Hugo Jaramillo is one of A.C.’s most reputable bartenders
A common conception is that hard work is enough to take anyone anywhere they want to be. However, some might argue that an innate ability is needed to excel in certain areas. For instance, where the hospitality industry applies, one might be the hardest worker on the planet, but without the disposition to deal with a deluge of anxious customers that person is not likely to pass muster in the field.
Hugo Jaramillo has found a balance born largely out of a gregarious personality and matched by a work ethic that has made him one of the area’s most well-liked and well-respected bartenders.
“When I first met him I thought he was sort of a perfectionist in how he strives to be the best, but not in any kind of conceited or condescending way,” says Timothy Mariotti, Jamarillo’s bartending colleague at Providence nightclub inside The Quarter at Tropicana. “It’s genuine. Some people tend to have an overabundance of self worth, and he’s not like that at all. There’s a sense of humility about him, which is pretty cool.
“He’s very knowledgeable and has won a bunch of contests mixing drinks, and he’s always willing to lend a hand to the other bartenders if they happen to get stuck on how to make a particular drink.”
Jaramillo was also voted Best Bartender by the readers of Atlantic City Weekly in the publication’s second annual Nightlife Awards in January.
“I’ve been working with Hugo for about nine months now and only have good things to say about him,” says Ashley Priest, a bottle-service hostess at Providence. “He’s a hard worker, a great friend and is well known in A.C.’s nightlife circuit. He’s also known to be a great trainer. If you’re a new hire and he trains you, you can bet you’ll be sticking around for a while.”
Born in New York City, Jaramillo spent nearly his entire life in Atlantic City and Ventnor. At 26 he’s already a 10-year veteran of the bar business, having assisted in the opening of such reputable A.C. establishments as SeaBlue at Borgata, the Chelsea Hotel, the Continental in the Pier Shops at Caesars, the 40/40 Club and Club Worship at House of Blues.
“It all began when I bar-backed [assisted bartenders] when I was 16, and I would always watch the bartenders and ask them ‘Why do you do this? Why do you add that? How do you know how much to use? Why do you squeeze the fruit or don’t squeeze it?’ By asking different questions you can learn a lot. I was very curious, and once I got the chance to pop behind a bar I really loved the challenge of it and the sport of it.
“It’s not just being able to pump out as many drinks as you can, it’s making sure that the quality of each drink is good. With me it was basically a case of challenging myself and pushing myself, and that’s what really drew me to bartending.”
Much of the learning process is trial-and-error, says Jaramillo, but his formal training included studying the techniques of master mixologists Tony Abou-Ganin, Dale DeGroff and Christian Delpech.
“The key is to try to have fun and be organized,” says Jaramillo. “You don’t want to allow yourself to get too stressed behind the bar or let a rude customer get to you. You always want to feel like you’re in control, but also you don’t want to play around too much and have your tins and rags all over the place. You want things to be clean and professional looking and set where they should be.”
If you ask what Jamarillo’s favorite drink to mix is, he’ll tell you it’s based on whatever his creativity dreams up at the time.
“In the working environment, my favorite thing is when people come up to the bar and say, ‘Make me something,’ and often I’ll mix a drink that’s not already known,” he says. “I’ll look at a couple different ingredients I know blend well together and I’ll get creative with it. In most of those cases —pretty much 10 out of 10 times — they’ll like it.”
“I tend to be more of a glass-half-empty kind of guy much of the time, and Hugo’s attitude is always glass-half-full,” says Mariotti. “He always finds a way to put a positive spin on things.”
The First Bartender Awards ceremony, presented by AC Weekly and hosted by the Diving Horse in Atlantic City, honored the best of the region’s bartenders The First Bartender Awards ceremony, presented by AC Weekly and hosted by the Diving Horse in Atlantic City, honored the best of the region’s bartenders as voted by AC Weekly readers on Thursday, May 17.as voted by AC Weekly readers on Thursday, May 17.
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