“My name alone doesn’t signify a particular style of drinks,” says Nico de Soto. “And you can’t really relate all of my bars to each other, either.” The multi hyphenate bartender-owner-partner-consultant has as many job titles as he has bars to manage—spread across Paris (Danico), New York (Mace) and Miami (Kaido).
Far from uniform, de Soto delineates each bar’s unique identity. Mace, as the name implies, is a spice-driven cocktail bar tucked away in Alphabet City; Danico bills itself as a sophisticated, hidden cocktail lounge, while Kaido is a Japanese-inspired bar housed in Miami’s Design District. One unifying factor, however, is de Soto’s penchant for pandan, an aromatic Southeast Asian herb, which has made its way onto the menu at all of his bars, whether it’s paired with coconut-infused bourbon or cachaça alongside moringa leaves.
With little knowledge of cocktail history, de Soto took a bartending job while living in Australia on a working visa in 2007. “When I started, I was really into classics and learning. It took me a long time to master that before moving to the creation side of things,” he says. “Since I started, my drinks have gotten more complex, but it always comes back to the same theme of deriving flavor from other countries.”
Currently, de Soto calls Paris home, but visits New York every two months, and Miami every three or four. Even during his downtime, he opts to travel. “I’ve been to 90 countries so far, but I still have a lot more to get through,” he says.
So what does de Soto do when he’s not jetting across the globe? Here, he tackles our Lookbook Questionnaire to share the time he tried to distill brain, his very active hangover regimen and his favorite bar. —Tatiana Bautista
Owner at Danico and Daroco in Paris, Partner at Mace and Kaido Miami, beverage consultant, bartender.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Astrophysicist or Line Pilot.
Best thing you ever drank:
A shake in Indonesia made from coconut water, coconut flesh and pandan. Heaven.
Worst thing you ever drank:
Baiju. It tastes (supposedly) and smells (definitely) like horse piss. There is also a cocktail in London which was undrinkable and gave me goose bumps and hiccup.
First time you ever got drunk:
In NYC, I was 21. Yeah I know it’s late. My friend’s uncle had a bar and we emptied it. Before emptying myself in his bathtub. I remember the carrots.
If you had to listen to one album on loop, for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Nothing, I hate loops. I listen mostly to electronic music, and as I DJ too, always listening to new mixes and tracks.
What’s the weirdest hobby you currently have or have had?
Making lists and numbers for everything.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago?
I have no idea, I don’t live with the past and regrets. Oh well here is one. I got obsessed with sakura (cherry blossom). The only ones I could find were salted. I did many tries with it with no good result. One day I took a flight to Tokyo and Hiroyasu Kayama from Bar BenFiddich gave me a full bag of sakura from his garden. I cooked them sous vide in a Negroni and it tasted like… NOTHING. I gave up.
Weirdest cocktail experiment you’ve ever attempted:
I tried to distill brain. Not good.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not eating, drinking or drink-making?
Crossfit, tennis and DJing
Weirdest drink request you’ve ever gotten:
A Daiquiri with no rum and sugar. No joke.
Your favorite bar, and why:
Operation Dagger in Singapore for the crazy design and the insane drinks. I love Singapore.
Best meal you’ve ever had:
El Celler de Can Roca in Girona.
What’s your go-to drink in a cocktail bar?
Snaquiri (a daiquiri that you drink in one shot). I also LOVE milk punches. And if I go in a bar, 99% of the time I’ll order from the menu. I’m a curious person.
Any type of sherry
In a dive bar?
A (good) cider.
Your preferred hangover recovery regimen:
The one thing you wish would disappear from drink lists forever:
Cumin. But I would prefer see unbalanced drinks go away, because if you know how to use it, every ingredients and liquor can be used (except Baiju, fuck that shit).
The last text message you sent:
“What time do you play on Thursday” to my friend Richie Hawtin who is also my favorite DJ.