We can't call Stephan Mendez a new face, exactly — the dude's been around. Before hopping onto The Boulevardier in April as bar manager for The Last Word, the 29-year-old had already spent the last half of his 20s shaking and stirring at some of the city's best bars and some of its northernmost watering holes, including Austin's The Library and nightclubs along Stone Oak, before then.
"I did that stuff 'til 2012, that's when I met Don Marsh at Green Lantern," Mendez said, while prepping for a recent Tiki Tuesday. Mendez credits Marsh for introducing him to the craft cocktail lifestyle ("He made me things I'd never even heard of before," he says), and that relationship quickly turned into a business as Marsh tapped Mendez to be a part of his opening team at Bar 1919. After a year and a half there, Steve Mahoney wooed Mendez onto his team where he managed Blue Box.
"Whether it's learning whiskey side, or spirit knowledge from Don ... with Mahoney, you learn the business side. He's got a great eye for picking a business and opening bars in spaces you'd never think of," Mendez said. Now, as beverage director for Jeret Peña's The Boulevardier Group, Mendez is blending his skills at both bars and flexing his creativity. He's redesigning all the cocktail menus starting with Last Word.
"With Jeret and his team it's a cocktail focus. At Last Word, it's a lot slower than Blue Box was for me, which is cool cause we get to play around more. We're not pumping out as many cocktails or worried about people waiting for service," Mendez said.
Not being five-people-deep at a service well means playing around with presentation. The Apex Predator, Last Word's lone tiki drink, is a plated number featuring crushed Graham cracker "sand" and a twee flip flop garnish. The One With The Shrub (tequila, grapefruit, watermelon and white peppercorn shrub, and Tajin syrup) is a cheeky/ironic take on a beloved raspa — all it needs is a bit of chamoy.
At Brooklynite, Mendez's tiki menu kept in line with previous iterations but brought on new favorites such as the Peña Colada with kettle corn-infused Scotch, pineapple juice and coconut milk. Menu rollouts will continue for the Brooklynite with their new fall menu, along with a new board for Stay Golden, The Old Main and the upcoming Rumble on the same lot as Paper Tiger.
"I like things to be fun, efficient and palatable," Mendez said, while remaining modest. "I want people to go to our bars and see what the staff offers and what we can do, not come see me."
Visit Mendez soon and have some fun.