MWL national finalists 2018 – Axl Gonzalez

Axl Gonzalez – Los Colibris

Toronto – Judges’ Choice Winner

– Fun facts about MADE WITH LOVE National Finalists – 


How long have you been a bartender and how did you get into bartending?

I have been a bartender for over 20 years.  I started back in Los Angeles in a restaurant called the “The Stinky Rose” I was working as a bar support the first week, and then they fired the bartender; I paid close attention as to how drinks were made and read in-depth the Mr. Boston bartending book and became the Head bartender after a year.

What turns you on about bartending, what are the new trends that are exciting you?
I love making people smile and remembering the great experience/service.  Making my guests forget all their problems while captivating them with a cocktail or two, makes me feel incredible.

As for trends, I love the returning trend of the more casual cocktail bars instead of Clubs. I ran numerous clubs in the Los Angeles area as well in Miami, and nothing says bartending more to me than a sit down lounge and a 12-seats bar.  The guests then feel like they are part of an elite association.

What are some of your favorite ingredients to work with?
I love working with lots of fruits and spices; anything colorful that falls from the trees or grows from roots. Creating such lovely syrups and dehydrating their components like oranges, apples, pears, peppercorns, chili peppers etc.

I also love working with bitters and egg whites, as it gives the cocktail an emulsified presentation with ample room for garnish and bitters art in the foam.

Which Bartenders have been inspirations for you?
Firstly, I would like to thank Wes Galloway Brand Ambassador for Crystal Head Vodka for bringing me onboard on his BarChef Course.  He has been a great inspiration, he taught me everything about creating my own syrups, matching spirits, and, preparing for competitions. I had the great opportunity to work with Wes side by side back in 2016-2017 and tapped into his mind to create ideas for super exotic cocktails.

Another inspiration for me is mixologist Jamison Cass; because without Wes I would not have met Jamison.  He taught me how to always compete and compete until you’ve become very well known within the bartending community and grow your network.   And, if you don’t win, there is always another competition.

I would also like to thank Yvette Astorga who was a representative for Asociación Pro Cultura de Mezcal A.C.  When she found me in 2013, I was working in the financial district hosting Tequila Seminars.  She taught me everything I know about Mezcal and now I hold several Mezcal tasting and events around Toronto.

I also cannot forget the outstanding inspiration from current Bar Manager at Hogtown Smoke Greg White.   I thought I was pretty educated up to the point I met him, but he taught me everything I didn’t know about Tequila.   We met back in 2015 working for El Catrin Distilleria.  He opened my eyes and showed me the ropes on learning all the differences in over 160 different Tequilas.

What is the most ridiculous cocktail request you ever had?
A virgin Margarita with no lime juice!!! I served the guest a glass with ice and garnished with a lime wheel.

If you had to describe your bartending style using a style of music in comparison, what would it be?
My style is derived from Latino music and beats with a little bit of Spanish flavor or “sabor” thrown in for good measure.   Mi merengue dancing behind the bar while I work always heats things up.

We ask you to create a cocktail called MADE WITH LOVE, what’s in it?
I would make something I think I would call a Monterrico Breeze, named after a beach I used to go in my home country of Guatemala.

  • 2oz infused passion fruit vodka
  • ½ oz orange or tangerine syrup
  • ¾ oz lime juice
  • Splash of pomegranate juice
  • Garnish with 3 Mint leaves

Tropical.  Refreshing.  A little taste of home.

You have a choice to invite anybody you wish to sit at your bar, (fictional, dead or alive) who would it be?
I would love to invite characters from Nintendo video games to sit at my bar.  This would be an exciting challenge for me to see what they would drink or use my knowledge to assign a cocktail to match their in-game personalities.  Would Mario and Luigi drink a Negroni or might they drink an upscale high-end martini after saving the princess?  I would love to find out.

Which cocktail would you serve to your lover? And which one would you serve to your ex?
My lover I’ll serve her a Vesper or a silky Manhattan, nothing makes me fall in love like a woman that orders a powerful cocktail.  Now my ex… well she can watch me serve my lover!

What got you into MADE WITH LOVE and how do you feel about the national Finals?
I heard about this competition 4 years ago, but I felt I was not ready yet.   I had been a participant in several other competitions.  Until this year’s MADE WITH LOVE I managed to study and perfect my cocktails and bartending style.  I knew then that I was ready for this.  MADE WITH LOVE must be well prepared for.  You must show your passion for creating cocktails and pairing your food.  This competition prepares you for when you are going to be creating a signature cocktail menu for a bar or restaurant.  After MADE WITH LOVE, trust me, you are prepared!

Made with Love

Made with Love

Creators of international events for cocktail lovers and culinary epicureans. Passion, excellence, extravagance, community.