Summer is here in Central Florida and with #WorldCocktailDay just passing by, it seems to be the perfect time to talk about cocktails with one of our favorite restaurants in Orlando – Highball and Harvest set inside The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes. It’s a unique farm-to-table restaurant which sources fresh produce and herbs from the resort’s 7,000-square-foot garden at Whisper Creek Farm, featuring Southern-inspired cuisines and craft cocktails.
We chat with Highball and Harvest’s Bar Chef Brenda Mulera, where their hand-crafted cocktails are infused with seasonal fruits and herbs, and create a culinary adventure that is as inspiring as it is memorable.
Chef Mulero makes all the ingredients in the cocktails by hand and finds joy in customer’s pleasure with her inspired drinks.
Interview with Highball & Harvest Bar Chef Brenda Mulero
Tell us about your background and your education – How did you get interested in the bar scene?
I started from zero at the bar. When I started my career at The Ritz-Carlton I started in the back of the house. A lot of what I learned there as well as skills in the kitchen I acquired from my mother when I was younger then translated into skills I applied when I made the move to go to the front of the house as part of the bar team where I now assist with hand making all the bitters, syrups, etc.
Tell us what a typical day is like for you as you begin to prepare all your cocktail ingredients from start to finish.
I start by making a list of what needs to be done for the day. I’ll take inventory of what the bar needs, prioritize and then get to work. Some of the items I make for the bar such as the juices are squeezed daily however some of the bitters/syrups have a longer shelf life and don’t have to be made every day.
What are some of the biggest obstacles you have overcome to get to where you are today? What is your proudest moment?
The cocktail world is predominantly male and one of the biggest challenges for me is not only being a woman but also being a woman whose first language is Spanish and does not really drink often. My proudest moment was when I got the position I am currently in. To me it meant I had overcome all the challenges that were placed in my way and I have finally “made it!”
What are some of the most important things you have learned as Bar Chef at The Ritz-Carlton?
This is a tough question, I feel like I am constantly learning because I am in a position that is ever-changing. So many things factor into what I do like cocktail trends, seasonal ingredients and so on that I feel as though I am constantly learning and trying to stay up to date in my field by reading relevant blogs, magazines, etc. I am always adapting my approach and experimenting. I have also learned how gratifying it can be when someone enjoys a cocktail whose component is one I’ve made.
What are some of your favorite cocktails to make?
I would say the Doc Holliday is probably one of my favorites to make. The entire cocktail is comprised of components that are all house-made like the ginger syrup, the ginger beer and the blueberry cordial.
What are some signature cocktails that can be found only at your resort?
All of our current signature cocktails can only be found at the hotel, particularly at Highball & Harvest. Most if not all include ingredients I have created for the bar team.
What are some good bar bite suggestions to pair with your cocktails?
It would depend on the cocktail because they’re all so different in taste and flavor profile but if I had to pick one, the Pimento Cheeseburger pairs well with just about everything.
You take so much pride in your cocktails, I love it – how do you choose your ingredients and sources for your cocktails?
Thank you! I am always in search of new ingredients and what is in season but I particularly am always looking for ingredients/sources I have never tried or seen before.
What are some great refreshing cocktails you recommend for this summer to enjoy at Highball and Harvest?
We are rolling out a new cocktail menu in a few weeks and I would recommend one of the new ones, the “Midnight Sun” which has Woodford Reserve, my own recipe for a blueberry shrub and fresh lemon juice. It’s light, refreshing, and can be enjoyed as a cocktail by the pool or with dinner.
For more information, visit:
Highball & Harvest
4012 Central Florida Parkway
Orlando, Florida 32837 United States