it! Once you swirl the mysterious blue iceberg that floats on top of the cocktail, the colours transform to a subtle pink and the taste is a delight, floral and zesty, product of the tea leaves, the elderflower, and the gin. It has a strong body, which is perfect for sipping and chit-chatting.

Butterfly Peach Iced Tea.

Butterfly pea tea, fresh lime juice, peach purée.


Believe it or not, mocktails are a huge part of the bar culture now. They cater to individuals abstaining from alcohol temporarily or permanently, ensuring they don't miss out on a refreshing and chic experience when the moment calls for it. Here at The Lobby, they are a huge hit! This particular mocktail offers refreshment without the burden of heavy sugar content. I would have this one during a midweek lunch break, especially to avoid the booze when returning to work afterward.


Azia. Diana Betancourt. 34. Colombia.

Can you believe that this gorgeous lady, the now Head Bartender at Azia was once a dedicated massage therapist? After one of her friends suggested to her that her passion for service and lovely personality could reach more people somewhere else, she took a chance and applied to a bar helper position at Gianni’s Group, and look at her now! She manifested this because she remembers when she was a little girl, she would mix different juices to make her custom flavours. Now she is formally trained and delights on having the bar as her playground where she can let her imagination and creativity run wild. It is contagious to hear someone talk about their craft with such passion. Just ask for her and you will be in the best hands.

Do’s: Go natural ingredients, South American exotic fruits like tamarind.

Don’ts: Cocktails with wine, artificial flavours, Negronis.

Not your regular cocktail -  NYRC

Bourbon Vanilla infused gin, Lillet, Chartreuse, lemon juice, homemade raspberry soda, and Angostura bitters.


Where do I start? First off, it is sexy, red, voluminous, and fitting to the Azia vibe. At the first sip, you taste and smell so many notes coming from the fragrant vanilla gin (a revelation!) and the lemon zest. Diana says that the cocktail transforms as it sits and will reveal more and more notes as you drink it. Bonus: it is also low in sugar. This piece is not about rating but if it were, the NYRC would land in one of the top positions.

Baby Gianni.

Coconut Rum, Butterfly Pea flower tea, Myers dark rum, orgeat, almond simple syrup, lime juice, orange juice, orange bitters, pineapple juice.

Baby Gianni

Here's another cocktail that evolves as you savour it. The garnish serves both as an adornment and an edible, with the caramelised pineapple turning into a nibble. Its flavours are both fresh and tropical, yet there's a hint of nuttiness thanks to the orgeat and almond syrup.


Caya. Edgar Arias. 21. Aruba.


Edgar has paid his dues working at every position leading up to being the Head Bartender at Caya House. His curiosity awoke by witnessing the dynamics of the bar every night, he knew he belonged there and went for it. His favourite part is the creative aspect and the exploration he can do with ingredients and ideas to achieve new cocktails. To him, drinks not only should be a thirst quencher or a celebratory artifact, but they should also stimulate all possible senses, that’s why he puts so much love and dedication into his art, to give the client the best on every sip.

Do’s: Experiment with culinary, Old Fashioned, and Keep the classics alive.

Don’ts: Sweet drinks, espresso martini.

Kas Berde.

Gin, Basil-infused syrup, pineapple juice, chartreuse, lime juice.

Kash Berde

Egar says the keyword for this one is Botanical. The basil and citrus work so well, and then you taste the familiarity of the pineapple, the gin, lingering at the end, gives you a hint of warm spice. Served with a skeleton leaf and the spear ice, it is a moment, no doubt.

Apple Posh.

Apple-and-kiwi-infused vodka, Domaine De Canton (ginger liquor), fennel bitters, cardamom syrup, and lime juice.

Apple Posh

Imagine you are drinking the most delicate apple and cardamom delicacy dessert, well this could be it. Sweet and spiced, but not too much, the looks are posh like its name. Here in Caya, they know how to serve an Instagram moment.


