Daniel Geobany Rodriguez Flores
Growing up in Lagos de Moreno, a small city in Mexico's Jalisco state, agave was very much part of Daniel Geobany Rodriguez Flores's life. Although blue agave is not farmed there, he and his childhood friends would lie under large agaves for shade or strip the spiny leaves to use as swords in play fights.
"When I was young, my grandfather worked in a construction company, and he'd bring home a small bottle of local tequila after work," Rodriguez Flores recalls. "He'd share a little bit of tequila with us and ground us if we made a face when we tasted it." He often drank pajarete, a traditional Mexican concoction that originated on cattle ranches: it's a mixture of the cow's first milk of the day, tequila (or cane alcohol) and chocolate or strawberry.
Today, Rodriguez Flores is set to return to his home state from Mexico City as a global finalist in the Patrón Perfectionists competition. "Tequila is as synonymous with Mexico as tacos and mariachi," he says. "It's very representative of the country and I feel it's put Mexico on the map."
Although Rodriguez Flores's father runs a taqueria, he only started working in hospitality aged 20 and turned to bartending aged 22. Aged only 25, he is bar manager of Cenador, a Mexican-Mediterranean fusion restaurant with a rooftop cocktail bar in Mexico City's upscale Polanco district. (Needless to say, the drinks selection is considerably more elegant than pajaretes.)
"I moved to Mexico City in January 2021, for a woman," Rodriguez Flores says. "I fell in love with a girl from Xochimilco." The pair are currently living just with his exuberant beagle, Chalino, but a baby girl is set to join their family soon-in fact, she's due during the week of the Patrón Perfectionists final.
Patrón Perfectionists was the first competition Rodriguez Flores had ever entered, and his girlfriend was instrumental in persuading him to compete. "She said something that my grandmother used to say: 'If it sticks, it's good, if it doesn't then who cares?'" he recalls. He submitted his competition video the day before the deadline.
"I didn't expect to be the winner of the Mexican final, because it was my first competition," he says. "And for me if you compete at something, it's because you hope to win. I was resigned to losing, because I have so much to learn, but just as I was thinking that, they announced I was the winner."
Although Rodriguez Flores speaks no English, he has learnt an English translation of his competition speech by heart for the global final.
A Lifetime of Perfectionism
An unabashed perfectionist, Rodriguez Flores has sought order and cleanliness in everything since childhood. "It's very weird: I wasn't the typical kid that has everything in disorder," he says. "I'd arrange colours in order from dark to light and put my books in my backpack in the same order as my classes that day: if I had Spanish first, I'd put my Spanish books first, if I had maths after that, the next books would be maths."
So the Perfectionists competition was a natural fit. "Perfectionism is something I use every single day in my work," he says. "I try and teach my colleagues to be clean, to have good presentation, to keep their workstations in order. In short, I'm a huge perfectionist."
And he believes perfectionism is important for any cocktail bartender. "If a customer orders a Margarita, the second one has to be exactly the same as the first one, even if it's just the flower or the lemon peel you put as a garnish," he says. "You have to have consistency in everything you do."
Beyond consistency alone, for Rodriguez Flores perfectionism is the key to progress. "I really believe people have to show the best of themselves: they have to be constantly evolving and learning from their mistakes," he says. "If you learn what you did wrong, you're not going to repeat it later: you have to learn from your mistakes on the way to perfection."
While excited to represent his country in the Patrón Perfectionists final, Rodriguez Flores remains happy with a relatively simple life. "I don't seek the limelight: I like to stay under the radar," he says. "If you go to Lagos di Moreno, it's a very pretty place. And people from small towns, we are generally happier people, because we actually enjoy the small things in life."
Daniel Geobany Rodriguez Flores's winning cocktail: Brote de Resiliencia
60 ml Patrón Silver tequila
30 ml St-Germain elderflower liqueur
10 ml Martini Bianco vermouth
Edible flower garnish
Pour ingredients into a chilled mixing glass, add ice and stir with a mixing spoon for 10 seconds. Place a crystal-clear piece of ice into an old-fashioned glass then strain the cocktail over the ice using a julep strainer. Garnish with an edible flower.
The name of Rodriguez Flores's cocktail translates as "Outbreak of Resilience". It's inspired by how the pandemic caused the spirit of resilience to blossom, a concept that's expressed both by the elderflower liqueur and an edible flower garnish.
"I don't want the idea of resilience just to be a speech for the competition," he explains. "I would like to see people applying resilience in their lives now more than ever, because we have experienced some very difficult moments these last two years."
For Rodriguez Flores, resilience means more than simply keeping on keeping on. "Resilience is the capacity to overcome difficult moments, but I like to think that resilience is also the capacity to show a smile even when facing life's adversities," he says. "The Covid period will probably be over in a few months, but I think we have to show our best faces, and showing our best face and a smile is essential."