Bartending Interviews Tips & Tricks

Margarita Madness: An Interview with Demitri Pallis

Whether you blend it, shake it, or serve it clean, a good Margarita makes the perfect companion to a warm summer day. With Cinco de Mayo here, and summer hot on its heels, you may want to make sure that you have your recipe perfected.

But, with so many different ways to prepare this popular drink, it can be difficult to deliver a consistent flavor from drink to drink. Fortunately, Demitri’s, famous for their savory Bloody Mary Mixes, has developed a Margarita mix that does not compromise on flavor or ingredients, so your patrons can expect a consistently delicious cocktail every time. Read more about it below in our interview with Demitri Pallis, the genius behind Demitri’s gourmet drink mixes.




demitriHow did you get your start in the business? [Demitri] Bartending paved the way for my start in business. After several years of tending bar in Seattle, I needed a way to make fresh handmade Bloody Marys consistently and quickly. I pre-batched my spices and seasonings so any bartender on my staff could quickly add it to tomato juice. After a year of tinkering with the ingredients, I started knocking on doors and haven’t looked back since.

You are well known for your Bloody Mary Mix. Tell us a bit about your new Margarita Mix…[Demitri] We have two versions of Margarita mix. Like everything we make, our Margarita Mixes are 100% natural with no corn syrup, no preservatives, are gluten-free and kosher. We found most every Margarita mix on the market was way too sweet, so we wanted ours to be more flavorful with the taste of tart, fresh limes. For our 38 Calorie version, we pulled back on the sugar and sweetened it back up with Stevia, which is a sweetener derived from the Stevia plant. We also decided not to try to get to “0” calories because, well, we all know what THAT tastes like… Making something that was delicious was our first priority and based on customer testimonials, we’ve done that in a big way. I am told The Space Needle’s Margarita sales tripled after bringing in our Margarita mix.

Why use your mix vs. creating one from scratch? [Demitri] If you can make if from scratch, more power to you, but most places find it challenging to cut cases of limes, squeeze them all, make enough to not run out while not making so much that it spoils. My Margarita mixes offer premium quality that is easy, accessible, perfectly consistent and all natural.

Blend it or Shake it? [Demitri] Either way is fine. Personally, I prefer shaken Margaritas so I can taste the ingredients without everything getting too watered down by blending.

What is your favorite way to prepare a Margarita? [Demitri] Using a lime wedge, moisten ½ of the rim of a 8-ounce tumbler on the outside only. This prevents salt from gathering ‘inside’ the glass where it might fall into the drink. Next, in a shaker can filled with ice, add 2 ounces of good Reposado, 2 ounces of Demitri’s Traditional Margarita Mix, a squeeze of lime, shake it 25-30 times then strain into the pre-iced glass.

Can you share your favorite Mardi Gras / Margarita / Bar story? [Demitri] One of my favorite memories, besides all of the crazy mayhem I’ve seen, was my last night as a bartender before starting my business. Working over 40 hours a week behind the bar for almost a decade, and in my last 18 months trying to get my business off the ground, I finally had to either quit bartending or give up on my business so I put bartending on the shelf. I gave a 3-week notice where week three included Dizzy Gillespie playing 25 feet from my service well for the last 5 nights and Dizzy’s last night at The New Orleans restaurant was my last night. Out with a bang and never looked back.

What advice would you give for bartenders today? [Demitri] STUDY! If you have aspirations of doing more than pouring shots and beers for the college crowd, you’ll need to have a solid knowledge of how different spirits are made, their history, what they taste like, how to use them, etc. This goes beyond liquor to beer, Champagne, wine, aperitifs, garnishes, bitters, infusions, tinctures, syrups and on & on.

  • If you have a friend that is an accomplished bartender, ask them for primers and talk to lots of different bartenders.
  • Watch other bartenders.
  • Be pleasant! If you’re not having a good time, neither will your customers. If you don’t like being pleasant, don’t be a bartender. You should have solid interpersonal and social skills.
  • Know your neighborhood. A good tip for visitors is always appreciated. You’ll not only be a bartender, but also a part-time concierge.
  • Learn how to free-pour (measure without the use of a shotglass).
  • Learn how not to waste; every drop you pour into a shaker should end up in the drink – not over-poured, not under-poured.
  • Know your recipes. You should be able to make most any drink a customer or table server might ask you for, and you should be able to help customers select a drink by recommending drinks based on what they are looking for.
  • Use sparkling clean glassware. It should not only look clean, but smell clean. If it smells like bleach, your drink is going to suffer and so will your tip. Take the time to polish lipstick off of glassware before you pour someone a glass of wine. If you pour a beer and the pint has tiny bubbles stuck to the side, it’s dirty. Quite often simply running glassware through the dishwasher isn’t enough. You might need to spin it on a brush before you put it in the tray.
  • NEVER ignore customers. Being ignored for even 15 seconds when a customer knows you saw them will make a first impression you don’t want. A simple “Hello! I’ll be right with you” will save your bacon.
  • Clean as you go. Wipe the bartop. Don’t worry that the next person is waiting for you to prepare your “mise en place” because if you don’t, there’s no going back. You’ll be in the weeds all night, frustrated that you can’t find your tools and you’ll look like a beginner. If someone’s staring you down, just let them know “I’ll be right with you” and when you do get to them, a “thanks for waiting” is all you’ll need. Part of being a bartender is cleaning. Not only for your sake, but nobody wants to look at a back-bar that looks like a bomb just went off. Being a professional bartender begins with looking like one. You’ll learn more as you go and hopefully, never stop learning.
  • Pour order. Pour shots and wine first, mixed drinks next, hot drinks and beer last because you’ll want the head to present well. The basic idea is to make a tray of drinks that all look nice at the same time.
  • …I could go on…and on…


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