L. G. Smith’s Steak & Chop. Israel Watanabe. 28. Aruba.


He’s been behind the bar at L.G. Smith’s for two years and remembers the days when curiosity led him to take online bartending classes, entering a new universe. He is very passionate about his job and his role has had an impact on his state of mind. It is not just a profession, but a form of escapism, where he can immerse himself completely in the moment, unwind, and forget whatever else is happening in the world out there. The bar cart at L.G. is where he shines, not only creating on the spot the wildest drinks but also putting on an acrobatic show that is well rewarded with tons of cheer and applause, you should see it! He’s a cool dude.

Algo di Aruba.

Tequila reposado, mandarin vodka, lime juice, simple syrup, passion fruit syrup, tamarind syrup, pica di papaya, dehydrated mandarin shards, homemade tamarind truffles.

Algo di Aruba

The inspiration comes from the tamarind truffles that his grandma used to make when he was a little boy, now his mother makes them for the restaurant, a priceless touch, and sentimental meaning to this drink as well as an homage to his island, Aruba. This one has it all, sweet, spice, bitter, tang, umami… it all hits you like a truck. The pica de papaya lingers just enough after every sip. This is one of those that win prizes, I can’t hype it enough!

Easy Sippin’

Tequila blanco, lychee liqueur, Hypnotiq, guava syrup, lime juice, simple syrup.

Easy Sippin

Israel always drives inspo from his roots and heritage. His mother's tradition of always serving guava juice has a special spot in his sensorial memory, and that started the creative process of this cocktail. This is his twist on a Lychee martini, and when asked for one, he proposes it as a more interesting version which is always a smash. Sweet, lots of notes on the nose from all the perfumed fruits and of course, the show of the smoke bubble on top that releases all these tropical notes in the air around you.


Palm Bar at The Holiday Inn Resort Aruba. Victor Hugo Ruiz. 27. Colombia.


Six years have passed since the day he was working in the kitchen at a restaurant and jumped behind the bar to fill in for the bartender. That was his breakthrough moment. Victor is a guy who has it; kind and charismatic, cherishes the memories and connections he gets to make every day with guests, and especially loves when they ask him to run wild making a spur-of-the-moment cocktail. Victor exudes happiness and I think that is reflected in the brightness of his cocktails. He could not be more grateful for Aruba, the island that has blessed him with opportunities and contentment.

Do’s: repeat your custom-made drink, old-fashioned. Good tequila.

Don’t’s: Mixing single malt whiskey with soft drinks, ordering espresso martinis for a group (that throws the bar off for a spin), dumping specialty cocktails in paper cups.

Bikini Tini.

Premium vodka, strawberry purée, fresh lemon and lime juice, elderflower liqueur, topped with Sauvignon Blanc.

What is curious about this martini, is that I could not taste the strawberry, it all combined tasted like tangerine orange to me and that might be the appeal. I see a lot of people downing these on a hot afternoon. Just be careful, they are loaded!

Burning Desire.

Rum añejo, pineapple chunks, brown sugar, dry vermouth, lime and lemon juice, triple sec, splash of Cabernet.

From the get-go, the good quality rum makes a presence with deep notes followed by the tropical mix of juices checking all the boxes of a quintessential Caribbean Cocktail. Victor says that he wanted this cocktail to feel refined and what you would want to drink when you’re in Aruba.


Liquid Chef Gastrobar. Abrahan Urdaneta. 40. Venezuela.


For Abrahan, it’s been a long time coming to finally own his cocktail bar and finally be able to draw outside the lines, away from all kinds of restrictions (You’ll see why). In total, he’s amassed 15 years of experience and has worked behind most reputable bars in Aruba. Liquid Chef, a title he bestowed upon himself, of a mixologist who also dabbles in the culinary arts, opened two months ago and has made waves, especially with the local clientele, and the ones that have met him here and there and have had the gusto of tasting his drinks.

Do’s: Bartenders with culinary skills, Negronis, Mezcal.

Don’ts: Energy Drinks, period.

Pain Killer.

Rum blend, homemade Falernum (spice blend liquor), almond syrup, coconut cream, pineapple, bitters.

Pain Killer

Let’s talk about the WOW Factor: This whole thing lits up in a mysterious fire right in front of you in a way I have not seen before, its sparks go all over the ceramic glass, it’s incredible. As for the cocktail itself, Abrahan tells the story of Falernum and its medicinal use in the Caribbean, hence the name, Pain Killer. There is a strong spice presence and floral to it, and then the more familiar taste of pineapple. It’s a complex reinvention of the Piña Colada.


