Behind the Bar with Mexico's Top Mixologist
Mica Rousseau of Fifty Mils began working behind the bar when he was just 18 years old, and recently won first place at the 2016 World Class Mexico, officially making him the top mixologist in the entire country.
All photos by Marianna Jamadi.
Mica Rousseau has had quite the year: In addition to helming Four Seasons Hotel Mexico D.F.'s Fifty Mils bar, he's now adding a unanimous first place finish at the 2016 World Class Mexico to his repertoire, officially making him the top mixologist in the entire country. Going head to head with 70 of Mexico's top bartenders this summer, Rousseau came out on top after preparing a new drink on the spot dubbed Not Tea Time, where he poured his libation from a coffee pot composed of chocolate, which Rousseau made on the fly. Hailing from France but a proud Mexico City transplant since the Fifty Mils opening in 2009, Rousseau is a believer in the continued pursuit of excellence in his craft. "I'm happy to represent Mexico, but the tournament did not end at the final. There is still the world competition in September," says Rousseau.
A perfectionist in his field, Rousseau is enlisting an entire team of chefs, ambassadors, and bartenders to assist him in adequately training for the top title at the 2016 World Class Global Final in Miami. "I train every day for four hours, and my team and I practice challenges," says Rousseau. "We brainstorm and taste cocktails, and we even enlist customers on taste panels to gauge their reaction and get their opinion on each drink."
It's no surprise Rousseau's path to the upper echelon of the world's mixologists began at a young age. When he was just 18 years old, Rousseau began working in the service industry, where he had to fill in for a bartender that had yet to arrive to his restaurant. "Management asked me to take his place, and I haven't left the bar since," says Rousseau. Since this fateful occurrence, Rousseau's been traveling the world to compete and take master classes, learning from notable chefs along the way.
Fusing his life experiences into his cocktails, you can taste the cultural undertones in each of Rousseau's creations. Blending his French origins with an upbringing in Portugal and a current life in Mexico City, Rousseau melds cultures to create staple items on the Fifty Mil's menu. But where the young mixologist excels the most is in his ability to create a connection with patrons, making custom drinks to order, which is one of the lost arts of mixology he hopes to preserve. "I always look at this as a cocktail experience. I want to make it a unique memory for each customer," says Rousseau. "I can see the satisfaction on their faces when they taste it, ultimately creating a moment we can both enjoy.'
Rousseau's favorite drink is a classic daiquiri, as it was one of the first cocktails made to share in a convivial atmosphere, which he sees as a staple in the hospitality industry. But his favorite ingredient to blend into cocktails is tea, due to the ease of handling and the element's smoky, light, and floral taste. His eclectic taste profile comes to life on the Fifty Mils cocktail menu.
I sat down for a tasting with Rousseau, beginning with the inventive Bugs Bunny, which is the perfect mix of Tanqueray 10, fresh carrot juice, lemongrass, and three-chile bitters. As a brunchtime favorite, the Bugs Bunny is a guilt-free way to enjoy a libation, as you feel somewhat healthy after indulging. Moving to Billy The Kid, Rousseau evokes a sense of the Wild West in the heart of Mexico City. Served in an old-school pewter cup on a plank where bourbon and rum have been aged, Rousseau blends bourbon, vodka, caramel tea, corn flakes, saffron, and homemade cinnamon syrup, creating one of the house favorites. Rounding out the tasting is the Fifty Mil's flagship cocktail, the Inside Manhattan. As a twist on the classic Manhattan, Rousseau pairs the cocktail with artichoke liqueur and a hollow ice ball, which is smoked with cinnamon and ancho chile. He hand-fires the cocktail, cracking the ice cube for each drink to create a velvety finish.
As for future plans, Rousseau sees a long and prosperous career for himself at Fifty Mils. "What we're doing here is unique," says Rousseau. "We're combining five-star Four Seasons standards with an international cocktail bar, ultimately creating a relaxed environment where guests of varying ages can relax and enjoy."
But for now, Rousseau plans to take his passion for the hospitality industry to the world's stage. From September 25 through September 29, Rousseau will be in Miami competing at the World Class Global Final, where he has his sights set on a first place finish.