A native of Venezuela, 2011 New York Rising Star Mixologist Leo Robitschek might have cultivated a sufficiently happy career somewhere well below the equator. But lucky for the craft cocktail population of North America, Robitschek made an early and pivotal move stateside. And while Robitschek’s early goals had little to do with mixology (he originally came here to attend the University of Miami), that little leap over the Caribbean put the young collegian on a crash course with cocktail culture.
It was while attending university that Robitschek began his career in hospitality, bartending to make ends meet. A self-described “really bad bartender” early on, Robitschek eventually caught on to an actual passion for the industry when he moved to New York, where he discovered wine, beer, and eventually spirits at Sushi Samba. Robitschek wasn’t a voluntary student—the Sushi Samba beverage director made wine and spirits class mandatory—but he was a natural student. And while he doesn’t currently identify himself as the “farm-to-cocktail” type of bartender, Robitschek was moved by even the modest emphasis on spirits knowledge and fresh fruits and juices at his first New York job.
Now in his sixth year on the team at Eleven Madison Park (he was hand picked, and has since been promoted to head bartender), Robitschek has immersed himself in the cocktail world, creating cocktails that honor legendary classics and work in harmony with Chef Daniel Humm’s cuisine. Most recently, Robitschek helped run the apprentice program at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans where, in 2011, Eleven Madison Park was recognized as the “Best Restaurant Bar in the World.” Among his mentors, Robitschek counts Jim Meehan and Julie Reiner.