Cannabis Sativa liqueur (Contains no THC), polish vodka, lulo, lemon juice, local mint syrup, and gooseberry, sprayed with St. Germain and Lychee liqueur.


See why Abrahan had to open his own bar? This is a wild idea presented in the chicest way. The lulo is very forward, there is a freshness to it. The gooseberry adds a tangy bite. It is a stunning moment.


Lima Bistró. Yunior Garrido “Cuba”. 45. Cuba.


Yunior was an English teacher back in his native Cuba who entered the hospitality industry to practice the language on the job, little did he know that he was going to fall in love with the art of cocktail-making. Now he’s got 25 years of experience. He considers himself a bar psychologist; all these years he’s been the one to give advice, encouragement, or points of view to endless individuals and has heard it all! He has seen all trends come and go over the years and believes in deliciousness above all things, no matter how aesthetically pleasing a drink is, if it doesn’t have a great taste, there’s no point.

Do’s: Creativity. Refined Rum cocktails. Know your spirits.

Don’ts: Resort Cocktails, he won’t make you a Piña Colada or anything similar in this day and age.

Maracuyá Sour.

Peruvian Pisco, fresh lime juice, homemade maracuyá syrup, egg white, orange bitters.

Pisco Maracuya

They go through several bottles of Pisco every night in Lima Bistró for a reason: they are the best in town. Especially the maracuyá. This is a fruit that has a category of its own, that provides an explosiveness like no other. It is the perfect sweet & sour and a visit to Lima is not complete unless you have one. Be careful to overindulge though, Pisco is a dark horse.

El Guayabero.

Dark rum, fresh lime juice, Campari, pineapple juice, guava purée.


This is Yunior’s ode to Cuba. La Cultura and the guava trees that are abundant in his native island. The drink is fragrant, elegant, velvet, and grown-up. The balance comes from the bitterness of the Campari. It is perfect to begin the evening, consider it an aperitif.


Apotek Speakeasy. Jason Ramírez. 30. Colombia.

Starting as a busboy, it was the interactions with people who gave him the motivation to pursue a position where he could be able to give personal experiences, that’s how he landed at the bar, where he’s been a heavy hitter for 4 years. In his opinion bartending is quite challenging and requires a lot of expertise to do right, so what you are receiving is the fruit of hard work and passion for the craft. He never stops searching for the next thing, and now he has mastered the “below zero infusions” method applied to the Apotek Negroni with guava. Apotek remains undefeated as an icon of the nightlife and the good life in Aruba.

Do’s: Drinks in batches, know your classics, camaraderie among bartenders in Aruba.

Don’ts: soft drinks in cocktails, Blue Curaçao.

Abacaxi Defumado.

Cachaça, lime juice, smoked pineapple, agave, drops of coconut oil, wildberry caviar.


I’ve never had Cachaça unless it is in a Caipirinha and I am impressed with the interpretation. Jason says he intended to elevate the spirit from something that was just considered for day drinking by the beach. The feel is elevated and well-balanced, and it is just like having a barbecued chunk of pineapple, all in an elegant cocktail, poured from a mysterious medicinal amber jar with smoke coming out of it. It’s a trip!

Sex Appeal.

Vanilla vodka, Aperol, passion fruit, orange juice, lime, aquafaba, Italian aperitif.

Sex Appeal

Another drink that rises to the top. The Sex Appeal has received its permanent name because it is a hit among all genders. Upon the first sip my mind started to try to identify the flavours and what they reminded me of: was it a pastry? A meringue? The vanilla comes through first, then the fruits, and you’re left with a subtle bitterness that I could describe as similar to lime zest. It’s a stunning drink.

Getting to know these 12 individuals left me inspired as a creator. No matter the age, background, and story, they all have a common ground: a passion for their craft, the desire to never stop learning and to give the best of themselves every night at every service. Imagine, behind the bar, they have the best view of the place, so what have not they seen?

I hope this piece inspires you to approach your drinking in a more intentional and informed way, next time you go out to one of these bars, say hi to these artists and try one of these pieces of liquid art.


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