He may be our 2012 Austin-San Antonio Rising Star Mixologist, but Jeret Peña isn’t a huge fan of the mixo term (he refers to himself as “Tavern Keeper” at Esquire Tavern). Fortunately for us, as well as his many adoring customers, it doesn’t matter what you call the guy. His talent behind the bar is obvious, the result of a hands-on career and a prophet’s faith in the craft.
A Bar Smarts graduate, Peña’s experience includes stints at places as varied as Pesca, Bohanan's, Le Midi, and The Green Lantern, all of them rising fixtures in the San Antonio cocktail scene. And Peña isn’t just an experienced barman (notice we’re not saying “mixologist”), he’s spirits-savvy and willing to spread the good word. With two years as a tequila ambassador, and many more years as an ardent mezcal adorer, Peña is easily part of the agave-worshipping Texas bar crowd (including Peña’s “indirect mentor” Bobby Heugel), proselytizing for his favorite cactus-born spirits one incredible cocktail at a time.
Peña’s also spreading the word in person. He’s the founder of the Spirits Enthusiasts of Texas, an organization with aims to “cultivate a cocktail culture by the means of education,” for bartenders and enthusiasts alike. And now as “keeper” of the Esquire Tavern’s bar program, Peña’s calling on his seven-plus years of experience to create “not a cocktail lounge, not a cocktail bar, but a bar that serves well-crafted cocktails,” as he puts it. Whatever you call it, or the guy who makes it, Peña’s career is proof that a well made drink is worth a good deal more than a thousand words.