Juanita Butler, Food & Beverage Manager, WunderBar at the Circa 39 Hotel
As the Food & Beverage Manager of the Circa39 Hotel, Juanita Butler pairs her passion for craft cocktails, fine wines and culinary arts with her vast expertise in hospitality management and excellent customer service.
When she’s not mixing and muddling at Circa39’s WunderBar, which showcases her creative input from the menu down to the design details, Juanita regularly creates inspired craft cocktails in local cocktail competitions. In October 2014, she was the winner of ShakeStir’s Miami October Flash Cocktail Competition. She has also participated in Speed Rack, the all-female bartender competition, and the Spirit Bird Challenge in Key West.
Prior to joining the Circa39 team, Juanita became well versed in the Miami market and industry as the beverage manager at PB Steak, bartender at SWINE Southern Table and Bar, and beverage manager at Ortanique On The Mile.
At Circa39, Butler loves meeting and engaging with diverse clientele from all over the world, and continuously learning and teaching mixology to perfect her craft. Her favorite items on the Circa39 menu are the Sesame Glazed Chicken Wings and the Rum Old Fashioned.
How did you get into the craft cocktail industry?
It started with Bar Lab which was lead by Elad and Gabe Orta of the Broken Shaker. They created a program where they would go to different businesses and collaborate with the bartenders and teach them technique and classic cocktails. When they came to my bar, I was working for Cindy Hutson at Ortanique on the Mile and they totally inspired me to learn craft bartending using fresh ingredients and I have been into it every since. It is like the mind of a chef, creating cocktails using fresh ingredients. I was inspired that day and created a cocktail using Cindy’s Jamacian scotch bonnet peppers into a tequila cocktail that made it on the cocktail list at Ortanique. I was hooked with bartending every since.
Who is your biggest mixology influence?
My biggest influence is just all women in the bar industry. When I see women craft bartenders using their talent and skills behind the bar it is a great influence to me. I have worked around a lot of dominant men in this industry, so to see a strong woman who is not just a pretty face in the industry, I find it very influential.
What is your all time favorite cocktail to prepare? To drink?
My favorite cocktail of all time to prepare is the Last Word….it is a boozy cocktail of gin, green chartreuse, lime juice, and Maraschino cherry liquor. It’s called the Last Word because it is the last cocktail one would have before going home, or completing their evening.
My favorite cocktail to drink is an Old Fashioned made of Angel’s Envy rye whiskey. It is so delicious as it is aged in rum casks, which gives a different yet spicy twist to an Old Fashioned.
What are your favorite and least favorite drink trends right now?
My favorite drink trend is the “tiki cocktail” with a twist. A lot of bartenders are taking classic tiki cocktails and twisting them with other ingredients to give it the same tiki-style cocktails with cool infusions and using cool glassware.
My least favorite trend is using beer infusions into cocktails…
If you had to pick one spirit to best describe yourself, what would it be and why?
Whiskey…it is smooth and boozy and has been aged for a while. I feel I am aged in the sense of whiskey because I am classy, yet delicate and eclectic and I LOVE whiskey with its vanilla note casks and its diversity. It seems to describe me fittingly well.
What are the three key ingredients to preparing a perfect cocktail?
Balance, technique, and love.
What’s your go-to hangover remedy?
Greasy cheesy pizza and a really, really good Bloody Mary.
What’s the most creative drink you’ve ever created?
I think the most creative drink I have made was a cocktail at Ortanique on the Mile called Dupree. It was a twist on a Jamaican Rum Punch using fresh ingredients and two types of rum, overproof and dark rum. It is still on their menu today. I offer a similar cocktail on the menu at Wunderbar called the Rum Punch using two types of rum, dark and overproof with fresh tropical fruit and a infusion of vanilla and cinnamon infused into organic cane sugar.
Describe the WunderBar cocktail menu in 3 words.
Handcrafted, Natural, and Miami-centric.
What are the differences in the drinking styles of hotel guests and locals?
Hotel guests tend to stick to the basics like Rum and Coke or Vodka and Soda. They also ask the bartender to create something cool or a “Miami” cocktail or something different and “out of the box.” Locals usually have a go-to drink and know exactly what they want and how they want it made. Locals are more creatures of habit whereas hotel guests are wanting to try different things they cannot normally get at home.
Other than your own, what’s your favorite bar in Miami right now?
I have two favorite bars in Miami right now, Repour located in the Albion Hotel and The Rum Line located at the Loews Hotel.
What is your favorite thing about living in Miami?
The weather and being so close to the beach. I am from the Carolinas, and it was such a long drive to get to the beach from my hometown. I love the year-round warm weather of Miami and the beach…
Mitch & Mel